John Convery is expecting Glentoran and Linfield’s dominance of the Irish Premier League to come under serious threat this season.
And the Portadown captain is determined to lead the challenge to wrestle the Gibson Cup away from the Belfast Big Two.
The Ports are the last club outside of the Blues and Glens to be crowned champions. That is seven years ago now and they had to spend last season in the Championship after failing to lodge their application for the 12-team top-flight before the deadline.
That has placed them on the back foot at the start of this season, but Convery believes the Ports have been a lot better than their league position — ninth before today’s home game against Dungannon Swifts.
“This is our first season in the 12-team league and things have changed,” said Convery.
“There is definitely more quality around and it is more competitive. I wouldn’t say there were easy games when it was 16 teams, but there were matches when you’d have expected to get three points.
“You can’t say that about any game now and the teams at the bottom are capable of beating the teams at the top. You only have to look at Ballymena beating Glentoran to see that.
“We lost to Crusaders on the opening day of the season and they were the better team on the day, but since then we’ve played well and haven’t got the breaks that would have got us more points.
“We were 1-0 up against Glentoran with eight minutes to go and at that stage you expect to get something from the game.
“We played Glenavon off the pitch and drew 2-2, we missed
chances against Institute and drew 0-0 while last week against Lisburn Distillery we didn’t play that well and came away winning 6-1.
“Now we’ve got that first win on the board the aim is to kick on and put a bit of a run together. A couple of wins on the bounce can shoot you up the table “
The Ports run to promotion from the Championship and their success in the Co-operative Insurance Cup played a part in them suffering only five defeats so far in 2009 and with eight players in the first-team squad having represented Northern Ireland at under-21 level or above, there is no doubting the quality in the squad.
Whether that quality is good enough to follow up their Championship win by lifting the Premiership remains to be seen.
“I definitely think that someone will come out of the pack and put pressure on Linfield and Glentoran,” said Convery.
“I don’t want to say we’re going to do this or we’re going to do that, we’ll wait and see, but there is no reason why it can’t be us.
“I want us to be that team, it’s just a matter of finding a level of consistency and now that we have got our first win, trying to keep performing to a good level and getting the wins that will get us to where we want to be.”