Newry and Welders Both Slip Up in Promotion Race

NIFL Championship

There were just the three games in the Bluefin Sport Championship last weekend, with all three games taking place on Friday night due to the Northern Ireland v South Korea friendly on Saturday. Despite fewer games than usual, there was a keen interest in all three matches from throughout the league, with the fixtures having an impact at both ends of the table.

Limavady United 1 Larne 0

Larne’s lengthy unbeaten run came to an end on Friday night as Paul Owens’ Limavady side secured a crucial three points to ease their relegation worries slightly. Three points on Friday all but keeps the Roesiders safe from the threat of automatic relegation but they are still in danger of finishing in the promotion/relegation spot, being only five points clear of Dergview and the three sides below them having games in hand. Both sides had chances to take the lead with keepers Paul Wells and Conor Devlin being called into action to keep the game scoreless, Devlin was beaten after 70 minutes though when Zach Barr headed home from a corner to score the game’s only goal.

Loughgall 3 Harland and Wolff Welders 1

The Welders missed an opportunity to put themselves five points clear of their nearest challengers on Saturday when they fell to defeat at Lakeview Park on Saturday, their first league defeat in fourteen games. Welders manager Gary Smyth will likely be scratching his head as to why his side weren’t comfortably ahead after the first fifteen minutes with Dan McMurray, David Rainey and Ross Arthurs all having opportunities to score but it was Paul McDowell who opened the scoring for the home side after 21 minutes, and Loughgall soon doubled their lead thanks to a Peter Campbell goal. The Welders did force their way back into the game just before half-time when Gary Spence headed home from a Davy Graham corner but in the 64th minute, the Villagers made sure of their win when Campbell played in Nathaniel Ferris who dinked the ball over Welders keeper Ben McCauley.

Portadown 2 Newry City 1

Portadown became the third side in the Championship to end another team’s lengthy unbeaten run in the league on Friday night as they came out on top in a fiery-tempered affair against Newry to ensure Matthew Tipton remains unbeaten as Ports manager after three games. The Ports took the lead when John Boyle put Chris Lavery’s cross past his own goalkeeper and it was soon 2-0 when Jamie Douglas scored from a Kyle Neil free-kick. Both sides were reduced to ten men just before the break when Mark Hughes of Newry and Portadown’s Craig McMillan were both shown red and Tipton himself was also sent to the stand. Robert Mackin pulled a goal back for Newry with ten minutes to go to set up a nervous finish but the Ports held on. It’s been said many times in the past but it’s amazing what a few weeks can do in football, a few weeks ago I all but ruled the Ports’ chances of promotion out but now they are within touching distance of the play-off spots.

There are four games in the Championship this Saturday, with Loughgall and Larne also taking part in the Irish Cup semi-finals. The four league games are as follows:-

Dergview v Knockbreda
Institute v Newry City
Lurgan Celtic v PSNI
Portadown v Ballyclare Comrades