LEAGUE CUP: Portadown see off Welders thanks to Henderson in first-half thriller

Portadown manager Niall Currie. Pic by PressEye Ltd
Portadown manager Niall Currie. Pic by PressEye Ltd

Portadown edged a free-flowing first half that served up five goals to ultimately progress past Harland and Wolff Welders in the Bet McLean League Cup second round at Shamrock Park by 3-2.

Ross Larkin’s first start of the season for Portadown proved memorable as the teenage centre-back found the net at each end before the break.

Larkin rose to head home Chris Lavery’s corner-kick delivery on 11 minutes and hand Portadown control.

The goal arrived after the Welders’ Dan McMurray had hit the crossbar early on from David Graham’s corner-kick delivery.

Larkin then added his name to the Welders scoresheet as the visitors left it level when a Brandon Nelson free-kick created confusion - with the defender steering past the exposed Chris McCaughey as both Ports players attacked the delivery.

It extended Portadown’s record of having only conceded goals off free-kicks this season.

Peter Duffin continued his impressive start to life in Ports colours by restoring the home lead with a powerful drive that found a path home from outside the box past a packed penalty area.

However, Niall Currie’s side proved unstable along a backline selected together for the first time this season.

Joshua Boyd steered his shot wide after both Larkin and McCaughey again challenged for the same ball.

That defensive frailty resulted in an equaliser when Lukasz Gwiazda took advantage of the time and space afforded the striker in the box to challenge for a loose ball then turn and force home his shot.

Lavery had fired one effort the wrong side of the post but played his part in Portadown’s third goal of the night when he was released by a superb Duffin pass and clipped an angled shot over the advancing Jason Craughwell, which Darren Henderson slid in to convert as the ball trundled towards the exposed net.

The Welders continued to pose a threat and hit the post late in the half when Nelson ghosted in to meet Ryan Deans’ cross but, at a stretch, failed to gain a clean touch.

Portadown squandered a gilt-edged opportunity after the interval following Henderson’s pass and clever footwork by Lavery, with the cross dropping at the feet of Kyle McVey but, from a few yards, the centre-back’s sidefoot shot lacked pace and allowed a scrambling Craughwell to block.

Two Portadown substitutes combined when Gary Warwick and Callum Ferris worked an opening but Lavery’s flick was blocked then the rebound deflected wide.

The Welders found the woodwork for the third time in the tie as Graham twisted and turned then hit a late, low angled drive which hit the base of the upright.

PORTADOWN: McCaughey, Carson, McVey, Larkin, Hazley, McCullough, Wilson, Duffin (Warwick, 82), Salley (Amuneke, 62, Lavery), Henderson (Ferris, 62). Subs: Holmes, McCallum.

H&W WELDERS: Craughwell, Boyd (Middleton, 55), Nelson, Spence (McMillan, 55), McMurray, Whittle, Deans, Graham, Gwiazda, Arthurs, Malone (Bownes, 62). Subs: Dickson, Armstrong.

Referee: B.McMaster.