David Jeffrey insists he never subscribed to the view that Portadown were finding their feet in the Carling Premiership this season.
Ronnie McFall’s men got off to an unconvincing start as they started swimming with the big fish after a season in the Championship but they seem to have hit top gear in recent weeks.
Dungannon Swifts have just been hit for eight, while high-flying Crusaders were brought down to earth with a thud in the Co-operative Insurance Cup.
The Ports seem to have sprung to life but at the beginning of the campaign they appeared to be starstruck in their early days back in the big time.
Rather than setting their sights on title glory, this was always going to be a season of consolidation for the mid-Ulster side, adapting to a much more fiercely competitive league.
And the players now seem to have found renewed confidence as they set about expressing themselves on the pitch.
Linfield will feel this is not a good time to take on McFall’s side but Jeffrey feels there is never a good time to take on the Ports — particularly in their own backyard.
The sides drew 1-1 at Windsor Park earlier in the campaign and the Blues were also dumped out of the Co-operative Insurance Cup by Portadown last season.
“I know that Ronnie (McFall) has always said his side needed time to settle and adapt but I never really recognised that,” said Jeffrey.
“I never accept that argument really. Portadown have excellent players, all of whom are Premiership quality. Now we are seeing that quality come to the surface.
“Like any other team in this league, on their day they can hurt anyone. It’s of little surprise to me that they have now hit fantastic form. The way they beat Crusaders to progress in the Co-operative Insurance Cup was very impressive and then everyone acknowledged how good they were against Glenavon in a local derby as well as thumping Dungannon Swifts.
“The Swifts set the place alight at the beginning of the season but in that game we saw Portadown sweep them aside. Our players know we are facing an immensely difficult game, it has always been that way in Portadown and particularly now with the form they are in. We needed a Michael Carvill wonder goal to secure a point against them at Windsor.”
A short break from the domestic programme has allowed players to recover from knocks but it isn’t all good news for the Blues.
“Damien Curran and Philip Lowry are getting their fitness back but Jim Ervin is out with an ankle injury,” added Jeffrey. “But Noel Bailie, William Murphy and Robbie Garrett have been getting up to speed in the Swifts.”