Portadown manager Matthew Tipton (c) Presseye

BLUEFIN SPORT CHAMPIONSHIP: 12 JANUARY PREVIEW

It’s a catch up weekend in the Bluefin Sport Championship with three fixtures remaining before the final round of fixtures before the ‘split’, we look ahead to all the matches.

PSNI v HW Welders (venue: Newforge Lane; kick-off: 2pm)

Colin Malone’s PSNI side may have been depleted by the loss of a number of senior players in recent weeks, but they will need to regroup from their heavy Irish Cup reverse to fellow Championship side Ballinamallard United. They are currently eight points above the drop zone in tenth place and the last time the two sides met it was back in October when the game ended in stalemate.

The Welders suffered a 2-0 defeat to Rodney McAree’s Coleraine in the Irish Cup last weekend and were also defeated by Knockbreda in their last Championship outing, they may have claimed their place in the post split top six already but a win against their South Belfast opponents will be vital for Norman Kelly if they are to keep any promotion hopes alive.

Ballyclare Comrades v Portadown (venue: Dixon Park; kick-off: 3pm)

It’s win or bust for Stephen Hughes and Ballyclare Comrades in their hopes for a place in the top half of the table ahead of next week’s split. The East Antrim side are currently eighth knowing a win against the Ports would leave them level on points with Loughgall going into the final ‘pre-split’ round of fixtures next Saturday. The Comrades will be buoyed by an encouraging Irish Cup display against Linfield at Windsor Park last Saturday, losing 1-0 to David Healy’s side.

Ports boss Matthew Tipton was a guest on this week’s BetMcLean Football Show and he spoke of the importance of promotion for the Shamrock Park side this season. They start the afternoon in third place, knowing a win could lift them above rivals Carrick Rangers into second – Portadown defeated Abbey Villa comfortably in the Irish Cup last weekend.

Dundela v Knockbreda (venue: Wilgar Park; kick-off: 3pm)

There’s an East Belfast derby with two sides looking to pick themselves up after narrow Irish Cup defeats. Hosts Dundela ran Premiership challengers Ballymena United close at a packed Wilgar Park on Saturday past. They showed their credentials against some of the top-flight’s best and will look to use this game as a chance to move back into the promotion playoff places.

Knockbreda’s Irish Cup exit to Strabane Athletic proved to be a lot more low key for the Championship side. Lee Forsythe’s side now have the opportunity to focus their attentions on their remaining league campaign, however despite a top six berth now out of reach, they can potentially open up a comfortable twelve point cushion over the relegation zone with a win on Saturday.

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