There was another full programme of Championship action on Saturday and once again there was no shortage of goals and drama to talk about. We’ll get started with Friday night’s game between Loughgall and Newry.
Loughgall 0 Newry City 4
Newry’s revival continued on Friday night with this convincing win away to Loughgall, which was enough to see them move into the top three. Newry took the lead within the first five minutes of the game when James Walker’s free-kick was headed back across goal by Darren King and Mark McCabe was on hand to finish. McCabe doubled the visitors’ lead after 14 minutes when he finished first time following a superb pass from Walker. Loughgall were reduced to 10 men midway through the first half when Marcus Dallas was sent off following a challenge on Walker. Newry made it 3-0 just before the hour mark and Walker and McCabe were involved once again as the latter got on the end of the former’s free-kick but this time saw his shot saved by Gareth Buchannan in goal but Stephen Hughes was on hand to score the rebound. Newry completed the scoring and McCabe completed his hat-trick eventually, when the ball was played out wide to Hughes who delivered the ball to the back post where McCabe arrived to apply the finish on the volley. With this defeat, Loughgall have slipped a position into 6th in the table.
Dregview 3 Lurgan Celtic 2
Both these teams really needed a win on Saturday as Dergview went into the game having not won in three and leading bottom side Larne only on goal difference, Lurgan Celtic haven’t won in the league since they beat PSNI on the 2nd September and knew a defeat on Saturday would see their opponents move above them in the table. Dergview broke the deadlock on the stroke of half-time when striker Ryan Campbell sent a looping header over Celtic keeper Shane McPartlan and into the net. Celtic pushed for an equaliser in the second half and Warner Mullan went close with a couple of headers, being denied by the woodwork on one occasion, before Philip Donnelly did score to make it 1-1. The sides weren’t level for long though and Lee McNulty restored Dergview’s lead and Campbell then added a third goal for the Castlederg side. Defender Dara Noonan did pull a goal back for Celtic but ultimately it was Dergview who got the points and moved into 9th in the table, while Celtic drop to 11th.
Harland and Wolff Welders 3 Limavady United 2
There was late drama in this game as the Welders came away from Tillysburn Park with all three points on Saturday. United opened the scoring after 26 minutes when Ryan Logue finished player-manager Paul Owens’ pass but the lead lasted four minutes when Gary McFadden lost the ball to David Rainey who made the most of the error to finish past Paul Wells. Birthday boy Owens restored United’s lead when he fired low past Robert Robinson to give United a half-time lead. United had plenty of chances to extend their lead further in the second half but failed to make the most of their chances and the Welders equalised after 87 minutes when a long throw was not cleared by the United defence and when the ball fell to Rainey who turned and fired past Wells to level the game up. There was time for more late drama when, in an effort to win the match, Limavady committed men forward but lost the ball and it was sent downfield where Ross Arthurs beat Wells to the ball and steered the ball home for a late winner. This result moved the Welders above Loughgall into 5th place on goal difference and United fall out of the top half into 8th place.
Institute 3 Larne 0
Larne’s recent run of five games unbeaten came to an end on Saturday when they travelled to 2nd placed Institute. Even the most optimistic of Larne fans may not have been too confident on Saturday as they went into the game without the services of several players due to injury and suspension and then had Kevin Bradley sent off for two yellow card offences after 34 minutes. Larne did have a chance to take the lead soon after Bradley’s dismissal but Daniel Reynolds’ effort on goal was well saved by Martin Gallagher, Stephen Curry then gave Stute the lead with three minutes of the half to go. Michael McCrudden then doubled the lead after 57 minutes before Ronan Wilson completed the scoring with 15 minutes left. This win helps Stute keep the pace with Ballyclare Comrades at the right end of the table, while Larne now slip to two points adrift at the bottom.
Knockbreda 1 Portadown 2
Two defeats in a row now for Knockbreda as they slip to 4th in the table and are now seven points off table-toppers Ballyclare and four points behind Stute in 2nd. Portadown took the lead in the second half when Middlesbrough bound striker Alberto Balde opened the scoring, at the age of 15 Balde is the youngest player to have scored at senior level for the Ports. Lewis Irwin did briefly level the scores but when Portadown were then awarded a penalty Niall Henderson stepped up to score what proved to be the winner. Breda’s woes worsened when they had Nathan McVeigh sent off later in the game. Portadown are still in the bottom half of the table but have gained ground on Loughgall following their defeat on Saturday.
PSNI 0 Ballyclare Comrades 5
The Comrades ran riot against PSNI at Newforge Lane on Saturday, with this 5-0 win making up for the 3-0 defeat the Comrades suffered at the hands of PSNI at Dixon Park earlier in the season. It took the Comrades until the 30th minute to open the deadlock when good work from Gary Brown to win the ball allowed him to play in Mark Kelly who finished with ease from 8 yards. The lead was doubled after 43 minutes when a goal-kick from keeper Paddy Flood was headed on by Kelly and Thomas Robinson and when the ball eventually came to Brown he rounded the keeper and scored into an open goal. Further goals in the second half from Stewart Nixon, Robinson and substitute Jason Johnston sealed a convincing win for table-toppers Ballyclare, PSNI have now been overtaken by Dergview and sit in 9th place.
This Saturday we have another full programme of Championship matches with the following fixtures:-
Lurgan Celtic v Institute
Dergview v PSNI
Larne v Knockbreda
Limavady United v Loughgall
Newry City v Ballyclare Comrades
Portadown v Harland and Wolff Welders