IRISH LEAGUE: Larkin goal keeps Portadown hopes alive
Danske Bank Premiership
Portadown 1, Ballinamallard 0
Seventeen-year-old Ross Larkin added another magic moment to his dream debut season in senior football by scoring the decisive goal as Portadown managed to extend life at the top level.
A teenager proved the Ports hero for the second successive match as Larkin followed in the footsteps of Luke Wilson’s weekend winner to secure three precious points against Ballinamallard.
That 1-0 win has placed the Ports eight points behind Carrick Rangers with three fixtures left for the Shamrock Park club with the latter to tackle Ards this weekend.
Ballinamallard must also enter the final weeks still in search of the points to confirm a position beyond the relegation play-off spot.
Portadown must still count on a miracle every matchday to beat the drop but can be encouraged by the spirit from Niall Currie’s young panel.
Jay McCartney’s early delivery was met by Stuart Hutchinson but the shot bounced off the bar inside the first few minutes.
Within seconds, Portadown came close to breaking the deadlock thanks to a run by Matt Hazley which evaded the United backline and placed him with a clear path to goal - however, his weak shot from distance failed to trouble Richard Brush.
Ports’ goalkeeper Chris McGaughey was then alert to tip over Ryan Mayse’s drive from outside the area before gathering a Ross Tahney header from the resultant corner-kick.
Mayse had the speed of both feet and thought to nip in and collect a pass then skip inside Brendan Shannon’s sliding challenge before smashing a low drive which curled past the outside of McGaughey’s upright at the last second.
Next, confusion in the Ports backline led to unnecessary pressure on the home defence after McGaughey’s kick to Garry Breen was returned by the centre-back but under hit. Ryan Curran raced in and Portadown managed to scramble it clear but at the expense of a corner-kick and home supporters’ nerves.
Ballinamallard kicked off the second half with a sight of goal created thanks to Curran’s neat control before a low shot which Larkin hacked away.
Then, with the hour mark approaching, Mackle created space on the right and delivered a low cross which Larkin forced home with a close-range finish.
Mackle then flashed a shot goalwards from distance but Ballinamallard held the upper hand late on in terms of possession but without the end product and Portadown survived - for now.
PORTADOWN: McGaughey, Shannon, Henderson, Breen, Larkin, Garrett, Wilson, Mackle, Hughes, Hazley, Soares. Subs: Lyttle, Holmes (Hughes, 80), Gardiner (Soares, 73), Maciulaitis, Richardson.
BALLINAMALLARD UNITED: Brush, McLaughlin, Tahney, McCabe, McGinty, McCartney, McConnell, Morris, Mayse, Hutchinson, Curran. Subs: Mullen (Hutchinson, 54), Crawford, Frempong (Tahney, 54), Elliott, McCann.
REFEREE: Steven Gregg.