Portadown will adopt a kid gloves approach to veteran Keith O’Hara’s game management in a bid to preserve the club captain’s availability for the rest of the season.
O’Hara’s first appearance since November 15 played a key part in Portadown recording a clean sheet at Ballinamallard United on Saturday.
His return to the side after extensive hip problems helped to stop the rot following 11 goals conceded in the previous two Danske Bank Premiership games.
Ronnie McFall, the Ports manager, has highlighted O’Hara’s role in the backline regaining that stability but admits a measured approach is required to protect the centre-back.
“He wanted to play and we certainly missed his communication,” said McFall. “He brings massive amounts of experience into the side and his ability to organise was clear to see.
“Credit to Keith, he has had probably two nights of training since November.
“At the minute we must treat him with kid gloves and manage his recovery time between games.
“He will be in the squad for Saturday’s game against Portstewart but not the Mid-Ulster Cup next week.
“We can use various methods such as ice baths and massages to help Keith but we certainly want to use him as often as possible.
“It is a young backline without Keith and he brings that calm head into the game.”
McFall may have missed out on one defensive target last week but is still interested in adding to the squad.
“We were unable to get a deal done last week but I am actively looking,” said the Ports boss. “We will also continue to promote youth and Jake Richardson got his chance for a first league start on Saturday.
“He has been doing well with the reserves and came in last weekend for an impressive debut.
“Shea Conaty also played against Ballinamallard and he is heading off with Northern Ireland’s youth international squad.
“One young player who has left to join Loughgall is Matt McMahon.
“Matt was part of our first-team squad this season but we cannot prevent players on amateur terms from leaving.”