Belfast Telegraph

No more doubts, Ronnie McFall's troops are the real deal

By Graham Luney

Portadown are two points clear at the top of the Danske Bank Premiership and remain on course to be the Christmas number one but will they be top of the league in May? That's the only crucial question that needs to be answered.

The Gibson Cup isn't handed out over the winter but the Ports are ideally placed to launch a title challenge.

However, they are not alone. Linfield, Cliftonville and Crusaders can still claim the glittering prize.

All that matters at this stage of the season is that you are in the title mix and ready to make a sprint for the finishing line as the race enters the final straight.

There may be 18 games left in the title race but Ronnie McFall's side have already proved they are the real deal this season.

After the signings of former Linfield trio Robbie Garrett, Michael Gault and Mark McAllister in the summer, the question was asked could these boys be the pieces required to complete Portadown's title winning zigsaw.

At the moment, they are looking genuine contenders and how sweet would that be for boss McFall after the rumours his long reign at the Shamrock Park club would end at the end of last season.

There's life in the old dog yet and Ronnie has the squad that can maintain a title push.

Squads wins championships and the Ports do have strength in depth.

Lethal finisher Gary Twigg and experienced midfielder Tim Mouncey were only late susbtitutes in the 3-2 win at Crusaders, underlining the competition for places which will drive the team forward.

Cliftonville were my tip at the start of the season to make it three league titles in a row and I still believe they will finish the job but their defeat at Coleraine is a timely reminder to the players that titles are earned, not handed out on a plate like the Christmas turkey.

Crusaders can still challenge for the big prize but they must regroup quickly and prove they have the hunger and desire to finish top.

Linfield deserve huge credit for applying pressure on leaders Portadown but the festive period will tell a tale.

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