Portadown’s capture of Michael Gault in the summer left fans thrilled at the prospect a midfielder synonymous with Irish League success capable of providing the added drive and desire so often absent from previous squads.
Gault’s recovery from a close-season operation forced a patient approach as he worked back towards prime condition.
However, his performance on Monday already suggested a return to the form that attracted such sustained praise during his Linfield glory days. Then the clock hit 90 minutes and Gault cemented the display as a vintage performance with a match-winning strike that provided the Ports’ title ambitions with the boost anticipated by his capture.
Gault considered it his best in Portadown colours during the post-match talk as his last-gasp goal was the perfect reward at a time when the hosts appeared on course for another night of frustration.
Institute’s spirited defensive resolve blocked the Ports’ path to goal at 1-1 before Gault made his mark in memorable fashion with an angled long-range strike.
Gault was also involved in the opening goal when, inside two minutes, he flicked on Darren Murray’s throw-in and the loose ball was eventually steered home on the run by Sean Mackle.
Institute levelled inside the early stages of the second half thanks to Aaron Walsh’s free-kick that Stephen Curry smashed in from distance.
David Miskelly stepped up with a superb save at 1-1 to stop Matty Young and keep the match alive.
PORTADOWN: David Miskelly, Chris Casement, Ross Redman, Chris Ramsey, Garry Breen, Peter McMahon, Sean Mackle, Darren Murray, Mark McAllister, Michael Gault, Robert Garrett. Subs: Billy Brennan, Tim Mouncey (on for Mackle, 85 mins), Paul McElroy (on for McMahon, 67 mins), Gary Twigg (on for Murray, 65 mins), Shea Conaty.