Portadown Manager Matthew Tipton praised his young guns after they set up a huge BetMcClean Cup Quarter-final clash at home to Linfield with a penalty shoot-out victory over Premiership side Newry City on Tuesday night.
With the sides level at a goal apiece after 120 minutes, Northern Ireland Under-21 international Declan Dunne saved spot-kicks from City’s Kevin McArdle and Keith Johnston before teenager Ryan Carmichael slotted home the winning kick to send Tipton’s Championship outfit through to the last eight.
Newry had taken the lead with a first half header form Darren King before Adam McCallum levelled late on against a home side who had to make three enforced changes before half-time due to injury.
“We started off really well, and then in a strange way, the Newry disruptions disrupted our flow of the game. There were obviously two or three injuries and it did unbalance us. That was credit to Newry, because subs coming on isn’t easy,” said Tipton.
“We were disappointed to concede a set-piece goal, but on the other hand we were delighted to score from a set-piece. I felt that we tried to do the right things the whole game. We tried to get forward and get people in positions to attack. It didn’t always work.
“Coming here, we know it’s difficult. We came here at the end of last season when Newry had a great home record. It’s maybe a bit different now in the Premiership, but we all know the Premiership is tough and we’re trying to battle to get back to that stage. So to come here, although it was 1-1 after 120 minutes, I felt we gave a good account of ourselves.”
While the Ports possess huge experience in the likes of Kevin Braniff, Kyle Neil and Andy Kilmartin, who all played the full 120 minutes at The Showgrounds, Tipton has a reputation for blooding young players and the exciting Carmichael plays the way his manager likes.
“Ryan’s like a breath of fresh air sometimes because, as you get older, you have to worry about tactics and everything else that goes with it. He plays with freedom. He scored two on Saturday and didn’t celebrate. It’s as if it’s just normal for him,” Tipton beamed.
“He probably didn’t realise the consequence of scoring that penalty for us to put us in the quarter-final against Linfield. The financial gains for us should be big. We hope they’ll bring a sizeable crowd and it makes a big difference to us because in the Championship you don’t have that.
“For Ryan, he probably wasn’t bothered that his penalty put us through to play Linfield and he probably won’t be bothered when we play Linfield either. Him and Declan at 17 or 18, Luke Wilson in centre midfield at 18 and other who played and who were on the bench, we just have to keep trusting these young lads and keep promoting them.
“We then have Kyle Neill at 40 years of age who has come in for the last two games and it’s coincided with our two best performances. He gives us a bit more stability and organisation, because I do want my team to go and attack and sometimes we have to reign that in. We have to try and have that balance and we’ve got Andy Kilmartin in midfield at 36 and Kevin Braniff up front at 35.
“We’ve got to keep working at it because we know it’s going to be tough to get to the Premiership. And when we get there, we’ve got to stay there and we have to back the young lads to do the job for us.”
When David Healy brings his Linfield side to Shamrock Park on November 13, they will be overwhelming favourites to reach the last four, but Tipton wants his charges to seize the opportunity in front of them on the night.
“We’ve got a chance of getting to a cup semi-final and I’ve said it numerous times, there aren’t many chances to get into semi-finals and finals in your career. We’re a little bit more fortunate in Northern Ireland in terms of this cup that there are only four rounds and you’re into the final. We’re in a quarter-final after two matches and we have to grasp that,” he says.
“I’d have much preferred to be playing a team out of the Intermediate League, but we have to go and challenge ourselves against Linfield without being stupid. We’ll give it a go and I’m not going to change what we do on a weekly basis just because it’s Linfield. We believe in what we’re doing and we’ll have to be fully tuned in on that night.
“It’ll be a big occasion and with a bit of luck we’ll be into the semi-final.”