PREVIEW: BLUEFIN SPORT PREMIER INTERMEDIATE LEAGUE WEEK 9

It’s the first round of fixtures of 2020 in the Bluefin Sport Premier Intermediate League on Saturday with plenty of teams still in the hunt for promotion as we preview all five fixtures.

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

Town manager Stuart King will be delighted with his side’s resolve shown as they progressed on penalties against East Belfast in the Irish Cup on Saturday, to produce a rare highlight in a disappointing season to date for the County Down club. Their reward will be a trip to Premiership title chasers Coleraine, but attentions must focus on improving their league form before that – as Banbridge Town are still without a win after eight league games and sit one place off the bottom of the table.

It will be Newington’s first return to the pitch since losing the final of the Steel & Sons Cup on Christmas Day to Linfield Swifts. Manager Conor Crossan must pick up his players after the extended break to refocus their promotion efforts. The North Belfast men start the weekend in third place in the table now must work on clawing back a seven point gap on leaders Annagh United starting at Crystal Park.

Dollingstown v Moyola Park (venue: Planter’s Park; kick-off: 2pm)

The Dollybirds’ Irish Cup dream came to an end last Saturday as they were defeated 1-0 by Championship outfit Ballinamallard United at Ferney Park. A valiant effort from Stephen Uprichard’s team but they still have plenty to build upon in the Premier Intermediate League this season – they are fifth in the table level on points with both Bangor and Distillery in a tightly contested top half of the standings.

Moyola Park return to action after defeat in the final of the Craig Memorial Cup on Boxing Day to league rivals Portstewart. The Castledawson club have been languishing in the bottom half of the table for the majority of the season and will be keen to not lose sight of the clubs above them, however midfielder Michael Tolan is suspended for Moyola Park for the trip to Planter’s Park.

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

Mark Clyde and his Limavady United men started 2020 with a victory against Tobermore United at the Showgrounds. It was only the Roesiders’ second win of the league season, as they look to put to bed a disappointing year in which they suffered relegation back to the third tier and currently find themselves stuck in the bottom half of the Premier Intermediate League table.

Bangor tasted defeat in the Irish Cup fifth round to Championship side Newry City on Saturday to end their hopes of repeating the heroics of 1993. The Seasiders went on a signing spree last week, bringing four players into the club to help boost the promotion push – Michael Dougherty (Larne), Matthew Torrens (Queens), Gary Lavery (Knockbreda) and Ashton McDermott (Carrick Rangers) all joined and three of the four made their debuts against Newry for Hugh Sinclair’s side.

Lisburn Distillery v Annagh United (venue: New Grosvenor Park; kick-off: 2pm)

Distillery weren’t in competitive action last week, but Stephen Hatfield took the opportunity to blow out the New Year cobwebs from his team in a friendly victory over 1st Bangor. The Whites have twelve points from their opening eight games and starting the gameweek in sixth place, they will know that a win over the league leaders is crucial to hopes to pushing for promotion. Timothy Clarke is suspended for the home team whilst veteran striker Kevin Braniff has moved on from the club after only six months, joining St James’ Swifts last month.

Annagh United will aim to take another step towards the Premier Intermediate League title and promotion as the league leaders travel to New Grosvenor Park on Saturday, but without the suspended duo of John Convery and Jackson Holmes. Their title ambitions were boosted when it was ruled in last week that the 1-0 win against Armagh City last month will stand following the referee’s decision to abandon the game in the second half, keeping the gap over Portstewart to two points, with a game in hand. 

Tobermore United v Armagh City (venue: Fortwilliam Park; kick-off: 2pm)

The New Year has started the same way the last one end – with another defeat for Tobermore United on Saturday as they remain rooted to the bottom of the Premier Intermediate League table. Adrian Whiteside’s men lost 2-0 to Limavady United and have since gone on a recruitment drive to revive the club’s faltering season, including the arrival of Andrew Whiteside from Coleraine but defender Kyle McVey is suspended.

Armagh City picked up a late point against Portstewart to move a point further away from the bottom of the third tier table on Saturday in their re-arranged league game. Conor Mullen scored the equaliser for Shea Campbell’s Eagles who could open up a seven point gap on their opponents with a win at Fortwilliam Park on Saturday afternoon.