There were five games in the Bluefin Sport Championship at the weekend and, due to Irish Cup 4th round action, just the two Bluefin Sport Premier Intermediate League (PIL) fixtures on Saturday so we’ve decided to roll both roundups into one this week, we’ll start with the Championship with Friday night’s game when in form Newry travelled to relegation threatened Dergview.
Dergview 2 Newry City 2 (Championship)
Newry extended their unbeaten run to 10 games as they travelled to Dergview on Friday night to take on one of the sides fighting for their lives towards the foot of the table. Newry got off to a flying start in the game, as after just 1 minute Marty Haveron perfectly picked out Declan Carville who picked his spot to finish past Dergview keeper Alan Buchanan. Both sides went close to scoring soon after this as Steven Maguire saved from Dergview’s Gareth Falconer and Haveron seen a shot go just wide at the other end. Dergview were level after 15 minutes when Aaron Arkinson picked out Ryan Campbell who fired the ball home on the volley. Newry regained the lead not long before half time when they were awarded a free-kick inside the box when keeper Buchanan was deemed to have handled a back pass from Richard Lynch and James Walker smashed the ball home to give the visitors a half-time lead. Despite testing Buchannan on a number of occasions in the second half Newry were unable to extend their lead any further and late in the game Dergview snatched an equaliser through Stephen Browne. Newry stay in 3rd but are now 4 points behind Institute and 7 behind Ballyclare, Dergview manager Richard Clarke will no doubt be delighted with the character his side showed during the game and they climb a place to 10th.
Lurgan Celtic 1 Portadown 1 (Championship)
Lurgan Celtic rescued a point late in this game to end a run of five straight defeats but the result wasn’t enough to move them off the bottom of the table, and they still remain winless since a 3-0 win against PSNI on the 2nd September. Both keepers were called into action in the first half and Darren Henderson did have the ball in the net but the goal was ruled out for offside and the game remained scoreless at half-time. Portadown broke the deadlock in the second half through Adam Salley’s header from a Henderson cross. Portadown went close to doubling their lead when Salley attempted a lob from the edge of the box but the ball came back off the crossbar. Celtic kept pushing and got their reward with virtually the last kick of the game when Jordan Gibson headed home from a free kick. Niall Currie will no doubt be pulling his hair out with after watching his side drop points yet again, especially in the manner they did,plus the fact that Saturday was an ideal opportunity to move into the top half with Knockbreda not playing and Limavady and Loughgall dropping points. Instead the Ports remain in 8th place with only 6 games to go before the league splits in two.
PSNI 1 Harland and Wolff Welders 1 (Championship)
Both these Belfast sides played out a draw at Newforge Lane on Saturday, the result perhaps proving to be a better result for the home side than the away side. The Welders started the game on top but any effort on goal did little to trouble Jordan Williamson in the home goal and at the other end veteran keeper Robert Robinson had to be alert to tip a Joe McWilliams effort from the edge of the box around the post. Welders striker, David Rainey, showed all his quality when he received the ball on the left hand side of the box and cut inside, jinked past several PSNI defenders but unfortunately his effort on goal sailed over the bar but the Welders did soon take the lead when keeper Williamson failed to claim a ball just inside the area and Welders player Ross Arthurs took advantage of the early Christmas present to roll the ball into the now open goal and the score remained that way until the break. PSNI went close to an equaliser when Lukasz Adamczyk headed against the post from a corner. It was the same player who did pull his side level when he chased the ball down the left hand side, cut infield, taking two defenders out while doing so and fired a superb strike into Robinson’s top left hand corner giving the keeper no chance. Both sides had some half chances to win it but it was PSNI who went closest when they hit the woodwork for the second time from a corner, Adam Wright being the unfortunate player on this occasion.
Institute 3 Loughgall 0 (Championship)
Institute have had a horrible week off the pitch, earlier this season heavy rainfall in the north-west of Northern Ireland led to the pitch being damaged and has forced the club to play all their games away from home for the foreseeable future, and this week news broke that parts of the pitch and the surrounding area have become contaminated with Japanese Knotweed, this and several other insurance issues mean that a return to the clubs Riverside Stadium home seems unlikely. Paddy McLaughlin and his players gave the supporters a welcome boost as they secured the three points at their current Wilton Park home on Saturday. Michael McCrudden opened the scoring from the penalty spot after just three minutes and despite going on to boss most of the first half Stute failed to double their lead and almost let the visitors back into the game with Peter Campbell and Mark Stewart both hitting the woodwork in the last 5 minutes of the first half. Loughgall were made to rue those missed chances as Niall Grace doubled Stute’s lead after 53 minutes and the same player sealed the win for his side with 20 minutes to go. This result keeps Stute in 2nd place, three points behind Ballyclare but with two games in hand, Loughgall remain 5th.
Ballyclare Comrades 2 Limavady United 1 (Championship)
Ballyclare kept their noses in front at the top of the table with a tight home win against Limavady United who had lost only once in 7 games when they arrived at Dixon Park on Saturday afternoon. Ballyclare dominated the early part of the game with Jason Johnston and Dean Youle going close within the first 10 minutes but Limavady soon got a foothold in the game and player-manager Paul Owens went close with two efforts of his own in the 24th and 29th minutes. Ballyclare opened the scoring after 33 minutes when a long ball forward took the visitors defence out and Stewart Nixon found himself with only goalkeeper, Paul Wells, to beat and he lofted the ball home to put his side ahead. The lead was doubled less than 5 minutes later when Thomas Robinson’s ball from the right came to Samuel McIlveen and he drilled home from 12 yards. The second half was a scrappy affair and Limavady didn’t look like getting back into the game, that is until the 74th minute when the referee felt that Adam McCart had fouled a United player inside the box and Robbie Hume stepped up to cut Ballyclare’s lead in half and set up a nervy final 15 minutes. Both sides went close to scoring after that, first Comrades defender, Youle, seen his header from a corner cleared off the line and Paddy Flood saved from Hume to ensure his side got the points. Limavady are still in the top half despite defeat but they host the top side again next week and two of the three sides immediately below then have games in hand.
Armagh City 2 Sport and Leisure Swifts 0 (PIL)
Armagh went into this game having not played a league game since the middle of October, and not having won in the league since the middle of September. Their opponents also went into the game in search of a win as, after a strong start to the season, Sport & Leisure haven’t won a league game since the 2nd September. City opened the scoring after 25 minutes when Reese McInerney sent a free-kick past Brian McGurk. McInerney, who was making his debut for the side went from hero to zero, as he was given his marching orders 3 minutes later for an incident the referee deemed to be violent conduct. Sport & Leisure couldn’t make the extra man count though and City finished the job early in the second hal,when Nedas Maculilatis finished off a cross from Conor Kerr. This result moves City up to 8th, a point and a place behind Sport & Leisure.
Tobermore United 2 Newington Youth Club 2
After making it to the Christmas Day Steel and Sons Cup final last week Newington returned to league action when they travelled to Fortwilliam Park on Saturday in desperate need of some points on the board. In the end they did leave with a share of the spoils which was enough to move them off the foot of the table and a point ahead of Annagh United. Newington found themselves 2-0 up at one stage in the game but Conor Kearns dragged United back into the game with two goals from the penalty spot. Tobermore remain unbeaten in four and continue to slowly rise up the table but they have played one more game than Moyola and Banbridge who sit level on points directly below them.
The Championship returns to a full programme this Saturday, while 10 out of 12 PIL teams are in action, with Newington taking on Donegal Celtic next Wednesday night, as always we’ll be back to roundup all the talking points.