Eddie Patterson believes Portadown are now as menacing a force as any other team in the Carling Premiership now that the mid-Ulster side feel comfortable at local football’s top table.
It took a while for the Ports to spring into life in the Carling Premiership but last weekend’s 1-0 win over Linfield fired a warning to the rest of the league that the 2002 champions are back in business.
On paper, their starting eleven is as strong as any in the league but the squad needed a period of adjustment following last season’s Championship adventure.
Those players will now arrive at Solitude tomorrow brimming with confidence and Patterson is well aware of that fact.
All the ingredients are there for a pulsating encounter as the Reds are also moving through the gears after recording four wins on the bounce.
Both sides are lying in the middle of the league table as the scrap to nail down a top six place becomes more intense with each passing weekend.
“It was only a matter of time before Portadown clicked into gear and now they are very dangerous opponents for everybody,” said Patterson.
“It was going to take them a while to adapt to the Premiership but they have some of the best players in the league.
“In the last few weeks we have seen the real Portadown stand up and show their quality.
“When you look at their squad you have to conclude that their starting eleven is as good as anyone’s if not better and any team that beats Linfield is not going to be lacking in confidence.
“Last season they were a Premiership side playing in the Championship but now that they are back in the top flight I’m sure they will only get stronger as the season goes on.”
Cliftonville’s clash at Lisburn Distillery was wiped out by the wet weather — much to Patterson’s annoyance as when his boys are in form, the goal is always to maintain that feel-good factor.
“We are on a decent run and it is important for the players not to lose sight of that,” he added. “Unfortunately Barry Holland’s injury hasn’t responded to treatment as quickly as we would like and he will miss out but I would rate Ronan (Scannell) as 50-50.
“When you fall behind in the fixtures you are often playing catch-up and that can take its toll on the players. You never like to have games postponed because of poor weather.
“I’d always rather have points in the bag than games to play.
“There is no doubt that we are facing a formidable task against Portadown but we are coming into a very crucial Christmas period and every win is going to be very important.”