Ballinamallard United will look to move off the bottom of the Bluefin Sport Championship this weekend (c) Presseye

BLUEFIN SPORT CHAMPIONSHIP: MATCHDAY 9 PREVIEW

The Bluefin Sport Championship continues this Saturday, with the race for promotion really starting to heat up at the top of the table, we preview a full schedule of fixtures.

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

With three wins from their four league games in September, Niall Currie’s Carrick Rangers have adjusted to life back in the Championship following a tricky start. They moved up to seventh following last week’s 2-1 victory over Ballinamallard United and only sit outside the top half on goal difference. Goals have been hard to come by for Rangers, with only eight so far (the second lowest return in the division) and five of those coming from full-back turned forward Michael Smith – who bagged both against the Mallards.

In the visiting dressing room, Loughgall manager Dean Smith will be looking to cure his side’s travel sickness in order to move up the Championship table – they’ve lost all three of their games on the road this season. The Villagers currently hover just above the relegation playoff places in tenth but go into the game off the back of a 2-1 win against Limavady United last Saturday.

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

Two sides whose form has completely deserted them in recent weeks meet at Darragh Park, desperate for points. Peter Allen’s Dergview go into the game following four consecutive Championship defeats, in complete contrast to their fine start to the campaign. They were undone by Darren Murray’s stunning last minute overhead kick against Portadown last week, losing 2-1 at Shamrock Park.

Similarly Ballyclare go into this game off the back of a trio of league defeats which has include back-to-back defeats in East Antrim derbies against Carrick Rangers and Larne in the last two outings. Stephen Hughes’ side still remain in fourth place but are now five points off the leading pack in the push for promotion, but will need to shore up a defence that has conceded 15 goals in eight games to date, the most out of any top six team.

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

The ding-dong battle at the summit of the Bluefin Sport Championship continued last week, as this season’s surprise package, Dundela, suffered a 4-1 reverse to neighbours HW Welders as their return to the top spot lasted only one week, as Larne once again nipped in to take over at the top. It proved an uncharacteristic result for the Duns, as the league’s top scorers will aim to bounce back against the basement side.

The Mallards now find themselves three points adrift at the bottom of the Bluefin Sport Championship after seven defeats in their opening eight league games. A dismal September for manger Harry McConkey seen a return of zero points, which included a narrow 2-1 defeat to Carrick Rangers at Ferney Park seven days ago.

HW Welders v PSNI (venue: Tillysburn Park; kick-off: 3pm)

Since their League Cup win on penalties against Portstewart, Norman Kelly’s side have hit a rich vein of form with three league wins on the bounce. It’s a huge turnaround following a disappointing start to the season and the Welders will be looking to consolidate their place in the top half of the standings, having produced an impressive 4-1 win against Dundela last Saturday.

Making the short journey across Belfast, PSNI continue to find themselves in desperate need of points to take them away from the relegation playoff places. The 3-1 loss to Knockbreda last week came off following back-to-back league victories, but after their troubled start – there’s still only three points separating Colin Malone’s side from bottom placed Ballinamallard.

Knockbreda v Portadown (venue: Upper Braniel; kick-off: 3pm)

Lee Forsythe will be delighted with Knockbreda’s start to the season as they currently remain in fifth place after last week’s win over PSNI, which was the Upper Braniel Road club’s third league victory in succession assisted by goals from Ricky Copeland, Ryan Newberry and Jordan Baker.

The focus has been on Larne and also Dundela at the top end of the Bluefin Sport Championship this season, but Portadown still continue to keep the pressure on. Matthew Tipton’s side are still unbeaten and Darren Murray’s stunning winner against Dergview means they remain only two points off the top the table going into a tricky away fixture to Knockbreda tomorrow afternoon in East Belfast.

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

It’s been a stop start season for Sean Friars and Limavady United to date, defeats in their last two games leaves the Roesiders hovering about the bottom of the table in ninth place. They suffered a 2-1 reverse to Loughgall last weekend, as Sean McCarron’s second half goal couldn’t spark a comeback for his side.

Tiernan Lynch’s much vaunted Larne side returned to the top of the Championship with a 4-0 win away to Ballyclare Comrades last weekend. Martin Donnelly’s second half hat-trick moved him into double figures of league goals and level with Dundela’s Jordan Hughes at the top of the goalscoring charts. The Inver Park side remain unbeaten and cannot afford to drop points with Dundela and Portadown breathing down their necks.

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