Ports go marching on thanks to dream display in first half

Portadown celebrate Irish Cup progress past Linfield to reach the semi-finals. Pic by PressEye Ltd.
Portadown celebrate Irish Cup progress past Linfield to reach the semi-finals. Pic by PressEye Ltd.

Saturday’s Irish Cup triumph over Linfield led to a string of statistics designed to celebrate the level of the Ports’ achievement.

Chris Casement’s penalty kick and a Gary Twigg double left Portadown with three goals against Linfield in a single Irish Cup tie for the first time since 1958.

The final whistle marked the first time since the 1961/62 season that the Ports managed three wins over Linfield.

However, the focus should centre on the future as a season which threatened to limp towards the finish line could now result in European progress and Irish Cup glory. Looking beyond any remaining rewards from this current campaign, the level of performance produced across the opening half last weekend served as confirmation of the quality on the books.

The Ports grabbed control of the quarter-final tie and limited Linfield’s attacking threat to a first shot of note on target around the hour mark.

Ross Redman and Sean Mackle combined across the initial exchanges but the former had his shot saved by Ross Glendinning then the Linfield goalkeeper reacted to block the rebound.

However, the corner-kick by Casement resulted in handball inside the penalty area. Casement stepped up and fired home from the penalty spot to break the deadlock on seven minutes.

The absence of three senior strikers for the recent Windsor Park trip forced Portadown into adopting a 4-5-1 formation. Ports boss Ronnie McFall kept his faith in the tactical system but with one crucial change - the return from suspension of Gary Twigg.

Twigg’s season has been hampered by a string of muscle problems but his natural ability in front of the net allowed Portadown to double the advantage. A Redman free-kick delivery on 22 minutes created confusion in the box and the dipping, floating delivery eventually dropped - with Twigg first to react and poke home the loose ball.

Garry Breen had to stretch to prevent Andy Waterworth from racing clear of the backline but it proved a rare Linfield attack as Portadown dominated the first half.

Portadown’s position enjoyed an extra boost before the break with a spectacular second strike by Twigg. Peter McMahon’s sliderule pass provided Twigg with an opening on the left-hand side of the danger zone and he smashed a drive between Glendinning and the goalkeeper’s right-hand post.

If the first half highlighted Portadown’s attacking strength, the second came down to grit and desire in the face of Linfield’s sustained pressure.

A Stephen Lowry double closed the gap but the Ports’ team spirit helped protect the slender lead.

PORTADOWN: David Miskelly, Chris Casement, Ross Redman, Keith O’Hara, Garry Breen, Peter McMahon, Sean Mackle, Tim Mouncey, Michael Gault, Gary Twigg, Robert Garrett. Subs: Billy Brennan, Chris Ramsey, Mark McAllister, Shea Conaty (on for Twigg, 76 mins), Jake Richardson.