There were no Premier Intermediate League (PIL) fixtures during the weekend just past due to the second round of the Intermediate Cup taking place so we thought we’d have a look at the season so far in the league. Despite it being close to the end of November, no team has played any more than nine league games in what is a twenty-eight game league campaign. The reason for the lack of league fixtures as due to the number of cup competitions that take place and that take precedence over league games but that’s a discussion for a different time perhaps.
At this point of the season my own team Lisburn Distillery, are currently sitting proudly at the top of the table and with the past six years we’ve experienced we intend to enjoy this for as long as it lasts. The Whites started the campaign like a house on fire with wins over Newington, Queens, Moyola and Dundela giving them a perfect start but since then the Whites have come up short against Banbridge, Annagh, and Tobermore but home wins against Donegal Celtic and Sport & Leisure keep them a point clear of Dundela. The Whites have shown great character when called upon this season, coming from 2-0 down to win on no less than two occasions, against DC at home and away against Moyola where they were also reduced to ten men for most of the game. Last season most Whites fans felt that the team lacked a real goalscorer upfront but this season Matthew Ferguson has proven to be a very astute signing notching 8 league goals already (12 in all competitions). At this stage the Whites have played a game more than any other side in the league so how long they can stay top for remains to be seen but hopefully if Ferguson can keep scoring they’ll be able to stay amongst the chasing pack and at least finish in the top half this season.
Following hot on the Whites heels are Dundela and Queens University respectively, at present the top three sides are only separated by three points. Dundela at this stage are being tipped by a lot of people as being the ‘team to beat’ this season and it’s hard to disagree with that. So far the Duns have won five out of eight games in the league and have only lost one game all season against the current table toppers and they have conceded the fewest goals in the division with keeper Ryan McBride only being beaten six times. They have plenty of experience and quality in the side with Jay Magee, Jordan Hughes, Ben Browne and Owain Beggs all having played top flight football. Much like the Duns Queens don’t give much away having only conceded nine goals this season and Peter Thompson’s side will be hoping to be back amongst the division’s top teams after a bottom half finish last time out. Queens seem to be spreading the goals around this season with Matthew Hughes, Emaon Fyfe, Ryan McCready and Ciaran O’Hare all regularly appearing on the scoresheet. One thing that has perhaps boosted Queens this year and for future seasons is that they are no longer restricted to only signing current and former Queens students.
Completeing the top six we have Moyola Park, Banbridge Town and Tobermore, who just edge Sport & Leisure on goal difference. Moyola have impressed this season as the division’s top scorers with a total of 25 goals in 8 league games so far and have scored 4 goals or more in three league games this season, including a thrilling 4-4 encounter with Tobermore earlier in the season. The leading men for Moyola are Tiernan Rafferty and Jason Paul with 7 and 8 goals respectively but several players have shown they are capable of chipping in with goals when necessary. Banbridge are another dark horse who you would be foolish to rule out at this stage, like Dundela they have only lost one game and have at least one game in hand over all the sides above them in the table, at present Banbridge sit 5th in the table but I suspect they’ll finish higher than that.
Moving into the bottom half of the table and we have Sport & Leisure, Portstewart and Armagh City respectively, all these sides have had somewhat inconsistent starts to the season. After a strong start to the season Sport & Leisure have went on a four game winless run in the league that has seen them fall out of the bottom half, they play league leaders Distillery at home on Saturday and will hope to avenge the 3-0 defeat they suffered a couple of weeks ago. Portstewart are sitting 8th in the table and have also had a bit of a mixed bag with 2 wins, 2 draws and 4 defeats, last time out though they put an end to a winless run and also won their first league game since the opening day of the season and to be honest if they were in 8th place at the end of the season they would probably be delighted with that. Likewise could probably be said for Armagh who sit 9th but had a bit of an overhaul with players and coaching staff following last season’s relegation.
Sitting in 10th place in the table is Donegal Celtic who have had a frustrating season to date, tipped by some to be title challengers at the start of the season DC have only won two games all season. That being said their performance against Lisburn Distillery would suggest they are in a false position in the league and if I was a DC fan I wouldn’t be too concerned about relegation and could still see them putting in a push to move up the table.
The bottom two is currently Annagh and Newington respectively, both sides have almost identical records with 2 wins and 6 defeats from 8 games, Annagh ahead by virtue of a greater goal difference. Annagh at the minute are a place higher than I’d say many expect them to be at the end of the season and they do seem to be capable of scoring goals, conceding is their biggest concern but I’d be worried if I was a Newington fan as they seem to be scoring very few and conceding on a regular basis. At the minute I’d pick Annagh to avoid the dreaded bottom spot but time will tell.
The PIL returns this week in some form with four matches in total:-
Banbridge v Tobermore
Portstewart v Dundela
Queens v Annagh
Sport & Leisure v Lisburn Distillery
We’ll be back for our roundup next week.