Amateur League preview

editorial image

IT may well have been a total wipeout last Saturday, even if all the matches hadn’t been cancelled due to the double postponement of the Northern Ireland-Russia international at Windsor Park.

Hopefully, there will be some action this weekend, with a re-run of the Clarence Cup ties which were meant to take place last week.

Ciaran Kelly’s Wellington Rec will face a tough one away to 1B title favourites Immaculata FC at the Grosvenor Recreation Centre, in a re-run of the 2009 final which the Lower Falls side won 3-2 after extra-time.

Most of that cup final squad, managed by Jim Hagan, have left. The only Rec players of four years ago likely to feature are long-serving duo Craig Cowie and the recently married Ellis Cahoon.

Immaculata have taken some notable cup scalps on their own pitch, notably that of Carrick Rangers in the Intermediate Cup back in January.

Wellington lost three league points as they were deemed to be responsible for the abandonment of a Division 1A game at home to Derriaghy Cricket Club in December. That means a win for Rosario Youth Club in their league game on Saturday at home to bottom club Crumlin United would leave the Millbrook outfit in the bottom three.

Also flying the flag for East Antrim in the Clarence Cup is Paul Foy’s Nortel, who can expect a tough battle away to 1A side, East Belfast.

In the Premier Division, it’s a must-win match for basement side Larne Tech Old Boys as they entertain Ardglass at Dennis Harvey Park. While the Tech are just two points behind Shankill United, with a game in hand, they are seven adrift of third-bottom Dunmurry Rec. With only 12 matches remaining, they surely are going to need three points here to set the revival rumbling, given that their visitors the following week are former champions Newington YC who were comfortable three-goal winners in the last meeting at The Cliff a fortnight ago.

The Tech camp will be hoping the visit of Ardglass, however, will trigger memories of that unforgettable week last May where, after losing away to Abbey Villa, they needed three wins out of three in their last three fixtures, away to Derriaghy, home to Ardglass and home to Saintfield to secure the second promotion spot in 1A and promotion back to the Premier Division.

That night Ardglass needed just one point to clinch the 1A title, but had to wait until the Saturday, after Andy Bell’s dramatic winner just four minutes from time, gave them the win they so badly needed. More of the same will surely be required on Saturday.

Also on this weekend, just a mile or so down the road, there is a derby sorts at The Cliff in Seacourt, where second-placed Newington Youth Club host an Islandmagee side, no doubt relieved to have Michael Moore back on board, after a short stint at Lisburn Distillery.

In Division 1A, Barn United, fresh from their 7-0 home win over Rosario Youth Club, will be hoping for more of the same against Orangefield Old Boys who rattled in seven of their own the other week, when Wellington Rec were the visitors.

Barn were 4-2 winners at Haslett Park when the two sides last met back in September, courtesy of a Nicky Sharples hat-trick. Nicky, with five in his last two outings, will be hoping to add to his tally.

At the moment, there is no fixture on Saturday for UUJ, though they return to action the following Thursday with a tough tussle at home to Derriaghy CC.

With just four games left, there is also no match for 1B’s Rathfern Rangers on Saturday.

Meanwhile, in Division 1C, Newington Rangers will be hoping the Knowe in Magheramorne dries out in time for Saturday’s visit of Bangor Swifts. Davy Rollo’s Rangers are in good form, with four wins and a draw in their last five outings. The two sides fought out a 3-3 draw in their last meeting at St Columbanus College back in November.

With third-placed 18th Newtownabbey Old Boys and bottom club Kilroot Rec idle, the only other local action in Division 1C is at The Glade where Mossley FC are set to entertain the side just below them in the table, Dromore Amateurs. Campbell Graham’s side have quietly been making progress of late, despite mostly being able just to field a single substitute. Three home wins on the spin suggest they’re on the right road.

And down to Division 2B there is the only real East Antrim derby of the day, where Grange Rangers, three-goal winners at Castleview Road three weeks ago, once again lock horns with Whitehead Eagles.