IRISH LEAGUE: Portadown gain major boost with win over Ballinamallard

Niall Henderson broke the deadlock from the penalty spot for Portadown against Ballinamallard United. Pic by PressEye Ltd.
Niall Henderson broke the deadlock from the penalty spot for Portadown against Ballinamallard United. Pic by PressEye Ltd.
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Portadown moved on from a fortnight to forget with a battling 2-1 win over Ballinamallard United that managed to stop the rot after six successive Danske Bank Premiership defeats.

Niall Henderson’s penalty kick provided Portadown with a first league goal in 491 minutes of play - and vital half-time advantage following two weeks of negative off-the-field focus connected to the loss of a double appeal against the Irish Football Association.

Henderson proved composed from the spot on 36 minutes after Johnny Lafferty bundled into Aaron Haire inside the box.

The goal handed Portadown an advantage at odds with the balance of first-half play as Ballinamallard enjoyed the majority of possession.

Haire had gone close, however, to breaking the deadlock inside the opening moments off Stephen Hughes’ sliderule pass but the shot was deflected wide.

The bright opening also featured a sight of goal for Ballinamallard’s Adam Lecky but Ports captain Keith O’Hara stepped forward to block the attempt.

Lecky fired over with a volley off Liam McMenamin’s cross, Jason McCartney’s low shot flashed past the post and Chris McGaughey was forced into a smart stop to deny Ryan Mayse during home pressure.

The Ports, who lined out in a 3-5-2 formation under interim boss Vinny Arkins, launched one slick counter-attack as wing-back Matthew Parker attacked down the left after linking up with Hughes then racing on to collect Henderson’s pass. However, the shot was saved by James McGrath.

Lecky had a shout for a penalty turned down late in the first half and Ballinamallard’s problems continued after the interval.

Portadown doubled the lead on 50 minutes thanks to neat passing down the right, with Hughes feeding Robert Garrett then collecting and converting the return cutback with a crisp low drive.

This signalled the start of a quickfire flurry of activity.

Brendan Shannon’s pass proved just beyond the reach of Hughes in a promising position. The subsequent counter-attack led to Ballinamallard cutting the deficit.

Sixteen-year-old Niall Owens raced along the left and whipped over an inviting cross which Shane McGinty raced in to head home on the run.

Shane McCabe then hooked a Ballinamallard shot wide and Mayse headed wide at the far post off Lecky’s clever pass.

However, Portadown regrouped to protect the lead and pick up a vital victory in the battle to beat the drop.

BALLINAMALLARD UNITED: James McGrath, Liam McMenamin, Ross Taheny, Shane McCabe, Shane McGinty, Johnny Lafferty, Jason McCartney, Ryan McConnell, Adam Lecky, Ryan Mayse, Niall Owens. Subs: Stefan McCusker, Gary Armstrong (Lafferty, 83), Ryan Morris, Joshua McIlwaine (Owens, 79), Calum Frempong.

PORTADOWN: Chris McGaughey, Mark Carson, Ken Oman, Alan Byrne, Keith O’Hara, Matthew Parker, Robert Garrett, Niall Henderson, Brendan Shannon, Stephen Hughes, Aaron Haire. Subs: Conor Larkin, Zac Wilson, Sam Simpson, Eoin Kirwan (Hughes, 83), Nathaniel Ferris.

Referee: Mervyn Smyth.