Portadown 3 Donegal Celtic 0
Both managers were making optimistic noises after this league basement clash, despite their teams’ lowly positions.
The defeat leaves Donegal Celtic six points adrift at the foot of the standings, but manager Paddy Kelly said: “Three or four decent results could see us move well up the table.
“It’s tight among the bottom five or six and there’s plenty of football to be played.”
And with the Ports one-from-bottom, manager Ronnie McFall said the result gave him real hope.
“It’s isn’t even Christmas and a lot can happen,” he insisted.
“We’re finding a real balance in the side now. We learned a lesson or two this week and I think we’ve turned the corner.
“We played poorly at Newry City on Monday night when we lost 4-2.
“Sky television were covering it, some players played to the cameras, lost discipline and made a lot of mistakes.
“I made a few changes for this match and they paid off, but DC weren’t at their best, it has to be said.”
Kelly agreed: “I was at the Newry match and Portadown played as badly then as we did today and we got what we deserved.”
He then paid tribute to Portadown’s Kevin Braniff, who hit a brace of goals during a one-way first-half, and laid on the third on 58 minutes for Wesley Boyle.
“He’s the best player in the league by a mile,” said Kelly, “and he proved that again today.”
Braniff opened the scoring after 12 minutes when he rounded off a move by Sean Mackle and Boyle, slamming the ball across goalkeeper Stephen Harbinson and into the far corner.
The second followed eight minutes later when he nodded home at the near post after Keith O’Hara swung in a superb free-kick from the right and he almost completed the hat-trick soon afterwards when turned the defence and hammered a Darren Kelly knock-down against the crossbar.
DC almost pulled one back when Ciaran Gargan clipped the crossbar from 20 yards — but that was their only real shot in the entire 90 minutes.
Boyle wrapped it up just before the hour, with star man Braniff providing a perfect pass for his striking partner to execute a carbon copy of his first goal.
Celtic were downright poor, especially in defence, showing just why they have conceded 50 goals in 17 matches — and will unquestionably find it hard to scale up the table, despite manager Kelly’s optimism.
The Ports, on the other hand, were solid at the back with Chris Ramsey outstanding, so maybe they will climb to safety before long.