McFall’s men left counting the cost of damaging league defeat

Mark McAllister nursing his hamstring injury on the sidelines in Saturday's home defeat. Pic by PressEye Ltd.
Mark McAllister nursing his hamstring injury on the sidelines in Saturday's home defeat. Pic by PressEye Ltd.

The final whistle extended Portadown’s run of games against Cliftonville without scoring to five consecutive fixtures.

Although the Ports’ recent past against the defending champions has offered little cause for cheer, of greater concern is the future following Saturday.

The 2-0 defeat has left the Ports trailing league leaders Crusaders by 10 points and now Ronnie McFall’s men hold on to third in the Danske Bank Premiership by a single point over Cliftonville.

The next test - a trip to Windsor Park against Linfield - must take place with Gary Twigg ruled out due to suspension and Mark McAllister considered a serious doubt for the next few weeks based on the hamstring injury that forced the striker to retire after 31 minutes.

With Darren Murray also on the sidelines because of a ban, the Ports’ attacking threat in Belfast must now come from youth or a tactical senior reshuffle.

McAllister’s enforced exit significantly disrupted the chances of finally finding the net against Cliftonville.

Joe Gormley hit the crossbar - with Ross Redman retreating to remain in position to clear off the line if required - before a penalty kick awarded against Keith O’Hara on James Knowles allowed George McMullan to slot home for Cliftonville.

Twigg steered a Tim Mouncey cross wide of the target before the interval, with David Miskelly alert to collect a Martin Donnelly free-kick then weak Knowles header either side of the break.

Portadown’s strongest spell produced two openings in the second half.

The first when 18-year-old Jake Richardson celebrated his senior league home debut by racing down the right and feeding a pass to Twigg outside the area, with the striker’s clipped ball dropping into the path of Sean Mackle but the final shot drifted past the post.

Twigg was then handed a glimpse of the target only for Caoimhin Bonner’s sliding block to stop the angled shot.

Twigg’s red card - as a result of a second bookable offence - served to add to Portadown’s problems before Cliftonville doubled the advantage. Gormley wrapped up the scoring with a second-half strike to cap Jude Winchester’s run down the right.

Miskelly was on hand late on to stop efforts by Johnny McMurray and substitute Winchester but, ultimately, Cliftonville left Shamrock Park with plenty to celebrate and Portadown left to reflect on another damaging defeat.

The performance of referee Tim Marshall attracted frustration from the home camp but, unfortunately, the final whistle did not spell an end to Portadown’s problems.

PORTADOWN: David Miskelly, Ross Redman, Keith O’Hara, Chris Ramsey, Peter McMahon, Sean Mackle, Mark McAllister, Tim Mouncey, Jake Richardson, Gary Twigg, Michael Gault. Subs: Billy Brennan, Ken Oman (on for O’Hara, 63 mins), Shea Conaty (on for McAllister, 31 mins), James Begley (on McMahon, 84 mins), Christian Stewart.