Ballinamallard United boss Harry McConkey (c) Presseye

BLUEFIN SPORT CHAMPIONSHIP: MATCHDAY 21 PREVIEW

We’re only a few weeks away from the all important ‘split’ of the Bluefin Sport Championship season, so there’s all to play for in the final round of fixtures of the calendar year as we look ahead to the games.

HW Welders v Knockbreda (venue: Tillysburn Park; kick-off: 2pm)

There’s an East Belfast derby at Tillysburn Park as Norman Kelly’s Welders host Knockbreda. HW Welders confirmed their place in the top six on Saturday with a 1-0 win over Dundela thanks to Scott Davidson’s second half goal.

Despite neighbouring Knockbreda showing glimpses that they mount a challenge for a top half berth throughout the first half of the season, they currently find themselves hovering about the relegation zone after collecting only one point from their last five league games. They still have a six point gap over next placed Limavady United and will be aiming to retain their place in the division during the second half of the season.

Loughgall v Dundela (venue: Lakeview Park; kick-off: 2pm)

Only two points now separates Loughgall from one time league leaders Dundela, the Lakeview Park side are in pole position for the final place in the post split top six and a win against the East Belfast could secure that with a game to spare. Dean Smith’s side lost 2-1 to neighbours Portadown on Boxing Day.

It’s been a dismal December for Bryan McCarroll’s Dundela as a return of zero points to date in December and six games without a win – means that their title challenge has all be evaporated as they slip down to fourth behind Carrick Rangers and Portadown on the coat-tails of leaders Larne. They lost 1-0 to HW Welders last time out but will be keen to end a hugely successful 2018 on a high.

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

Two sides with an outside chance of a place in the top six meet at Dixon Park on Saturday, as Ballyclare Comrades host PSNI. The Comrades have endured a difficult injury plagued season under Stephen Hughes leaving them in seventh place in the Bluefin Sport Championship, following their 3-1 Boxing Day defeat to rivals Larne.

Colin Malone’s PSNI are two places below their hosts and could go level on points with a win at Dixon Park. The South Belfast side are now seven points clear from the bottom of the table having recovered from a difficult start to the season. The team drew 2-2 with Knockbreda last Saturday as midfielder Jake McNeill’s late equaliser earned PSNI an important point.

Carrick Rangers v Larne (venue: Belfast Loughshore Hotel Arena; kick-off: 3pm)

It’s first v second in the game of the day, as two East Antrim rivals clash in Carrickfergus. Niall Currie’s Rangers have moved into second place in recent weeks and followed up their good form with a 3-1 win against Limavady United on Saturday. The gap remains a formidable 16 points between first and second.

The Invermen picked up their win number 16 from 20 games on Boxing Day against Ballyclare Comrades. It was another step closer to the Bluefin Sport Championship title as Tiernan Lynch’s now are within five wins from their final dozen games of the season. The division’s leading goalscorer Martin Donnelly added another goal to his tally for the season taking him to 19 goals in the league this season.

Dergview v Portadown (venue: Darragh Park; kick-off: 3pm)

Ivan Sproule’s Dergview are still only a single point away from moving off the foot of the Championship table after to Ballinamallard United on Boxing Day. Portadown won the last meeting between the sides back in September by the odd goal in three at Shamrock Park.

The Ports halted their dismal run of form in December with a win against Loughgall which moved the Shamrock Park side into third place in the table, they could move into second place and back into the promotion hunt with a win at Darragh Park on Saturday.

Limavady United v Ballinamallard United (venue: Limavady Showgrounds; kick-off: 3pm)

Ballinamallard United are still holding onto hope of the unlikeliest of comebacks in the Championship as they are still in with a chance of a place in the top six ahead of the split. Their Boxing Day victory over Dergview made it four wins from five games from Harry McConkey’s in form side. They will need a bit of help from results in the next few games for both Ballyclare Comrades and Loughgall going their way.

The two sides met on the opening weekend of the season and the Mallards ran out comfortable 3-0 winners. The defeat on Wednesday to Carrick Rangers was a third straight loss in the Bluefin Sport Championship for Sean Friars’ side – the Roesiders currently find themselves only a point off the bottom of the table.

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