Niall Currie out to keep Carrick Rangers on path back to the top
Carrick Rangers v Portadown, Championship Pre-Play-Off; Taylors Avenue, Tonight, 7.45pm
Carrick Rangers manager Niall Currie is ahead of schedule with his side and will be out to keep it that way in the Championship pre-play-off at home to Portadown tonight (7.45pm).
While big-spending Larne lived up to their favourites billing in the Championship and romped to the title, most felt Portadown would be strong competitors for the crown.
It didn't work out that way, with Carrick proving to be Larne's nearest challengers, even if they finished 17 points adrift of the Inver Park outfit.
More telling was the fact that Currie's side were 13 points clear of third-placed Portadown.
Carrick played the Ports in the final game, winning 4-0 to maintain their excellent record against Matthew Tipton's team.
Earlier in the campaign, Currie stated that his plan was to take Carrick back to the Irish Premiership next term, knowing that a big rebuilding job was required after they lost their top tier status when Newry City beat them in the play-offs last season.
Currie has proved once again that he knows how to inspire teams to fight for promotion.
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It is ironic that tonight his old club Portadown are the opposition. Tipton has been keen to bring young players through at Shamrock Park this season but they have been inconsistent.
What offers Ports fans hope is that the kids are a talented bunch and on the big occasion could shine, though the more experienced Carrick will be a tough nut to crack.
Whoever wins this evening will take on Ards in a two-legged promotion/relegation play-off.
It will be a quick turnaround for Portadown or Carrick because the opening match against Ards is scheduled for Friday, with the return leg on Monday.
Meanwhile, the NI Football League have confirmed that Bangor have been promoted to the Bluefin Sport Premier Intermediate League for next season.
The North Down club return to the NI Football League after being relegated in 2017.
Bangor clinched the Ballymena & Provincial Intermediate League against title rivals St James' Swifts at Suffolk Road.
Other applicants for the Bluefin Sport Premier Intermediate League next season included Crewe United, Moneyslane, St James' Swifts and Strabane Athletic, however only Bangor met the criteria of winning their respective league and complying with the required ground criteria to go up.
Bangor will replace the outgoing Sport & Leisure Swifts, who are set to change their name to Belfast Celtic next term.