Portadown manager Pat McGibbon is hoping the blueprint behind last weekend’s victory over Carrick Rangers can transfer to a case of Belfast blues for Linfield tomorrow (Saturday).
The Ports produced the club’s most impressive performance of the season to date at Shamrock Park in a 4-0 success that served up another significant forward step in the battle to reduce a 12-point penalty imposed by the Irish Football Association.
Although a trip to unbeaten Linfield offers a more difficult test than the home clash with a Carrick side struggling for form, McGibbon has faith in the fundamentals at the core of the weekend win.
“The most pleasing part of the Carrick win was the overall team shape and how everything worked so well in and out of possession,” said McGibbon. “There was a real sense of enthusiasm across the pitch, with or without the ball.
“We closed down and did the defensive part of everything so well then managed to get forward and create chances.
“Our shape was excellent and it was a strong example of what we have been trying to put into place since the summer.
“Of course, we can expect a tough test away to Linfield but must go into the match with plenty of confidence based not only on the result against Carrick but also the performance level.
“We have a mix in the squad of experienced players and young lads so it is up to everyone working together and keeping up our focus.
“After three league defeats in a row we worked hard together on a response and got it last weekend, so now that has to be a starting point for pushing on.
“It is a long, hard season and we know the 12-point deduction remains outside our control, however, everyone is putting in the effort in training.
“Games offer the squad an opportunity to develop together and put into practice our philosophy.”
One fresh introduction to the Portadown gameplan is Alan Byrne but the 33-year-old addition enjoyed an assured debut against Carrick - plus, of course, has history under McGibbon.
“I worked with Alan at Monaghan United and knew exactly what he could do, although it was still great to see him step in and settle so quickly,” said McGibbon following Byrne’s goal and role in a first clean sheet of the season. “We had to play Alan at centre-back on Saturday due to the absence of Garry Breen and Ken Oman to injury.
“Ken needs a scan on his hamstring injury so we must wait and see the full extent of the damage, with Garry struggling due to a groin issue.
“Alan and Keith O’Hara formed an outstanding centre-back partnership within such a strong team display, with so many other individuals also strong.
“Niall Henderson and Robert Garrett combined really well in the middle of the park and it was just an excellent team performance.
“The only disappointment last weekend was, of course, Aaron Haire’s injury and he is going to be out for four to six weeks with a slight fracture of the jaw.
“Aaron has been excellent over the past few weeks.”
Kick-off at Windsor Park will be 3 o’clock.