NIFL Championship

There was a full programme of action in the Bluefin Sport Championship on Saturday, and the day ended with a surprise leader and a surprise bringing up the rear of the table. So without further ado let’s get going, and we begin this week at Dixon Park.

Ballyclare Comrades 2 Loughgall 1

It was the late show at Ballyclare as Stephen Hughes’ men made it two wins from two on Saturday to find themselves sitting second in the table. Loughgall started the better team in the game and it was no surprise to those present when Jordan Gibson put them ahead through a set-piece in the 21st minute. Whatever Hughes said to his players at the break seemed to work as the Comrades looked much stronger in the second half but were still unable to find an equaliser with Thomas Robinson going close but missing the target and Jamie Willighan seeing an effort cleared off the line. Jason Johnston did finally bring the sides level with five minutes remaining and with less than a minute of normal time remaining Gary Brown turned the game on its head by scoring a winner for Ballyclare.

Carrick Rangers 0 Dundela 5

I had a feeling that Carrick might find the going tough in the Championship this season but I wouldn’t have believed you if you’d told me they’d be sitting bottom of the table after two games, with no points and no shots on target so far never mind any goals to speak of. Add into that the fact that newly promoted Dundela would be sitting top of the league. The Duns went into the half-time break two goals to the good thanks to Christopher Watts and David McMaster. TJ Murray scored goal number three midway through the second half and strikers Carl McComb and Jordan Hughes put the icing on the cake with a goal apiece in the last ten minutes.

Dergview 2 Harland and Wolff Welders 1

Dergview got their first points on the board thanks to this win over Norman Kelly’s Welders side at Darragh Park on Saturday. Peter Allen’s Castlederg side were out of the blocks quickly as goals from Adam Dougherty and Gareth Falconer had them two goals ahead with less than twenty minutes on the clock. Dergview had chances to extend their lead further but were unable to take these chances and would almost regret this as the Welders began to get a foothold in the game with some missed chances of their own before Ross Arthurs did manage to reduce the deficit in the 71st minute. The Welders went close one further time when a David Graham corner was headed goalwards by Scott McMillan but a Dergview defender was on hand to clear off the line and preserve their lead for the three points.

Larne 1 Ballinamallard United 0

After a slightly disappointing draw last week against Knockbreda, Tiernan Lynch’s Championship favourites got their first win on Saturday against a team that is also hoping to be in the hunt for promotion this season. Larne had some chances in the opening stages to take the lead but were unable to do so and were lucky not to find themselves behind when Mallards skipper Jason McCartney contrived to miss a glorious chance to put the visitors ahead. Larne continued to create chances with visiting keeper John Connolly having to deny Martin Donnelly before the break and with an hour played there was nothing Connolly could do when the same player scored into the keeper’s right-hand corner. McCartney continued to make a nuisance of himself and forced save from Larne stopper Conor Devlin but that was as close as Harry McConkey’s men came to finding a way through on Saturday.

Limavady United 1 Knockbreda 2

Limavady are one of three sides in the Championship without a point in their first two games of the season, while Knockbreda kept their unbeaten start to the season alive at the Limavady Showgrounds. Knockbreda took the lead after 15 minutes when Brendan Bennett controlled a pass from Gary Warwick and fired past Paul Wells into the bottom corner. The Roesiders responded well and Breda keeper Dean Smyth had to be on top of his game to preserve the lead but was powerless to prevent Hugh Carlin from levelling after a shot came back off the woodwork. The visitors thought they had restored their lead soon after the break but Warwick’s celebrations were cut short by the linesman’s flag. The East Belfast side did score what would prove to be the decisive goal when Robert McAnulty headed home from eight yards.

Portadown 2 PSNI 0

Matthew Tipton’s Portadown side got their first win of the campaign on Saturday at Shamrock Park and got underway from the word go, as Sean Mackle opened the scoring in the 4th minute of the game. The visitors went close to getting an equaliser just over ten minutes later but Dale Malone’s free-kick from range was denied by the crossbar and the Ports also found their way to goal denied by the woodwork not long after. Portadown made sure of the win with just over half an hour remaining when Chris Lavery found himself with only ‘keeper Tuda Murphy to beat and made no mistake to secure the points.

Two fixtures take place on Friday evening in the Championship this week:-

Ballyclare Comrades v Limavady United

Loughgall v Larne

With the other four matches taking place at the usual time on Saturday:-

Ballinamallard United v Dergview

Harland and Wolff Welders v Portadown

Knockbreda v Carrick Rangers

PSNI v Dundela

I’ll be back later in the week to round up the first week of Premier Intermediate League football, in the meantime, if you want to get caught up on the Premiership then click HERE.