Blank day in Belfast as league defeat adds to midweek woe

Concern in the Portadown camp as Jay Donnelly hits the crossbar on Saturday. Pic by PressEye Ltd.
Concern in the Portadown camp as Jay Donnelly hits the crossbar on Saturday. Pic by PressEye Ltd.

Portadown arrived in Belfast on Saturday with fears over the future direction of the season and haunted by a troubled recent history.

Cliftonville played host to the Ports aiming to extend a seven-game winning sequence against Ronnie McFall’s side.

The visitors only had to cast minds back three nights for fresh cause for concern following a midweek League Cup exit to Warrenpoint Town.

The final whistle at Solitude signalled back-to-back defeats - with the sight of Gary Twigg and Ken Oman both limping off with hamstring trouble adding to the Ports’ problems.

Portadown’s response to a limp League Cup reverse featured periods of positive play but absent of the cutting edge, pace and movement so central to the hosts’ 3-0 success.

Ross Redman tested Cliftonville goalkeeper Peter Burke but Cliftonville increased the threat when Jay Donnelly’s header bounced off the crossbar.

Stephen Garrett put Cliftonville in front on 38 minutes by drilling home a shot from distance.

The loss of the alert Twigg to injury before half-time left Portadown short of a striker with success in the past against Cliftonville.

Donnelly then picked up Garrett’s pass and clipped the ball beyond David Miskelly.

The second Cliftonville goal arrived moments after Portadown’s strongest scoring opportunity - with Burke’s point-blank stop preventing Tim Mouncey from converting Michael Gault’s header off a Chris Casement throw-in.

The second goal proved decisive and Garrett’s penalty kick wrapped up the points.

PORTADOWN: David Miskelly, Chris Casement, Ross Redman, Keith O’Hara, Peter McMahon, Darren Murray, Tim Mouncey, Ken Oman, Michael Gault, Gary Twigg, Shea Conaty. Subs: Billy Brennan, Chris Ramsey, Garry Breen (on for Oman, 53 mins), Mark Carson (on for Conaty, 50 mins), Marcio Soares (on for Twigg, 42 mins).