Championship Roundup: Stute Remain in Driving Seat

NIFL Championship

There was a full programme of Bluefin Sport Championship action last weekend, with one game taking place on Friday night and the remaining five on Saturday, as we edge closer to the league split.

Newry City 1 Dergview 0

Victory for Newry at The Showgrounds on Friday night was enough to secure Darren Mullen’s men a top six finish, not bad for their first season in The Championship, and keep them in touch with the top two sides in the league. The game was scoreless at the break but 8 minutes after the restart Mark McCabe struck to score his 13th goal of the season and as it turned out the decisive goal in the game. Defeat for Dergview meant they could find themselves bottom of the table if Lurgan Celtic managed to cause an upset by beating Ballyclare on Saturday.

Larne 1 Harland and Wolff Welders 1

Larne had to settle for a share of the spoils in their home game against the Welders, a result which puts their chances of a top six spot in doubt. Larne remain in 6th spot ahead of Loughgall on goal difference but Loughgall have a game in hand. Larne took the lead in the game after 20 minutes and one of their new signings was at the heart of it as David McDaid received a pass from Jerry Thompson and he played in David Scullion who fired past Welders debutant, Ben McAuley, from 22 yards. Advantage seemed to swing further in Larne’s favour when Dan McMurray was dismissed after 30 minutes for a challenge on Martin Donnelly. Larne were piling on all the pressure and hit the woodwork twice through Chris Ramsey and Conor Downey, they were made to regret missed chances just after the break when Barry Holland could only divert Jack Uprichard’s cross onto the post and Ross Arthurs was on hand to tap home the rebound. Another blow for Larne on Saturday was that top scorer Darren Stuart had to come off with a broken ankle.

Limavady United 1 Portadown 1

United went into this game in desperate need of points having lost their last five games in a row and came within a whisker of taking all three from in-form Portadown. United should have been ahead after just 3 minutes but Johnny Hume saw his shot on goal strike the post after he had rounded keeper Chris McCaughey. Gary Warwick and Greg Hall then had the ball in the net for the Ports but on both occasions the celebrations were cut short by the assistant referee’s flag, United keeper, Paul Wells, also saved from Adam Salley to ensure the game was goalless by half-time. It was the home side who struck 9 minutes into the second half as Andrew Devlin finished player-manager Paul Owens’ cross. Kyle McVey went close to equalising but couldn’t get his header on target and Ryan Logue and John Watt also attempted to extend their sides lead but again couldn’t find the target. Portadown did manage to snatch an equaliser in added time when a free-kick was not fully cleared and Peter Duffin fired a powerful striker past Wells.

Knockbreda 1 Loughgall 2

As already mentioned earlier this win for Loughgall moved them level on points with Larne, trailing them only by goal difference and with a crucial game in hand you would expect the balance may be tipped slightly in their favour for a top six finish. Breda went close early on by Ryan Newberry’s shot went just past the post and after 24 minutes the visitors thought they had taken the lead after Conor Mullen finished but the linesman’s flag was up. The deadlock was broken after 41 minutes when Mullen played in Peter Campbell who gave Jason Craughwell no chance with his low finish. Breda went close to equalising early in the second half but Michael O’Hanlon couldn’t find a way past Gareth Buchanan and after 52 minutes it was Loughgall who doubled their lead through Nathaniel Ferris. Buchanan had to be alert with 12 minutes to go to deny Lewis Irwin from reducing the deficit but in injury time the same player did find a way through to pull one back but it was too little, too late.

Lurgan Celtic 0 Ballyclare Comrades 1

Celtic went into this game knowing a win would see them off bottom spot after Dergview’s defeat the night before but unfortunately Frankie Wilson’s side were unable to take advantage of this, going down to 2nd placed Ballyclare. The Comrades started brightly but couldn’t take an early lead and Celtic soon came into the game, first Brian Toland forced a good save from Paddy Flood and then after 16 minutes Celtic believed Ruairi McDonald’s shot had crossed the line but with goal-line technology not having made it to the Irish League just yet the referee waved play on. After these scares the Comrades came into the game but still struggled to find a way through the Celtic rearguard, Matty Parker went closest when his free-kick was helped by the wind and tested Shane McPartland. The second half continued much in the same vein as the first but the Comrades did eventually find a way through just before the hour mark. Adam Gray’s effort was turned behind by McPartland for as corner and Parker’s delivery found Mark Kelly who headed home. After this is it was all Ballyclare really with debutant Eoin Kane and Kelly both being denied by McPartlan and Stewart Nixon also seen his late penalty saved by the keeper. The only black mark for the Comrades was Gray’s straight red card and assistant manager Sammy McFadden’s dismissal from the resulting protests.

PSNI 2 Institute 3

At this stage it would appear to be Institute who are in the driving seat as we approach the split, the north-west side remain three points clear at the summit with two games in hand but they had to work for the win at Newforge on Saturday. Lukasz Adamczyk opened the scoring for the home side after just 3 minutes of the game gone but Gareth Brown equalised after 26 minutes and ten minutes later the away side were in front as Michael McCrudden scored from the penalty spot. Stute thought they were taken their lead into the interval but Adamczyk had other ideas as the big striker scored on the stroke of half-time. Any hopes Adamczyk had of a hat-trick were diminished on the hour mark as he was shown his second yellow card and 14 minutes later PSNI were down to ten men when Philip Simpson was dismissed. Jake Morrow then managed to make what had turned into a bad day even worse for PSNI as his effort found the top corner in injury time to send the north-west side home smiling.

There is one Championship game taking place tonight as Institute take on Knockbreda at home in one of their games in hand and then this Saturday we have three Championship fixtures:-

Dergview v Loughgall

Harland and Wolff Welders v PSNI

Kncokbreda v Newry City