Fitness the focus for Irish League players across summer schedule

Andy Smith (left), back at Annagh United following a summer switch to Tandragee Road.INPT30-227
Andy Smith (left), back at Annagh United following a summer switch to Tandragee Road.INPT30-227

Portadown manager Ronnie McFall has described as a success the decision to field two teams across one night of friendly football.

The Ports lined out against Newry City and Banbridge Town on Tuesday night in the latest part of the club’s pre-season programme.

Darren Murray grabbed a goal in the 1-1 draw with Newry City and strike partner Gary Twigg finished with a summer treble to see off Banbridge Town. Marcio Soares grabbed his second strike of the friendly campaign during the 4-1 success in Banbridge.

“We have a packed programme,” said McFall. “It was a good opportunity to field as many players as possible.

“Those games handed players like David Miskelly, Garry Breen, Chris Ramsey, Sean Mackle, Pauddy Judge and John Gibson each a first taste of football this summer.

“Results do not count as much as building up the fitness and gametime.”

McFall and assistant manager Kieran Harding took control against Newry City. The bench against Banbridge Town included first-team coach Trevor Williamson and reserves’ manager Gary McCullough.

Friday’s tough workout against Stranraer from Scotland featured Paul Cairney’s slick strike to settle the outcome in the tourists’ favour.

It proved the major talking point but Portadown can point to crucial minutes for 17 players and a number of chances as evidence of a rewarding night.

Jake Richardson proved a threat along the right and delivered on a number of occasions. Christian Stewart, another teenager, displayed some assured play along the left.

Murray’s summer transfer bid dominated the pre-season focus but the striker looked sharp on his first appearance in front of the Shamrock Park crowd since Portadown rejected the request - with some early jeers from a small section of home supporters and a scuffle with a Stranraer rival late in the half the only controversial moments.

Murray provided the greatest attacking threat for Portadown and had one shot saved - from a central position off Richardson’s pass - before steering a lob just wide of the target. Murray also whipped a low sliderule delivery from the right flank to the back post but it proved beyond reach for both Stewart and Mark McAllister.

Portadown handed a club debut to former Linfield Swifts left-back Matthew Parker.

The Ports were set to face Lurgan Celtic last night (Thursday) at Shamrock Park, plus will host Harland and Wolff Welders tomorrow (Saturday) from 3 o’clock.

LOUGHGALL

Loughgall’s push towards a revamp of the playing squad has included the capture of Matt Young, Wilson Fazares and Josh Finlay. Brendan Shannon, the ex-Glenavon captain, has made a guest appearance as well as Mark Dane and former Crusaders players, Nicky Hudson and Stuart Mallon.

The Villagers lost out to Dungannon Swifts in the Ivan Marshall Memorial Cup final then defeated Mid-Ulster-based Bourneview YM. The Linfield friendly has been rearranged for August 1 following the Belfast club’s travel issues returning from last week’s Europa League tie.

ANNAGH UNITED

Annagh United kicked off the summer friendly schedule last weekend with a 6-1 success against Mid-Ulster-based Hanover then lost out to top-flight Warrenpoint Town on Tuesday by a single goal.

“It has been encouraging so far,” said Annagh manager Dean Smith. “Jamie Smith got three goals against Hanover, with two for Peter Mallon on his club debut and Matt Brown also on target.

“The young players have been getting plenty of minutes and we have been working hard on and off the ball, plus taking a look at a few different systems.”

Visit www.portadowntimes.co.uk for a video chat with Annagh United manager Dean Smith.