Deadline day action has strengthened the Bluefin Sport Premier Intermediate League challengers as we look ahead to five key games in the third tier as the race for promotion heats up.

Banbridge Town v Annagh United (venue: Crystal Park; kick-off: 2pm)

Stuart King’s Banbridge are still holding out hope of staying in the promotion mix and their 2-0 win away to Sport and Leisure Swifts last week. Having already lost to Annagh United in the season’s first league meeting back in September, they will look to the 5-1 Mid Ulster Cup win over their neighbours as inspiration for tomorrow’s game.

Jonah Mitchell was a deadline day signing from Premiership side Ards for Ciaran McGurgan’s Annagh United as they look to reinforce for the title run-in. The County Armagh side suffered their first league defeat of the season and surrendered top spot to Queens University last Saturday, they will have the opportunity to leapfrog the students with a point, as their title rivals are in Irish Cup action this weekend.

Dollingstown v Portstewart (venue: Planter’s Park; kick-off: 3pm)

Another fine point for the Dollybirds last week against Queens University, as Michael Denver’s dramatic late equaliser against the Premier Intermediate League leaders last week, stopped the club returning to the foot of the table. Stephen Uprichard has made two deadline day signings with Premiership experience as striker Gary Liggett joins from Loughgall and Keith Johnston drops down from Newry City.

Portstewart’s win against Armagh City last Saturday created some breathing space between the North West side and the bottom of the table. They have signed former Tobermore United midfielder Caolan Gillan on deadline day, a win on Saturday on the road would lift Johnny Law’s side back into the top half of the table.

Lisburn Distillery v Armagh City (venue: New Grosvenor Park; kick-off: 3pm)

The Whites of Distillery weren’t in action last week but start the weekend in fifth place having stopped their rut of three successive defeats a fortnight ago against Newington. They take on an Armagh City side that held Colin McIlwaine’s side to a 1-1 draw back in September.

Armagh City suffered a 2-0 defeat to Portstewart at home last weekend, back-to-back defeats in the division have reduced their cushion from the bottom of the table to just four points, having played two games more than Sport and Leisure Swifts immediately below them.

Lurgan Celtic v Newington YC (venue: Knockramer Park; kick-off: 3pm)

Only two points separates these sides in a tightly contested middle ground of the Bluefin Sport Premier Intermediate League table with a win for either side meaning a step closer to safety from relegation and the opportunity to make ground on the teams above them. Hosts Lurgan Celtic could only draw away to bottom side Moyola Park last weekend.

Newington’s last league outing two weeks ago ended in a home defeat to Lisburn Distillery which now leaves them sixth in the table. They will be looking to settle the scores in the meetings between the clubs this campaign, having lost 2-1 back in October to the Hoops, with two early goals killing the game off at Solitude.

Moyola Park v Sport & Leisure Swifts (venue: Mill Meadow; kick-off: 3pm)

There’s a crucial clash at the bottom end of the table at Mill Meadow as Moyola Park entertain Sport & Leisure Swifts. The home side currently sit bottom of the third tier on goal difference but only a point behind their visitors from West Belfast. Moyola have drawn their last two league games against Lurgan Celtic last weekend and Banbridge Town a fortnight ago.

Last time the two sides met this season Packie McAllister’s Swifts ran out comfortable 5-2 winners, with the experienced Brendan Shannon on the scoresheet twice. Sport & Leisure were defeated at home by Banbridge Town last time out and must start picking up some points to avoid potential relegation out of the NI Football League.

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