Larne meet Portadown in a top of the table clash at Shamrock Park (c) Larne FC

BLUEFIN SPORT CHAMPIONSHIP: MATCHDAY 24 PREVIEW

After a week's break for the Irish Cup - the Bluefin Sport Championship returns with another full set of fixtures in the race both for promotion and to avoid the drop!

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

The Comrades top the pile in the bottom six having just missed out on the top half at the split a few weeks back but with a three point lead over eighth placed Loughgall, they are close to ensuring their safety in the division for another season on Saturday. Stephen Hughes’ side came out on top in an eight goal thriller at Lakeview Park two weeks ago, winning 5-3 against Loughgall.

They face Sean Friars’ basement outfit, Limavady United, who have had a fortnight to dwell on a disappointing defeat to their direct relegation rivals Dergview at home. The 4-1 reverse condemns the North West side to the bottom of the table, who trail the Castlederg side by two points and are now eight points from ensuring survival – the Roesiders must start picking up points.

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

The resounding 4-0 defeat to East Antrim rivals Larne knocked Carrick Rangers back down into third place in the race for promotion in their last outing. They face a tough task at home against a Welders side that has defeated Carrick on both occasions this season, the most recent being the 4-1 win at Carrick back in December.

Norman Kelly’s Welders currently trail the promotion playoff places by five points and a win on Saturday could bring them right back into the mix, their 2-1 win over in-form Ballinamallard United two weeks ago keeps them in the mix and takes the Tillysburn Park side only two points behind their East Belfast rivals Dundela in fourth.

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

Defeats for both these clubs in their first post-split encounter has knocked their respective promotion ambitions but there’s an opportunity to get back on track for either club on Saturday afternoon at Wilgar Park. Bryan McCarroll’s Duns lost 3-2 to promotion rivals Portadown at Shamrock Park, whilst the Mallards lost by the odd goal.

Meeting between the sides have been close this season, with a 1-1 draw in November preceded by a 3-2 Dundela the month before. Harry McConkey’s Mallards were due to be in Irish Cup action last Saturday against Carrick Rangers but it was postponed due to the weather.

Knockbreda v Dergview (venue: Breda Park; kick-off: 3pm)

Ivan Sproule’s Dergview moved off the bottom of the Bluefin Sport Championship table with a morale boosting win against Limavady United in their last league outing – they may have followed that up with a 3-0 defeat to Coleraine in the Irish Cup, but the platform for potential survival has been created as they are now two points ahead of their rivals from Limavady United.

They travel to a Knockbreda side who are currently eight points ahead of the threat of the drop, but could take a huge step towards safety with a home win at Breda Park.

Portadown v Larne (venue: Shamrock Park; kick-off: 3pm)

The destination of the Bluefin Sport Championship could be imminently decided should Larne emerge victorious from Shamrock Park this Saturday, as first meets second. The Invermen won the last meeting between the sides 3-0 back in September and have opened up a 16 point lead at the top of the table and could be only 5 points away from being crowned champions with a win.

The Ports weren’t in Irish Cup action last weekend, due to a frozen pitch at Ballymena United but their 3-2 win over Dundela moved them above Carrick Rangers into second place and in pole position with the promotion playoffs quickly looming. Matthew Tipton will be able to call upon the insight of January signing Paul Finnegan who made the move from Larne across to the Ports last month.

PSNI v Loughgall (venue: Newforge Lane; kick-off: 3pm)

In the Championship’s bottom half PSNI host Loughgall at Newforge Lane with only three points separating the sides in eighth and tenth place. Both sides were on the wrong end of defeats in their first post split games to Knockbreda and Ballyclare Comrades respectively two weeks ago.

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