PORTADOWN manager Ronnie McFall (pictured) is hoping star striker Matthew Tipton will be fit for the Irish Cup fifth-round tie with Glenavon at Mourneview Park tomorrow (Saturday).
The Welsh striker limped out of last weekend’s 2-2 draw with Glentoran at The Oval with a calf strain and his fitness was due to be reassessed at training last night (Thursday).
McFall badly needs Tipton’s presence as his injury-ravaged squad prepare to lock horns with their derby rivals in a repeat of the recent controversial Boxing Day clash between the clubs.
Sean Mackle, who was also injured in the first half against Glentoran, is definitely out, but Portadown will be giving Tipton as long as possible to prove his fitness.
“Tipton received treatment on Tuesday night and at this stage he is 50/50 to make it for Saturday,” said McFall. “Mackle came off with a hamstring so it looks like he is out. We already have (Tim) Mouncey and Richard Lecky out for the season, and Wesley Boyle is a doubt.”
Portadown won a tense game 2-0 on Boxing Day, but tomorrow’s clash will be given extra spice with Glenavon player-manager Gary Hamilton
set to start.
The former Ports striker was ineligible for the league game, but he will form a new-look Glenavon strike force alongside the returning Tony Grant. With former Ports defender Kris Lindsay also having joined the Lurgan Blues along with Linfield youngster Brian McCaul, McFall’s men will be facing a much-changed line-up.
Glenavon raced into a 2-0 lead against Lisburn Distillery on Saturday, before collapsing to a 3-2 defeat that leaves them rock bottom of the IFA Premiership.
McFall said, “Hamilton is capable of winning a game on his own, there’s no question about that. Tony Grant will put in a shift alongside him up front, but I don’t know much about the young lad McCaul. Lindsay is a good player, he has always been held back by injuries.
“It’s only a couple of weeks since we beat them there, but that result will have no bearing on Saturday. I always say it, form goes out the window in derby matches. The fact that it’s an Irish Cup tie gives it extra spice. The final is the biggest day out in local football and everyone wants to get there.”
Portadown will start as strong favourites, given the sides’ respective league positions and indeed Portadown’s remarkable record against their Mid-Ulster rivals throughout the last decade.
McFall has warned the supporters once again not to expect any new arrivals in January, despite recent speculation linking him with Donegal Celtic striker Darren Murray.
“That was just paper talk. We can’t sign anyone in January, my hands are tied and what we have is what we have,” he said.
Portadown have fallen further behind Linfield after the results last Saturday, but McFall is not even contemplating conceding anything in the title race.
He added, “This is the most competitive league I can remember, everyone is taking points off each other, and there will be more points dropped between now and the end of the season. Our objective is to keep as many players fit as possible.”
Kick-off tomorrow is 2 o’clock.