SML: Championship leaders take on Phoenix Athletic

Artigarvan's Niall O'Reilly gets a shot on goal despite the attention from marker, Newtown Heath's Gary Dunne, during Saturday's game at Prehen. DER0116MC005
Artigarvan's Niall O'Reilly gets a shot on goal despite the attention from marker, Newtown Heath's Gary Dunne, during Saturday's game at Prehen. DER0116MC005

There are 10 games scheduled for this weekend in The Bentley Bar North West Saturday Morning League with four games in the Premier Division and six games in the Championship.

In the Premiership, Brandywell Celtic face Tamnaherin Celtic at Lisnagelvin while Creggan Swifts take on Du Pont at The Complex. Rosemount play Clifton Villa at Prehen and Westbank United take on Hatmore Harps at Lisnagelvin. In the Championship, Sion Swifts take on Strabane Athletic in a Tyrone derby in Strabane, Culmore face Newton Heath at Leafair, Clooney play Tristar at Prehen and Dungiven welcome City Colts to Dungiven. Artigarvan play Foyle FC in St. Columb’s Park and, finally, leaders Foyle Harps take on Phoenix Athletic Colts in The Showgrounds.

Forthcoming fixtures

Saturday, January 23rd; Premier Division; Bentley v Brandywell Celtic (St. Columb’s 2); Hatmore Harps v Tamnaherin Celtic (Prehen 6); Westbank United v Rosemount (Showgrounds); Du Pont v Clifton Villa (Du Pont).

Championship; City Colts v Strabane Athletic (Prehen 1); Sion Swifts v Culmore (Strabane); Dungiven v Tristar (Dungiven); Clooney v Artigarvan (Lisnagelvin 2); Foyle FC v Phoenix Athletic Colts (Templemore Central).

Premier Division

Brandywell Celtic v Tamnaherin Celtic (Lisnagelvin 2)

Brandywell were left frustrated last week as their game was called off but they face a Tamnaherin side that returned to action last week with a good win over Bentley. Brandywell have been there or thereabouts all season but lack of consistency which has seen them fall out of the title race though they will be looking for fourth. Tamnaherin sit three points behind Brandywell and team boss Marty Doherty will be looking for his side to build on last week’s win. This go either way but if Brandywell hit the ground winning they should win.

Creggan Swifts v Du Pont (Templemore Central)

Creggan lead the way in the Premiership but their one point lead is a slender one especially as second placed Westbank have a game. Declan Divan has his squad playing well and they face a Du Pont side here who returned to action last week with a defeat to Westbank although Du Pont assistant manager Michael McGill was not too downbeat about that result.

Du Pont have been struggling with only one win in nine league games. No doubt they will give it their best shot and they have nothing to lose but even a point looks a tall order. It’s hard not to see Creggan remain top come full time.

Rosemount v Clifton Villa (Prehen 1)

Rosemount had a very good win over Hatmore last week and will be looking to build on that win when they take on Villa who did not play last week. Kevin Nixon was among the goals for Rosemount last week and still shows a good appetite for the game as his two goals last week proved.

The pressure is on Villa as they managed to get back into the title race following the collapse of HML but any slip ups would see their title dreams disappear. This should be a close game. Rosemount have a good record against Villa and come in to this game on a high after last week’s win but Villa have an eye on the title and that should spur them on to win.

Westbank United v Hatmore Harps (Lisnagelvin 4)

Westbank come into this game in very good shape as the good win over Du Pont last week highlighted. Westbank are second in the league table, just one point behind the leaders with a game in hand and considered favourites for the title by many.

Hatmore lost last week and will be disappointed they did not start playing until they were 3-0 down, eventually pulling it back to 3-2. Hatmore cannot afford Westbank the same luxury they afforded Rosemount last week as if they go 3-0 down in this game, any chance they might have is gone. Robbie Mitchell has a decent squad of players and Westbank should have enough quality to see off Harps.

Championship

Sion Swifts v Strabane Athletic (Strabane)

The last time these two sides met it was second placed Strabane Athletic who came out on top and they still hold a five point advantage over fifth placed Swifts as Strabane. Athletic have been consistently good all season, losing only one league game to leaders and although Strabane sit 11 points off the pace, they have a massive four games in hand.

Sion have already dropped points in three games this season and they would need the teams above them to have a real dip in form if they were to be considered promotion material. Joe Cromie scored three times for Strabane last week and he is a striker on form but Ross Porter has been doing just as well for Sion and also registered a hat trick last week. This should be a cracking contest but Athletic look to have all the aces.

Culmore v Newton Heath (Leafair)

Both these sides registered wins last week as Culmore defeated Phoenix and Newton Heath saw off Artigarvan despite being unconvincing. Culmore have improved as they’ve climbed the table and currently sit joint fourth on the same number of points as Heath. The last time these sides met Heath won 5-3 but they had their fair share of luck that day.

Culmore are playing well and have Matt Merrigan back scoring goals which could be the difference as Newton tend to rely on Andy Dunne and if Culmore can isolate the service to him they could struggle. Culmore are in good form and they just might have the edge here.

Clooney v Tristar (Prehen 6)

Clooney were well beaten last week against Strabane and only the brilliance of their keeper kept the score to 4-1. Tristar got the result of the week last week when they became the first side since the beginning of last season to defeat City Colts in a league game and that result cannot be underestimated. Danny Doran has done a great job since taking over at Tristar and will be looking for his young charges to make it back-to-back wins and it has been a while since they did that. Clooney have been far from consistent and that has been cost them in games. Stephen Bulloch has been scoring some important goals for Tristar and could prove to be a handful for the Clooney defence. Tristar are fancied to build on last week’s win.

Dungiven v City Colts (Dungiven)

Both these sides lost last week as Dungiven were over run by a rampant Foyle Harps and Colts lost their first league game since the start of last season as they went down 2-1 to Tristar. Dungiven will feel they have a point to prove to themselves after last week’s disaster and will be hoping that they can see a marked improvement.

Colts will know their unbeaten record was going to go at some point but they would not have been expecting it to be in last week’s game. Dungiven have home advantage which will help their cause but if Colts land to Dungiven with a full strength squad they should be able to get back to winning ways.

Artigarvan v Foyle FC (St. Columb’s 2)

Artigarvan either performed much better than they have been when they lost 3-1 to Newton Heath last week or Newton did not play to their potential. We’ll know more after this game. Both these sides sit at the foot of the table as Artigarvan still search for their first point while Foyle have managed to achieve eight points from 12 starts which is a lot better than they have been doing in recent seasons.

It has been well documented that Artigarvan are a young, inexperienced side and they have failed to threaten any of the other sides in this division. Foyle themselves are not world beaters but they should be able to record another win.

Foyle Harps v Phoenix Athletic Colts (Showgrounds)

Harps returned to action last week after the break and rattled in seven goals while only conceding one. Phoenix returned to a defeat when they were well beaten by Culmore. They also conceded five goals so you would have to be worried about their defending as they face free-scoring Harps.

The Harps coming into this game on top of the table but they can still be overtaken so it’s important for them to continue with their good run of form. Phoenix will not be coming just to make up the numbers and they will give it everything they have got but Foyle have been scoring for fun and should win comfortably.