Mark Evans may sit just months into his life as Portadown men’s head coach but holds a long-term view in relation to senior squad development.
Evans stepped in as first-team coach during the close-period following the departure of David Agnew.
Agnew guided Portadown to Irish Hockey Trophy glory but struggled to take that final promotion step out of Senior One into top-flight hockey. The exits of two promising young players, Neil Gilmore and Jamie Wright, to Banbridge in pursuit of senior challenges also left Portadown in need of a rebuilding process.
Evans’ arrival helped to spark that programme into life. His methods have helped Portadown move into second place in the league standings - with a festive boost on the calendar in the form of a Linden Cup final date against Raphoe.
The New Year’s Day showdown at Deramore is expected to attract a bumper festive crowd and Evans views the stage as the perfect platform to take another forward step in Portadown’s progress.
“It has been a work-in-progress but I am certainly pleased with our efforts to date, with the knowledge that there is more to come,” he said. “The players have responded really well and everything is moving in the right direction on and off the pitch.
“Jamie Curran, Dan McKimm and Zach McClelland have been excellent during this period of change.
“We have introduced video analysis this season and that has been a wonderful coaching tool, plus a lot of hard work goes into mental preparation.
“Victory in the Linden Cup final would help to galvanise that progress and give a squad relatively short of experience a major boost.
“Momentum is crucial and a cup win could really help us move forward.
“There is no doubt that a Linden Cup medal would not only provide an immediate reward on the day but also help add extra motivation during those cold and dark training nights.”
Play will start at 4 o’clock on New Year’s Day.