Belfast Telegraph

Calling all the shots: Ronnie McFall's Portadown boys fire warning

By Graham Luney

If there is one group of people you can trust it's journalists. When it comes down to good old fashioned honesty, nobody does it better than us.

You can believe everything we say (or write!).

In the murky world of predictions though opinions change when events take an unexpected course.

At the start of the season we all knew that Portadown boss Ronnie McFall had signed well.

The addition of former Linfield trio Robert Garrett, Mark McAllister and Michael Gault represented stunning transfer business over the summer.

The Ports' midfield lacked bite last season but wise old fox Ronnie has addressed that issue and his fresh faces are delivering the goods.

Before a ball was kicked in anger I felt the title was perhaps a bridge too far for the Shamrock Park side.

Yes, they are a much more menacing force than a year ago, but not quite strong enough to finish above champions Cliftonville while Linfield and Crusaders are expected to challenge again.

Big name signings lift expectation levels but I still felt Gibson Cup glory could be a little out of reach for them this season.

But I'm honest enough to admit that I'm starting to revise my opinion.

No-one is grabbing the title race by the scruff of the neck in the early stages and the Ports look as well equipped as any side to crack open the bubbly come May.

If they can steer clear of serious injuries and retain a ruthless touch in front of goal then a first league title since 2002 is a realistic target.

On Saturday their mid-Ulster rivals Glenavon were put to the sword with the under-rated Peter McMahon on fire for the visitors.

With only two points separating the top six sides in the Premiership, it's clear that every side is struggling to find consistency.

Imagine six teams going for the title in the final round of fixtures!

It keeps the entertainment value high for fans and with 25 goals scored in the six matches on Saturday, the supporters are being served up a feast of goals – and some spectacular ones too. Meanwhile, Cliftonville's form will be a concern to manager Tommy Breslin – only three victories in their opening eight matches doesn't send out a powerful message to rivals.

A day to remember

What a result for Coleraine and their boss Oran Kearney. There's been a lot of talk of discontentment at the Bannsiders but they showed on Saturday they are a match for anyone. When Warrenpoint can take points off Cliftonville and Institute hold Linfield it's further evidence of how competitive this league is. Neil McCafferty stepped up to the plate for Coleraine and Oran will need his more seasoned performers to lead by example.

And one to forget

Another shocker for the Reds at Solitude. Four home matches for Tommy Breslin's side in the league this season but no victory yet.

Of course the north Belfast side remain capable of blowing anyone away but they clearly have chinks in their armour and opponents will smell blood unless the champions start playing like champions.

Tommy will demand more from his troops in the knowledge it's how you finish – not how you start – that matters.

Belfast Telegraph

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