Only three points separates the top three in the Bluefin Sport Championship as we’ve reached gameweek eight of the season!

Ballinamallard United v Carrick Rangers (venue: Ferney Park; kick-off: 3pm)

A game that last season was a Danske Bank Premiership encounter between two games that played out an entertaining albeit fruitless relegation battle less than six months ago is now a Championship encounter between two struggling sides. Both

Ballinamallard United and Carrick Rangers have struggled to shake off their relegation hangover, with the Mallards currently propping up the Bluefin Sport Championship table after six defeats from seven games, including last week’s reverse against HW Welders.

After an erratic start to the season, Carrick Rangers manager Niall Currie will be delighted with his side’s win in the derby game against Ballyclare Comrades last Saturday, thanks to goals from Stewart Nixon and Reece Neale. That victory moved the Amber Army into eighth place but consistency will now be key for Carrick if they want to move up the table, starting with the trip to Fermanagh tomorrow.

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

Another East Antrim derby this weekend between two sides that have started the season in fine form – Ballyclare Comrades are the hosts and will be looking to get back on track after defeat to Carrick Rangers left them five points away from the top of the table.

Larne were knocked off the top of the table after only one week, as the Inver Park side drew with title rivals Portadown last Saturday in front of a bumper Championship crowd. Tiernan Lynch’s side still remain one of only two sides to be unbeaten in the division.

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

Bryan McCarroll’s Dundela side showed their resolve and the serious nature of their title push by returning to the top of the Bluefin Sport Championship as they capitalised on Larne’s dropping of points with an impressive 4-1 away victory at Limavady United. The Duns have now won six of their seven games to date and lead the chasing pack by one goal. Talisman forward Jordan Hughes notched a hat-trick against Limavady which has taken him to double figures in goals for the season to date.

Making the short journey across East Belfast, the Welders have revitalised their season after a poor start. Norman Kelly’s side had lost four from five, but after recording back to back wins against Loughgall and Ballinamallard in the last fortnight – it means the Welders go into the game sitting outside the top six on goal difference alone.

Loughgall v Limavady United (venue: Lakeview Park; kick-off: 3pm)

Villagers’ manager Dean Smith will continue to be alarmed by his side’s form, as they are currently only being saved from bottom spot in the Championship standings by a single point. The capitalulation of surrendering a two-goal lead against Knockbreda last weekend, to eventually lose 3-2 was a hard pill to swallow for Loughgall, who looked set for only their second win of the season.

Limavady United also find themselves with Loughgall in the bottom four of the Championship table after seven games, Sean Friars’ Roesiders are without a win since September after and most recently were the latest team to suffer defeat to Dundela last Saturday.

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

Undefeated Portadown came from behind to earn a point at Inver Park last Saturday as Matthew Tipton continues to keep the pace with the leading pack, with only three points separating the Ports from the top of the table. The departure of first team coach Chris Wright to Dungannon Swifts has been quickly resolved with the return of popular defender Andy Hunter to the coaching panel at the County Armagh club.

Dergview’s early season form which seen the Tyrone club win four games on the bounce and knock Glenavon out of the League Cup, has temporarily escaped Peter Allen’s side. They have the unfavourable task of travelling to Shamrock Park in search of points having lost their last three Championship games to Carrick Rangers, Limavady United and PSNI – all teams currently in the bottom half of the standings.

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

There’s also a Belfast derby clash between PSNI and Knockbreda at Newforge Lane on Saturday, as the home side look to make it three wins from three in the Championship as they aim to move away from the wrong end of the table. The goals of veteran striker Lukasz Adamczyk have been key to Colin Malone’s side to date, as he notched his fifth of the league campaign in last week’s 3-2 win over Dergview.

Lee Forsythe’s Knockbreda also go into this clash off the back of two consecutive Championship wins against Ballinamallard United and most recently Loughgall. They currently occupy fifth spot in the table, but have scored the fewest goals of any team in the top half.

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