Portadown secured a welcome clean sheet from the road trip to face Ballinamallard United as a late red card forced the visitors to battle for a point.
The Ports opted to reshuffle a backline with 11 goals conceded in the previous two games by bringing Keith O’Hara back into the side and handing Jake Richardson a first Danske Bank Premiership start.
Richardson, the grandson of long-serving team attendant Geordie, slotted in at right-back. Nine months ago Richardson, Shea Conaty and Jordan Lyttle helped the club’s thirds win the Harry Cavan Youth Challenge Cup.
O’Hara, out since November 15 with hip trouble, helped add authority to a fragile defence as Portadown attempted to get back on track from the previous fixture’s 6-0 defeat to Crusaders.
Play proved disjointed across the first half, with few clear sights of goal but 27 free-kicks awarded by referee Mervyn Smyth.
A well-worked free-kick from Ross Redman was flicked on by Gary Twigg and Garry Breen’s pass released Peter McMahon on the right, however, the drilled cross lacked a decisive touch.
Twigg was then at the heart of positive Portadown play around the half-hour mark. He initially flicked on Richardson’s throw-in then reacted first inside the box to meet the loose ball as Shea Conaty attepted to find space.
However, Feargal Murphy proved alert to push Twigg’s snapshot around the target.
Conaty then hooked wide off Redman’s cross but the best chance arrived when Twigg’s glancing header dropped for McMahon and his first touch carved out space but the second cleared the crossbar from a promising position.
Portadown carved out a superb opening on 55 minutes when McMahon’s cross from the right was headed goalwards by Twigg but the effort bounced off the crossbar and Conaty could only steer the rebound the wrong side of the post.
Ballinamallard then had an effort bounce off the crossbar following Mark Stafford’s header from a David Kee free-kick.
Murphy was on hand with another fine save to stop Mark McAllister’s low drive following neat approach play between Redman, Robert Garrett and Twigg.
Portadown were reduced to 10 men on 80 minutes when a penalty appeal was turned down and, in the aftermath, McAllister picked up a yellow and red in quick succession.
Ballinamallard attempted to gain full advantage of the extra man but Miskelly pushed John Currie’s delicate effort around his post.
BALLINAMALLARD UNITED: Feargal Murphy, Chris Crilly, Colm McLaughlin, Mark Stafford, Steve Feeney, Johnny Courtney, John Currie, David Kee, James McKenna, Anthony Elding, Johnny Lafferty. Subs: Stefan McCusker, Cathal Beacom, Jay McCartney (on for Courtney, 57 mins), Ryan Campbell (on for Lafferty, 78 mins), Liam Martin (on for Elding, 70 mins).
PORTADOWN: David Miskelly, Ross Redman, Keith O’Hara, Garry Breen, Peter McMahon, Mark McAllister, Michael Gault, Gary Twigg, Shea Conaty, Robert Garrett, Jake Richardson. Subs: Billy Brennan, Sean Mackle (on for Conaty, 70 mins), Tim Mouncey, Paul McElroy (on for McMahon, 73 mins), Jordan Lyttle.
Referee: Mervyn Smyth.