Institute Back to Winning Ways at Top as Lurgan Celtic Edge Closer to the Drop

NIFL Championship

There was a full programme of fixtures in the Bluefin Sport Championship on Saturday. League leaders Institute returned to winning ways and Matthew Tipton’s Portadown side continued their recent good form. Meanwhile, at the bottom of the table, Lurgan Celtic edge ever closer to relegation as they suffered another heavy defeat at the hands of Knockbreda.

Ballyclare Comrades 2 Institute 4
Ballyclare’s chances of automatic promotion ended on Saturday as Institute returned to winning ways after two defeats in a row and three league games without a win. Stute took control of the game with two goals in a five minute period in the first-half, Aaron Harkin struck first after 22 minutes and Michael McCrudden then doubled the lead. The Comrades were handed a lifeline early in the second-half when Dean Curry headed into his own net to halve the deficit but Stephen Curry restored Stute’s two-goal cushion soon after. The Comrades were handed another way back into the game when Mark Kelly was fouled in the area but Matty Parker’s penalty was saved by Martin Gallagher. Kelly did score Comrades second goal of the game with nine minutes later but Stute responded quickly again when McCrudden beat the offside trap to score his second of the game and secure the points for the visitors. Institute remain a point clear of Newry at the top and still have a game in hand.

Harland and Wolff Welders 1 Portadown 3
Portadown remain unbeaten since Matthew Tipton took the reins from Niall Currie and this win on Saturday moved them three points clear of the Welders in 3rd place, though the East Belfast side do have three games in hand. Portadown were going to have to work for their win after Ben Arthurs put the Welders ahead with 15 minutes played. The Welders controlled much of the first-half but they couldn’t hold on to their lead until half-time as Adam Salley fired the Ports level with a free-kick after 38 minutes. The Welders never really recovered from this set-back and the visitors began to gain the upper hand but it would be four minutes from time before Chris Lavery scored what would prove to be the winner and in injury time the same player showed why he was voted the Championship Player of the Month for April by scoring again to wrap up the win.

Knockbreda 7 Lurgan Celtic 0
Anything other than a win in their next game will see relegation finally confirmed for Lurgan Celtic in a miserable season where they have won only three games out of twenty-eight in the league and on Saturday conceded for the 80th time this season. Breda were in control of the game from start to finish on Saturday and could easily have been three goals clear within the first few minutes of the game, as it happens it was the closing minutes of the first-half before Breda would finally find the back of the net and just like buses three came along at once, as Patrick Cafolla scored two either side of a Daniel Culbert goal. Full-back Culbert doubled his own tally in the 56th minute before things went from bad to worse for Celtic as Jason Rogers was given his marching orders. Knockbreda’s remaining goals came through Lloyd Anderson (2) and Brendan Bennett. Knockbreda are now safe from the threat of automatic relegation and this win has moved them five points clear of the play-off spot.

Limavady United 0 Dergview 0
Dergview had the ideal opportunity to put some pressure on the side directly above them in the Championship relegation battle by moving a point behind the Roesiders with a game in hand but they could only manage a goalless draw, a rarity in the Championship. The game was a rather tame affair as in the first half Joe McCready and Zach Barr failed to test Dergview ‘keeper Alan Buchanan and at the other end Alan Dougherty seen an effort saved by United ‘keeper Paul Wells and Ryan Campbell tried his luck with an overhead kick but couldn’t trouble the United stopper. In the second-half, Robbie Hume went close for the home side but Buchannan was equal to his effort and Wells did well to save an effort from Alex Pomeroy to ensure it was the defences that came out on top in this game.

Newry City 1 Loughgall 0
City remain hot on the heels of Institute with this win over Loughgall at the Newry Showgrounds. City had plenty of chances to win by a more convincing argument but came up against an in-form keeper in Gareth Buchanan and in the end it was Keith Johnston’s strike, his 6th in the league this season, that would prove to be the difference between the two sides. After City took the lead in the 12th minute top scorer Mark McCabe tried his luck but ‘keeper Buchanan was equal to his effort and early in the second half the Loughgall ‘keeper was called into action again when he tipped over a Stephen Hughes effort from distance. At the other end Buchanan’s opposite number, Steven Maguire, was not to be outdone as he superbly saved a Ricky Copeland effort. City then had a golden opportunity to take the lead when Johnston seen a shot saved by Buchanan but when the rebound fell to Hughes he looked certain to score but missed the target. Fortunately for City and Hughes, they would not live to rue that missed chance and are still very much in the race for automatic promotion.

PSNI 2 Larne 2
There was a dramatic finish in this entertaining affair at Newforge Lane on Saturday as Larne came from two goals down to earn a draw. Larne started the game brightly but PSNI took the lead when Owen Moody scored after he had been set up by Lukasz Adamczyk. After taking the lead PSNI took the game by the scruff of the necks but try as they might they couldn’t find a second goal, until the 72nd minute when Adamczyk got his own name on the scoresheet. The game was far from over though and with four minutes of normal time remaining Martin Donnelly pulled a goal back and then in injury time the same player scored a second to ensure both teams would have to make do with a point apiece.

There are four games in The Championship this Saturday with the following fixtures taking place:-

Dergview v Lurgan Celtic
Harland and Wolff Welders v Ballyclare Comrades
Knockbreda v PSNI
Loughgall v Institute