Portadown men’s firsts’ push to extend a first taste of Premier League life into a second season remains on course despite a 7-1 weekend reverse on the road at Instonians.
The gap on the scoreboard failed to provide a fair reflection of the gap on the field of play - according to senior captain Johnny Brown - as Portadown continue to adapt to life in the domestic game’s top tier.
A mid-table position thanks to four wins from 11 tests to date offers evidence of Portadown’s ability to adjust.
“It is a learning curve, of course, but one which we have enjoyed,” said Brown. “In fact, we can look back with frustration on some of those games and think about points dropped due to a bit of bad luck or mistakes.
“That is the big difference in the Premier League, the fact that you cannot really get away with any mistake.
“You get punished at this standard and it is about keeping up the focus in every match.
“It is more difficult to carve out scoring chances and you must prove more clinical in front of the net.
“However, there is a great team spirit and everyone is pushing on together as a group.
“Even the defeat on Saturday had positives as Instonians sit top of the league with 11 wins from as many games but we had good spells and the final scoreline felt harsh.
“Our aim is to learn from each game and take the good points from any defeat then work together on improving the negatives.”
Neil Gilmore’s return to Edenvilla Park after time on the books at Banbridge marks a significant New Year boost for Portadown.
“Neil coming back can only help strengthen the squad and the young guys can also learn so much from his experience,” said Brown. “I am now in my third season with Portadown and so many younger players have pushed on across the past few years.
“We have a system in place now in which the captain’s role is shared by four of us overall.
“I am captain, Stephen Johnston is the vice-captain but we also have two of the younger players, Adam Stevenson and Zach McClelland, taking on extra responsibility.
“Adam has developed into a key player for us and Zach has youth international experience.
“Mark Evans as coach plays every ball from the sidelines during games and can certainly motivate the players.
“At this level you need to maintain that commitment and we feel we are learning with each match.”
Weekend men’s teamsheets:
Firsts v Belfast Harlequins (league, away, start 2.30): J.Knipe, G.Titler, S.Bell, J.Brown, G.Morrison, G.Croft, Z.McClelland, S.Kirkland, G.Edgar, M.Winter, R.Scott, A.Stevenson, S.Johnston, N.Gilmore, M.Bennett.
Thirds v South Antrim fifths (league, away, start 2.30): Players to be confirmed by club officials.