Another intriguing week of Intermediate football this weekend, with most of the leading sides in action, and indeed keeping up their winning form.
In the NI Intermediate League, however, the top two secured victories against the sides in 3rd and 4th place, in the process ending the title hopes of one of those in the chasing pack.
Leaders Magherafelt Sky Blues travelled to Newtownstewart to take on 3rd place Ardstraw, with the visitors looking to complete a league double over Ivan Sproules men. They duly obliged, racing into a 3-0 lead against the hosts who were down to ten men. Ardstraw weren’t dead and buried though, and they got two goals back to set up a frantic finale, but the Sky Blues held out for a huge win. This result leaves the gap between Ardstraw and first place at 13 points, but with only four games left to play they now find themselves unable to secure the title this season.
Two sides still in the mix though, are Strabane Athletic and Maiden City. The sides met at Templemore on Saturday with City looking to close the gap on the top two, also having a number of games in hand to come over the next few weeks.
Strabane were also looking to complete a league double over their opponents, having won the home game 2-0 at the Melvin Sports Complex. This game would prove a tighter affair, but Strabane emerged victorious again with a 2-1 win that lifted them eleven points ahead of their hosts.
City do have three games in hand on Strabane, four on Magherafelt Sky Blues, but the coming weeks will see a number of games between this top four, starting on Saturday where the Sky Blues welcome Maiden City to Spires Park, while Strabane make the short trip to Vaughans Holm to take on Ardstraw.
In the days remaining game, Dungiven secured a 3-1 home win over Newbuldings Utd.
On to Mid Ulster now and once again the top three sides secured three points as the title race really hots up.
Leaders Dollingstown made the short trip to Tandragee Rovers, a side whose last league game was an impressive 5-4 victory over title chasing Crewe United, but the Dolly Birds had Aaron Duke to thank as his double salvo secured a 2-0 win.
Second place Crewe travelled to take on a Windmill Stars side who had won their last three league games, scoring 12 goals along the way. Crewe emerged victorious though, with an impressive 5-2 win to keep them within touching distance of Dollingstown.
Banbridge Rangers picked up a narrow 1-0 win at Cheney Park against St Marys which keeps them level on points with Crewe but with a game in hand. Both sides are still seven points behind Dollingstown, but with two and three games in hand respectively.
Elsewhere, Moneyslane picked up an impressive 6-0 home win over Ballymacash Rangers, while Fivemiletown United saw off Richhill AFC 3-1 at Valley Park.
In the Ballymena League, just one of the title contenders was in league action, and Glebe Rangers got back to winning ways after their midweek defeat at home to Newtowne. This time they welcomed Brantwood to the Riada on Friday night, and two late goals saw them grab a 3-1 win to lift them within 8 points of leaders Bangor, but with five games in hand.
Bangor have garnered 40 points from their 19 games, with St James Swifts in second place on 36 points from 16 games, followed closely by Glebe on 32 points from 14 games.
In the two league games played on Saturday, rock bottom Chimney Corner fell to another defeat, this time a 4-2 defeat at home to Desertmartin. Newtowne picked up another good win, this time 2-1 on the road at Cookstown RBL.
To the NAFL now, and with only Rathfriland in league action, Aaron Blacks men were looking to keep up their good form, and continue to chase down leaders East Belfast. This week they were on the road as they travelled to the Hammer to take on Shankill United. The home side took the lead before Rathfrilands in form striker James Costello got a double to notch up an important 2-1 win.
Elsewhere Immaculate continued their excellent recent form with a 3-1 win at home to Albert Foundry. This result takes them within 6 points of the top four after a slow start to the season thanks to their progress in the cup competitions. Ards Rangers moved into 4th spot after they saw off Malachians 3-1 at Drome Park, while Crumlin Utd got back to winning ways with a 3-2 home win over Derriaghy, a result which took them level with their opponents in the table.
The coming weeks will see a number of midweek games taking place which will have a big say in the destination of the title. Leaders East Belfast are back in action on Saturday as they welcome Derriaghy to East Park, while Crumlin Star host Shankill United.