Cliftonville boss Eddie Patterson heaped praise on midfielder Kieran O’Connor after he scored for the third game in a row to help the Reds to a fifth consecutive win.
The 28-year-old nodded home on seven minutes and Chris Scannell stroked in number two on 29 before Portadown pulled one back when Tim Mouncey, Andy Hunter and home goalkeeper John Connolly collided attempting to win possession from Gary McCutcheon’s corner; the ball ricocheting into the net.
Though delighted with the efforts of his entire team, Patterson had particular words of adulation for O’Connor, whose all-round performances have visibly improved since he rediscovered his scoring touch.
“His performance probably summed up the entire team’s attitude today,” said Patterson.
“He was hungry, worked hard, fought for every ball and helped his team-mates out for the entire 90 minutes.
“He came through a minor operation on Thursday and the wound on his head actually opened up during the game, but he didn’t want to come off and was determined to make sure we got our points.
“He’s a central midfielder by trade, but has been operating out on the wing because I felt his performances were suffering on what can be a very difficult pitch.
“It can be hard to play neat, passing football on an awkward surface so he wasn’t able to do what he does best, but out on the flank, he does what he can, while Ryan Catney and Mark Patterson are two young players who also do what they can to keep the ball on the deck in the middle of the park.
“On the other wing, you have George McMullan, who never gives opponents a minute’s peace.
“We had that kind of work-rate right across the park and that’s what’s got us this win.”
Opposite number Ronnie McFall admitted that Cliftonville could well have been out of sight by half-time, but he was left fuming with referee Hugh Carvill when Portadown saw two late penalty appeals waved away by the official.
“Kevin Braniff's clean through and the keeper charges out and charges him down, no penalty given,” he raged.
“Then Gary McCutcheon gets past Declan O'Hara, gets dragged back and there's no penalty given. You need a strong referee to take charge of matches like this and we were let down badly today.”