Newry City narrowly lost to Linfield last Saturday in the Tennent's Irish Cup © Matt Mackey / INPHO


It’s the first gameweek of the post ‘split’ action in the Bluefin Sport Championship this Saturday with a full set of fixtures, writes Aaron O'Neill.

H&W Welders host Institute at Tillysburn Park in the top of the table clash. Paddy McLaughlin’s Institute side find themselves leading the chase for promotion to the Danske Bank Premiership as they are currently nine points clear at the top of the table.

The Welders will be hoping to make home advantage count on Saturday by picking up a win in order to reduce the gap on high-flying ‘Stute.

Third meets fourth as Newry City prepare to face Ballyclare Comrades. Both sides are locked level on 39 points going into the fixture and both managers will know how crucial a win may prove to strengthen their bids for promotion, having both been knocked out of the Irish Cup by Linfield and Glentoran last week, respectively.

Loughgall welcome neighbours Portadown to Lakeview Park on Saturday in this Mid-Ulster derby. Dean Smith’s side put in a winning performance in last weekend’s Irish Cup win over Danske Bank Premiership side Ards to set up a quarter final encounter with Ballymena United. A win for the Ports would see them leapfrog their opponents into fifth in the table and a step closer to the play-off spot.

In the bottom half, Larne meet Knockbreda at Inver Park as Tiernan Lynch’s men narrowly missed out on a top six spot after a late surge up the table nearly secured their place in the hunt for promotion. Knockbreda have enjoyed an indifferent campaign to date but will be hoping to notch up a win over the ambitious East Antrim side.

PSNI are on the road as they travel to face Limavady United at the Showgrounds. Buoyed by the recent signing of Joe McCready from Coleraine – the Roesiders will have a newly found confidence as the striker was an instrumental player in United’s past heroics.

Dergview and Lurgan Celtic face off this weekend in a relegation scrap. Both sides have not hit the headlines this season and will be hoping that the league split can save them from the dreaded fear of relegation. A win for Dergview would see them bridge the gap to tenth placed PSNI – whilst Lurgan Celtic can move off bottom spot should they muster a win this weekend.