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Amber Army look to keep automatic promotion bid on track at Larne

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Larne's Stuart King (left) and Carrick's Aaron Traynor tussle for the ball during January's Irish Cup clash between the two clubs

Larne's Stuart King (left) and Carrick's Aaron Traynor tussle for the ball during January's Irish Cup clash between the two clubs

Larne's Stuart King (left) and Carrick's Aaron Traynor tussle for the ball during January's Irish Cup clash between the two clubs

The intense battle for promotion at the top of the Belfast Telegraph Championship serves up another massive match on Tuesday night (tomorrow, 7.45pm) when Larne and Carrick Rangers clash at Inver Park.

Carrick came within a whisker of beating league leaders Bangor on Saturday, conceding two goals in the final five minutes to draw 2-2. Rangers now have a chance of immediate redemption, with a huge clash with East Antrim rivals Larne.

Gary Haveron's men are four points off the top with two games in hand. If Carrick can win on Tuesday night, they will draw level with second-placed Ards, and cut Bangor's advantage over them to just a point. If they fail to win, the destiny of the title will be in the Seasiders' hands.

Despite losing their last two matches to Dergview and Loughgall, Larne boss David McAlinden believes his club still have an outside chance of promotion should they win their four remaining games. The Invermen are currently fifth, seven points shy of leaders Bangor.

McAlinden said: "You just don't know what's going to happen with licences or clubs dropping points, so you've just got to keep going until the end. We've four games left so if we got 12 points you don't know where that might take us; it might put us right back in there. But if we're to seriously compete, we must win all four games and that has to start with Carrick on Tuesday night.

"I don't think there's much between the top five clubs, sometimes you just need a little bit of magic or concentration in defence. We need to do that on Tuesday night, and if we can, then I'm sure we can get three points.

"We've got to have pride in ourselves. We're going to put 11 men out on the field who will fight for everything."

Carrick beat Larne 2-1 at Taylor's Avenue back in August, while in January, they won by the same scoreline at Inver Park in an Irish Cup fifth round tie.

As things stand, the team who wins the division will gain promotion, while whoever finishes second will play the 11th-placed Premiership side in a two-legged promotion play-off. Should the sides who finishes second not receive a licence from the IFA, the play-off spot will be passed down the league to a side who does have a licence. The applications for Domestic and Championship Licences must be with the IFA by Tuesday, with clubs informed of their fate on April 23. The Championship's regular season will come to a close on April 25. 

Belfast Telegraph