PORTADOWN fans stood to applaud Ards off the pitch in the Irish Cup but the biggest cheer of the afternoon arrived when Chris Casement drilled home the game’s only goal.
The right-back popped up inside the penalty area on 77 minutes to settle this hard-fought sixth-round clash. Casement collected Kevin Braniff’s pass and produced a quick exchange with Gary Twigg before nipping in to smash home an angled drive.
It proved the only mark of quality in Portadown’s second-half display - with the top-flight hosts failing to register a shot on target after the interval
until 70 minutes.
Ards, the IFA Championship 1 league leaders, left Shamrock Park with plenty of plaudits for such a strong performance.
The first half featured scoring opportunities for both sets of players, with the two goalkeepers sharp between the posts.
Graham McKibben was called into action inside the opening moments to prevent Braniff from breaking the deadlock from a Darren Murray cutback.
David Miskelly and Casement then combined to block a promising Ards opening as the impressive Paul McDowell found time and space inside the box.
Ross Redman and Joe McNeill linked up from a corner-kick to create a chance which Tim Mouncey hooked goalwards. Murray then cleared the crossbar with one
effort before missing out on converting Redman’s superb low delivery.
Ards posed a threat on the counter-attack but had McKibben to thank for a wonderful double save to deny both Braniff and Redman.
Pressure by Ards featured a deflection blocked on the line from a corner-kick, two shots wide and strong Miskelly save.
Portadown’s attempts to gain control included a Braniff free-kick flashed wide of the mark and mishit by the latter from a Twigg pass.
In the end, Portadown had Casement to thank for safe passage into the quarter-finals.
PORTADOWN: David Miskelly, Ross Redman, Chris Ramsey, Darren Murray, Kevin Braniff, Tim Mouncey, Joe McNeill, Chris Casement, Brian Gartland, Neil
McCafferty, Gary Twigg. Subs: Jamie McArdle, Aaron Burns (on for Mouncey, 77 mins), Sean Mackle (on for Murray, 61 mins), Richard Lecky, Gary Breen (on for
Gartland, 6 mins).
ARDS: Graham McKibben, Gregg Hall, Gary Spence, Darren Nixon, James Cully, Ross Arthurs, Craig McMillan, Neill Dougan, Kris Pike, Paul McDowell, Mattie Burrows.
Subs: Stephen Doyle (on for McDowell, 71 mins), Ryan Moffatt (on for Burrows, 68 mins), Ben Browne (on for Nixon, 83 mins), Jimmy McIlhagga, Stephen Cockroft.
Referee: Raymond Hetherington