Weekend win or bust for Ports

Vinny Arkins. Pic by PressEye Ltd.
Vinny Arkins. Pic by PressEye Ltd.

Portadown interim manager Vinny Arkins will send his players into this weekend’s crunch basement clash with the message to call on both spirit and skill.

The Ports trail Carrick Rangers by 10 points in the race to beat the drop out of the Danske Bank Premiership.

Victory tomorrow (Saturday) on the road would serve up a welcome boost in the Ports’ relegation fight - with defeat considered a decisive blow even with the calendar on November.

Arkins enjoyed highs and lows as a Ports player but the former captain and all-time leading scorer is aiming to map out a plan that can help rescue his club from the sidelines.

“We obviously go into the game with a win the target,” said Arkins. “But we must be clever in how we approach the match, it is going to be about battling but also using our brains in the right situations.

“We must stay tight but take advantage of any chances that pop up as, with the stakes so high, it could prove one opportunity settles everything on the day.

“Carrick will make it tough and conditions could play a part, especially at such a tight venue.

“You still only get three points for a win but, given the circumstances, victory would be like six for everyone connected to the club.”

Kick-off will be 3 o’clock and Arkins has issued a rally cry to the Ports fanbase.

“The supporters have a massive role to play in getting behind the club for such an important game,” he said. “It is crucial we go in with the mindset of looking for a win and the fans can certainly help.

“The support this weekend will be more important than ever as we try to get a vital win in our league fight.”

No-one in the history of Portadown Football Club has found the net with greater frequency than Arkins.

The all-time leading scorer and former Ports captain left Shamrock Park as a player with a string of accolades for his ability to grab goals.

Now he must find a way to transfer that personal knowledge into the team unit.

Back-to-back blanks - within a disturbing run of zero returns in this Danske Bank Premiership campaign - have significantly hampered the Ports’ attempts to climb out of the relegation zone.

Improved defensive displays since a switch to a three-man backline and five-strong midfield unit have increased the foundations but Arkins accepts an enhanced end product is vital to any recovery ambitions.

“Aaron Haire is doing a great job up top in terms of holding up the ball and working hard for the team, so I am not blaming him or any one player in particular,” said Arkins. “We lacked quality in the final third on Saturday against Crusaders during a tight match overall.

“That has been the case, with often the wrong pass or wrong choice made by a player in a certain position.

“That is an area we must improve on and, going into Saturday’s match at Carrick on a tight pitch with possibly difficult playing conditions, we have to be ready to take any chance that comes up.

“In fairness, it is not so much a case of missing a load of scoring opportunities because of bad finishing, it is more about using the ball better at certain times.

“Ken Oman, Keith O’Hara and Alan Byrne have been excellent as a back three, with goalkeeper Chris McGaughey doing a great job.

“We have been pushing forward up the pitch from the two guys out wide and we will have chances to create something with five across the midfield.

“Teams know to play in a certain way to stop us from hurting them but we have to believe we can win and find a way to be more clever.

“Over the past few weeks we have been able to show real battling spirit, which will be crucial moving forward this season.

“But we must also fight when it is right and play when it is right.”