Garry Breen’s career with the Ports has failed to match the expectations of his pedigree but on Tuesday night the centre-back cemented his place as a key figure in this current campaign.
The clock was counting down to signal another missed opportunity for Portadown in the fight to preserve senior status when Breen popped up at the back post and smashed home a last-gasp winning goal.
The finish - after Gary Twigg’s header off a Ross Redman corner-kick had been saved - could prove the most significant of the season.
Caretaker manager Pat McGibbon had called for the need to “win ugly” leading up to kick-off and so it proved for the Ports.
McGibbon opted to line out with teenager Nathaniel Ferris as a solo striker supported by a five-man midfield bank that included defender Chris Ramsey on the right wing - evidence that the first priority was to avoid an early setback.
The night match lacked any bright spark for significant spells but the first cause for cheer came on 58 minutes when Michael Gault was bundled over inside the penalty box. Chris Casement stepped up to slot home the penalty.
With concerns over a shortage of confidence within the Ports panel, the opening goal in the away side’s favour felt significant towards returning home with a positive result.
However, the lead last four minutes as Carrick caught out the Ports on a slick counter-attack that ended with Mark Surgenor’s close-range header off an Adam Salley delivery.
Portadown came close to conceding a second goal soon after but felt relief at the sight of a free-kick by the dangerous Miguel Chines bouncing off the frame of the goal.
The final twist arrived at the end of mounting Portadown pressure to send the vocal away support home optimistic at a positive finale to a negative season.
PORTADOWN: David Miskelly, Matthew Parker, Chris Casement, Garry Breen, Michael Gault, Tim Mouncey, Ross Redman, Ken Oman, Nathaniel Ferris, Sean Mackle, Chris Ramsey. Subs: Mark McAllister (on for Ferris, 88 mins), Gary Twigg (on for Ramsey, 65 mins), Robert Garrett, Jake Richardson, Martin Marron.