Ten goals but just one point for Ports

Gary Twigg with the match ball following his hat-trick against Ballymena United. Pic by PressEye Ltd.
Gary Twigg with the match ball following his hat-trick against Ballymena United. Pic by PressEye Ltd.

On an afternoon of 10 goals and scoring sequences across the opening and closing stages of play, the only number of note for Portadown was one - the return at the final whistle of the thrilling 5-5 draw.

The Ports held leads of 1-0, 2-1, 3-1, 4-2 and 5-3 on an afternoon that produced two goals inside the first five minutes then four from minutes 79 to 87.

Hard work by a team of Shamrock Park volunteers helped to clear the pitch prior to kick-off and the reward for fans arrived on three minutes.

A slick opening move featured Robert Garrett feeding Peter McMahon along the right and his cross was chested down by Darren Murray for Gary Twigg to smash home.

Twigg, back in the starting line-up due to Mark McAllister’s suspension, finished the afternoon with an impressive hat-trick.

Matthew Tipton made his mark in Irish League football with Portadown and celebrated a return to Shamrock Park with an equaliser on five minutes.

Tipton capitalised as Portadown struggled to clear the threat and the striker steered a shot beyond David Miskelly.

The Ports regained control when Peter McMahon’s speculative shot found the net via a number of deflections and the inside of the post.

Twigg and Murray linked up again to push the lead to 3-1 when the latter’s clever reverse pass provided the former with an opening he finished in style.

Ballymena gained a lifeline late in the half as Tipton collected a pass from another former Ports favourite, Gary McCutcheon. Tipton’s cross was met by Allan Jenkins and Miskelly saved the first shot but an unmarked Darren Boyce converted the rebound.

The first second-half save of note by either goalkeeper arrived around the hour mark when Stuart Addis dropped to push clear Garry Breen’s header.

Tipton had cleared the crossbar in the first half and Murray then fired over the target after releasing Twigg on the right and racing into the box to meet the return pass.

Twigg’s hat-trick strike arrived when the slick striker took advantage of hesitant defending to gain space and steer a low shot beyond Addis.

Kane, however, made amends with a string of assists over the closing stages.

The first off a free-kick which Taylor guided home with a glancing header.

Murray’s run to beat the offside trap left him in space and he skipped around Addis and tucked away a simple close-range shot.

Portadown’s 5-3 lead provided the hosts with a significant advantage on 81 minutes.

However, Ballymena battled back and Tipton’s second of the afternoon arrived following another Kane delivery.

The final twist on a crazy afternoon left Portadown dejected and Ballymena delighted when Jenkins found the net off Kane’s pass.

PORTADOWN: David Miskelly, Chris Casement, Ross Redman, Chris Ramsey, Garry Breen, Peter McMahon, Sean Mackle, Darren Murray, Michael Gault, Gary Twigg, Robert Garrett. Subs: Billy Brennan, Paul McElroy, Matthew McMahon, Shea Conaty, Jordan Lyttle (on for Casement, 45 mins).

BALLYMENA UNITED: Stuart Addis, Anthony Kane, David Munster, Johnny Taylor, Stephen McBride, Brian McCaul, Allan Jenkins, Gary Thompson, Gary McCutcheon, Darren Boyce, Matthew Tipton. Subs: Jim Ervin (on for McCaul, 69 mins), Eamonn McAllister, Neal Gawley, David Cushley (on for McCutcheon, 84 mins), Alan Teggart.

Referee: Ian McNabb (Glengormley).