Portadown manager Matthew Tipton (c) Pressey

PREVIEW: BLUEFIN SPORT CHAMPIONSHIP WEEK 19

There’s a full schedule of Bluefin Sport Championship fixtures on Saturday as the race for promotion starts to heat up!

Ards v Knockbreda (venue: Bangor Fuels Arena; kick-off: 3pm)

Caretaker manager Craig McClean was left frustrated with the postponement of his first match in the dugout last Saturday, he takes charge of Ards for the visit of Knockbreda this week following the departure of Warren Feeney. Ards remain in fifth place – 17 points off the pace in the race for the Championship title but with two games in hand on the top two. McClean will still be without suspended midfielder Craig McMillen for this game.

Still without an official appointment, Colin McIlwrath is expected to lead Knockbreda in the short trip to Bangor for another important Championship clash. They also fell victim to the weather last weekend as their game with Newry City was postponed on Saturday morning, leaving the East Belfast club still bottom of the second tier, five points adrift of Dergview. Michael McLellan’s late goal was the difference between the two sides back in August, as Ards won 1-0 at Breda Park.

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

Harry McConkey’s men have found their scoring boots in recent weeks as Ballinamallard continue to keep the pace at the top end of the Bluefin Sport Championship table. Their five goal salvo against PSNI made them the leading goalscorers in the division with Ryan Campbell how the leading marksman with 14 goals to his name. The gap remains five points behind leaders Portadown in the title race after 18 games.

Loughgall’s recent drop in form continued with a narrow 2-1 defeat to Portadown last Saturday in an important Mid-Ulster derby clash at Shamrock Park. The Villagers currently have dropped to third in the table after being one-time leaders of the division, trailing the leaders by nine points – albeit with a game in hand. Loughgall’s immediate task is to not lose ground on their opponents Ballinamallard United this weekend, but they will be without suspended forward Peter Campbell.

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

Paul Harbinson’s Comrades are now on the cusp of breaking into the top six after their away victory over Queens University last weekend. Gary Donnelly’s second half winner proved enough for Ballyclare’s first win in three games as they move within three points of sixth placed Newry City. It was all square in the meeting at Darragh Park earlier in the season, but captain JB Dobbin will still sit out as he continues his suspension.

Dergview suffered a fifth consecutive league defeat on Saturday at home to Dundela that keeps the Castlederg side perilously close to the foot of the table. Manager Ivan Sproule will be without Matthew Buchanan for the trip to Dixon Park through suspension as he looks to move out of the relegation zone with three points on the road.

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

Last week’s win for Dundela on their travels to Dergview keeps Bryan McCarroll’s men in fourth position in the Bluefin Sport Championship. Goals either side of the half from Ross Holden and Tiaran McNicholl gave the East Belfast club the victory. The Duns were on the receiving end of a 2-0 defeat to Portadown back in September at Shamrock Park.

Matthew Tipton’s Ports aim to make it a clean sweep of five Bluefin Sport Championship victories in November to end the month on a high, they will undoubtedly start December as league leaders as they take a five point lead into the gameweek. Portadown came from behind to win the Mid-Ulster derby against Loughgall with Conal McGrandles grabbing the winner six minutes from time.

Newry City v Queens University (venue: Newry Showgrounds; kick-off: 3pm)

The centenary celebrations of senior football in Newry were dampened last week by the postponement of their Championship clash with Knockbreda, but Darren Mullen’s side look to go again this Saturday with the visit of Queens University to the Showgrounds. City currently are in sixth place in the table having been plagued with inconsistency all season – having lost to HW Welders in their last league outing just over two weeks ago.

Queens University’s recent resurgence took a knock last week with the 2-1 home defeat to Ballyclare Comrades. Peter Thompson’s men had the chance to move within two points of their opponents with a victory last week and had eyes on the top six, but now must get back on track for fear of being pulled back into a relegation battle – such is the nature of the competition in the Championship. Marc McKenna sits this out through suspension for the students.

PSNI v HW Welders (venue: The Dub; kick-off: 2pm)

An all Belfast clash at the Dub as PSNI welcome HW Welders to their temporary home. Sammy McFadden’s PSNI side failed to build on their morale boosting win over Queens two weeks ago as they fell to a 5-0 defeat to Ballinamallard United at Ferney Park seven days ago. The South Belfast club start the weekend in tenth place, just hovering above the relegation zone with a three point cushion.

Harland & Wolff Welders make the short trip across the city eager to get back to the action having been their home game against Ards last Saturday rained off. Two wins in their last three league games have pushed the Welders up the table as they begin to move away from the relegation zone, their last outing was ten days ago in the County Antrim Shield semi-final defeat to Ballymena United.