Action from Ards v Ballinamallard United last Saturday (c) Mervyn Smyth / Ballinamallard United FC

PREVIEW: BLUEFIN SPORT CHAMPIONSHIP WEEK 17

The Bluefin Sport Championship gameweek starts tonight with two important games ahead of the remaining three games on Saturday, we look ahead to all the action.

Friday 15 November 2019

Ballyclare Comrades v Portadown (venue: Dixon Park; kick-off: 7.45pm)

The Comrades kick the weekend’s Championship action off at Dixon Park as they welcome the league leaders to East Antrim. Paul Harbinson’s men were one of eight frustrated sides following a mass of postponements last Saturday – they will be without influential captain JB Dobbin for a game that could potentially take them within three points of breaking into the top half, if successful.

Matthew Tipton will have American goalkeeper Bobby Edwards to thank for securing all three points in their Friday night clash with Newry City last week. The Ports won 3-1 at the Newry Showgrounds, and with their title rivals not playing – it opened up a three point cushion at the top of the Bluefin Sport Championship. The Ports will be without striker Callum Ferris who is on international duty with the Northern Ireland Under-19 side.

Newry City v HW Welders (venue: Newry Showgrounds; kick-off: 7.45pm)

Darren Mullen will be ruing the missed opportunity to gain at least a point from their defeat to Portadown last weekend that would have taken the County Down club into fourth in the table. Teenage starlet John McGovern is in Stephen Frail’s Northern Ireland Under-21 squad, whilst defender Dale Montgomery is suspended.

The Tillysburn Park pitched failed to hold up to the rain last week, owing to the cancellation of the Welders’ league game with Loughgall meaning striker Luckas Gwiazda is still forced to sit this one out through suspension. The East Belfast defeated Newry in the opening game of this Championship season back in August in what was the last meeting between the sides – Adam Wright and Ross Arthurs on target for Colin McIlwaine and George O’Boyle’s side.

Saturday 16 November 2019

Dundela v Ballinamallard United (venue: Wilgar Park; kick-off: 2pm)

Another club to fall foul of the weather was Dundela last week, with their trip to the Dub to face PSNI postponed on Saturday morning. The East Belfast club remain in fourth place in the table but will not want a repeat of the 4-0 drubbing when these two sides last met in September.

Harry McConkey may have wished his game was called off as the Mallards lost 3-2 to out-of-form Ards on the road in the only Saturday fixture to survive the weather. That was a first defeat in five games for Ballinamallard United and prevented them going second in the table, the Fermanagh men must get back on track to keep their ambitions of a return to the Danske Bank Premiership alive after a two year absence.

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

Dean Smith’s Loughgall fell three points behind leaders Portadown without playing, having watched on as their match last Saturday was postponed. The Villagers had to show their promotion credentials last time they met in September, but left it very late when they scored two goals in the last two minutes to claim a smash and grab victory at Breda Park, with the division’s leading goalscorer Nathaniel Ferris scoring the winner.

Bottom club Knockbreda still have not formally appointed a new manager following the parting of ways with Lee Forsythe last month. Like their opponents Loughgall, their game last Saturday (at home to Ballyclare Comrades) fell victim to the weather, as they face the difficult task of clawing back the eight point gap towards safety against a team challenging for the Championship tile tomorrow.

PSNI v Queens University (venue: The Dub; kick-off: 2pm)

The tenants face off against the landlords in South Belfast this Saturday afternoon. Sammy McFadden’s PSNI side currently sit in the relegation zone on goal difference but know that getting points on the board will quickly lift them out of a congested bottom half of the Championship table. The South Belfast club are going into this ‘home’ game without a win in seven league games and will need to find an upturn in form to retain their senior status.

Five points further up the table, Peter Thompson and his band of Students have enjoyed a good start to the first half of their first senior campaign in the Championship. Their match against Dergview was a late postponement on Saturday afternoon past. The two neighbouring clubs have met twice this season with one win apiece Queens winning the earlier league encounter with PSNI progressing in the BetMcLean League Cup encounter.