Former Irish Cup winner Trevor Williamson is backing the Ports to produce the big-game mentality required to see off Ballymena United.
Williamson has a winner’s medal from Glenavon’s 1997 triumph and enjoyed the celebrations as part of the matchday squad during the Ports’ back-to-back triumphs in the early 1990s.
Now a key part of the Shamrock Park coaching squad, Williamson is confident the current players can step up on the semi-final stage this weekend against last season’s Irish Cup runners-up.
The path to The Oval has featured character-building wins from testing trips to PSNI and Portstewart plus a dramatic quarter-final triumph to see off Linfield.
The experiences of those previous ties could provide the Ports with a crucial edge.
“This game is about the mental aspect as much as anything and there is no doubt we have displayed real character to get to the semi-finals,” said Williamson. “We will need it again against a Ballymena side with a great cup record and plenty of talent.
“However, as much as it is going to be really tough, we realise how important it is to reach the Irish Cup final for this club.
“The week leading up to any big game is about getting the focus right and preparing the players mentally as well as in terms of tactics.
“We can emphasis what to expect from an opponent but it then comes down to attitude on the day.
“We must show that work-rate and physical desire.
“The bigger the occasion the better the players have produced this season.”
Portadown 3 Linfield 2 (Casement, Twigg 2)
Saturday, February 28
PORTADOWN: David Miskelly, Chris Casement, Ross Redman, Keith O’Hara, Garry Breen, Peter McMahon, Sean Mackle, Tim Mouncey, Michael Gault, Gary Twigg, Robert Garrett. Subs: Billy Brennan, Chris Ramsey, Mark McAllister, Shea Conaty (on for Twigg, 76 mins), Jake Richardson.
“You want to be at home for any cup tie and there was no sign of any fear by the players or fans,” said Williamson. “The attitude was superb from the start and the league win the previous week probably gave everyone a lift.
“There was also a spring in our step thanks to Gary Twigg’s return and he is such a calm finisher in any situation.
“Chris Casement’s penalty was so important and Keith O’Hara’s return to the defence has really added to us at the back.
“It was only natural Linfield would throw everything at us in the second half but we showed great spirit to see it out.”
Portstewart 0 Portadown 2 (Twigg, Murray)
Saturday, February 7
PORTADOWN: David Miskelly, Ross Redman, Keith O’Hara, Garry Breen, Peter McMahon, Darren Murray, Tim Mouncey, Gary Twigg, Shea Conaty, Robert Garrett, Jake Richardson. Subs: Billy Brennan, Sean Mackle (on for Conaty, 65 mins), Paul McElroy, Jordan Lyttle, Marcio Soares (on for Twigg, 84 mins).
“Every team has a sense of pride and, in a situation like this, it was like a cup final for Portstewart,” said Williamson. “We had to go out and keep our concentration then count on our extra quality to put away any half-chances.
“It was not a great day and that made it even more of a difficult match.
“You use your contacts in the game to find out as much information as possible about the opposition, especially as any side can score from a set-piece.
“The main thing was about getting the result.”
PSNI 1 Portadown 2 (Twigg, Casement)
Saturday, January 10
PORTADOWN: David Miskelly, Chris Casement, Ross Redman, Chris Ramsey, Garry Breen, Sean Mackle, Mark McAllister, Tim Mouncey, Paul McElroy, Gary Twigg, Robert Garrett. Subs: Billy Brennan, Peter McMahon (on for Mackle, 55 mins), Darren Murray (on for McAllister, 72 mins), Michael Gault (on for Mouncey, 72 mins), Shea Conaty.
“We knew the pitch would be good but the weather conditions proved horrendous,” said Williamson. “We started well and took the lead off Gary Twigg then conceded a sloppy goal.
“David Miskelly is always very good in any one-on-one and made some top saves.
“Chris Casement has so much class from a deadball and you always back him but his free-kick in extra-time was still real quality.
“Chris has a superb attitude and is a great example to any young player.
“Those ties are just about getting in and out with the win.”