Championship Roundup: Institute Come Out on Top in Top Two Clash

NIFL Championship

After the disappointment of the previous week, with most matches being called off in Northern Ireland due to heavy snowfall, normal service was resumed and we have a full programme of Bluefin Sport Championship football to take a look at.

Dergview 2 Knockbreda 2

Both sides went into this game in the need of points, Knockbreda had lost their last 3 games in a row heading into the game and had only won 1 game in their last 8 league fixtures, Dergview also went into the game sitting dangerously close to the drop zone. The home side went close to opening the scoring after 2 minutes but Ryan Campbell saw his effort hit the crossbar, the same player did open the scoring after 36 minutes when he scored from the spot after being fouled by Jamie Patterson. Breda hit the crossbar themselves early in the second half through Lewis Irwin and did get themselves back on level terms after the hour mark when Richard Rutherford scored. Dergview then had a few chances of their own to take the lead and David Ferguson had to be alert to deny Campbell once more but there was nothing the keeper could do when Duwayne McManus crossed for Matthew Callaghan to head home. Richard Clarke’s men must have thought they were heading for 3 points but four minutes from time Conor Doran headed home at the back post to earn Knockbreda a share of the points.

Larne 2 Limavady United 1

Victory for Larne moved them ahead of Dergview into 10th place in the league and they now sit 4 points ahead of basement side Lurgan Celtic, they also sit only 4 points off a place in the top half of the table. You wouldn’t have wanted to be late for this game as it took the Inver Park men 3 minutes to take the lead, David Abe took advantage of some lax defending and fired past United keeper Paul Wells. Larne held the lead until the 54th minute when Aaron Mullan headed home Joe Bradley’s cross but Larne snatched the winner in the last 5 minutes of normal time through Darren Stuart’s volleyed finish. After a strong run of form, United have now lost 3 in a row and have slipped to 8th in the table.

Portadown 6 Lurgan Celtic 0

Portadown returned to winning ways on Saturday with this thrashing of bottom side Lurgan Celtic on Saturday. Celtic parted ways with manager Brendan Shannon last week and moved quickly to appointment Frankie Wilson as their new manager. Wilson played in the Irish League before going into management have spells with Bangor, where he won the Steel and Sons Cup, and Sport and Leisure, he’s no stranger to Lurgan Celtic as he was assistant manager to Colin Malone previously. Wilson was in the dugout for the first time on Saturday but was helpless as Adam Salley and Kyle McVey scored to put the Ports two goals to the good going in at half-time. Two goals apiece from Chris Lavery and Darren Henderson in the second half rounded off the win for the Ports and moved them into a more comfortable 5th place standing in the table. Meanwhile, if Wilson wasn’t aware of the huge task on his hands to keep his new side’s Championship status alive, he is now.

Harland and Wolff Welders 2 Loughgall 0

The Welders strengthened their grip on 4th place in the table as victory on Saturday moved them 5 points clear of their opponents Loughgall. The win was fairly routine for Gary Smyth’s side and they took the lead after 18 minutes when David Graham’s cross was cleared by a Loughgall defender but only as far as striker David Rainey on the age of the box, the Welders Player of the Month gladly took the opportunity firing his shot past goalkeeper Craig Robinson in off the post. The game remained 1-0 until the Welders sealed the points just after the hour mark when Ross Arthurs set Leon Bonnes up to finish past Robinson for the second time in the game. Loughgall remain in the top half despite the defeat but drop one place to 6th.

Institute 2 Ballyclare Comrades 1

The top two met on Saturday and it was 2nd placed Institute who came away with the points and in doing so cut the Comrades’ lead to just 3 points, with 3 games in hand some may see Stute as being in the driving seat but the sides will meet twice more after the league split so it’s still wide open. The game got off to a pulsating start with two goals scored in the first 5 minutes of the game, Stute struck first when Niall Grace headed Aaron Harkin’s free-kick past Paddy Floot but the lead lasted no more than 60 seconds before Adam Gray had the sides back on level terms. Stute edged much of the game with Grace, Michael McCrudden and Aaron Jarvis all going close to restoring Stute’s lead and at the other end Martin Gallagher had to be alert to save from Gary Brown but it was Stute who scored what proved to be the winner when McCrudden outpaced Adam McCart to get on the end of a Grace pass and finish past Flood from 10 yards. The Comrades did have one more chance in the closing 10 minutes of the game but Gallagher saved Mark Kelly’s effort.

PSNI 0 Newry City 3

After a draw against Dergview last time out Newry returned to winning ways with 3 points over PSNI on Saturday to continue their excellent season to date. Newry scored 15 minutes into the game when Scott McCrory fouled Mark McCabe inside the penalty box and James Walker converted from the spot. Newry could have extended their lead 5 minutes later when Ashton McDermott was adjudged to have handled in the box but this time Walker saw his spot-kick saved by Jordan Williamson. Walker played a part in Newry’s second goal after 48 minutes when his header was glanced in by Thomas McCann. If PSNI weren’t already facing an uphill battle already they were when James Montgomery was shown a straight red card for a foul on Declan Carville and McCabe wrapped up the win after 63 minutes when he lobbed Williamson from inside the area.

There are two Championship games on Wednesday evening so I’ll be back on Friday to review all the action from Loughgall v Institute and Portadown v Dergview.