Belfast Telegraph

Huge night ahead as promotion battle hots up

By Keith Bailie

Tomorrow evening could be a pivotal night in the race for Premiership promotion.

Ards, Bangor and Carrick Rangers are all in action, as the Belfast Telegraph Championship One title race reaches a thrilling climax. With two weeks left in the regular season, just two points separate the top three clubs.

League leaders Carrick host Armagh City at Taylor's Avenue, with kick-off set for 8pm. While Rangers are in phenomenal form at the moment, City won't be an easy touch for Glenn Taggart's side. Armagh have climbed into the top half of the table, and recently shocked Harland & Wolff Welders by winning 2-0 at Tillysburn. Carrick will be without captain Aaron Harmon, who was sent off in Saturday's 0-0 draw at Dergview.

Arguably the day's most intriguing game is at Tillysburn (6.30pm), where Harland & Wolff Welders host second-placed Ards. The Red & Blues are just one point behind league leaders Carrick, while the Welders still have an outside chance of winning the division. The two clubs met at the Bangor Fuels Arena just three weeks ago, with William Faulkner's injury-time equaliser giving Ards a 2-2 draw.

Ards striker Stephen O'Neill said: "The last match between the two games was very tight and I'm sure this will be something similar. I think we deserved something from the game and we will be keen to go one better on Tuesday. We have a great team here and I believe we can give anybody in this division a great game."

Welders boss Gary Smyth is also looking forward to the match. "We were very disappointed last month because we were 2-0 up at one stage and the equaliser came in injury time. It's going to be very difficult for us to win the league now, but if we beat Ards and we win our game in hand, we will go above them. We're also not too far behind Bangor and we also have to play them. We want to finish as high up the table as we can, as you never know what could happen elsewhere."

Ards will be without the suspended duo of Denver Gage and Craig McMillen. The Welders are hoping that Paul Dickson will return from a knock to play against his old club.

Jeff Montgomery's Bangor will make the long trek to Castlederg to take on Dergview for a 7.45pm kick-off. This is likely to be a difficult game for the Seasiders, as Richard Clarke's men have not lost a league game at Darragh Park this season. Bangor will be without key man Jordan Forsythe as he was sent off in the last week's Intermediate Cup semi-final, while the Dergs will be without the suspended Niall Coulter.

Assuming Ards, Bangor and Carrick all receive a Championship licence, the winner of the division will be promoted to the Premiership, replacing relegated Institute. If one of those teams finishes in second, they will play 11th-placed Warrenpoint Town in the two-legged promotion / relegation play-off.

Harland & Wolff Welders could throw a spanner into the works if they finish second, as they have already declared that they are not in the position to claim promotion. If they do finish second, the play-off place will be passed down to the next licensed club.

Elsewhere, the PSNI will host Lisburn Distillery at Newforge. If Jamesie Kirk's men can claim all three points, they will climb above Donegal Celtic out of the relegation zone for the first time since August.

The Welders will host Ards on Tuesday night (6.30pm), with both clubs still in with a chance of winning the title.

Belfast Telegraph Digital


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