Linfield 2 Portadown 0: Ronnie McFall questioned the appointment of referee Ross Dunlop after his Portadown team relinquished top spot in the Carling Premiership to Linfield on Saturday afternoon.
The Ports claimed for penalties in both halves of their 2-0 defeat at Windsor Park and could well have been facing 10 men for the last 40 minutes. Stephen Douglas’ pull-back on Matthew Tipton 30 yards from goal when he was the last defender looked clear, but the Ports striker stayed on his feet and Douglas stayed on the pitch.
Had Tipton gone down the decision might have been different, but it shouldn’t have taken that.
“We should have had a penalty in the first-half and we’d two or three strong claims in the second-half,” said McFall.
“Tim Mouncey was taken out around the waist and other decisions went against us.
“I think you have to question an inexperienced referee being given a game like this. It’s the top two in the league and I think it’s the first game of this magnitude that he’s been given.”
To focus on the referee’s performance would take away from a thrilling encounter which indicated that these two will be hard to separate as the season goes on.
As would the issue of Rory Patterson’s reaction to being substituted just after the hour mark. He appeared to snub a handshake from David Jeffrey, before being pulled back by the Linfield manager.
Initially Jeffrey refused to comment on the matter, before later insisting: “It was nothing.”
You get the impression the matter had already been dealt with inside the Linfield dressing room
On the pitch, the football played was as good as you’re likely to see this season and the quality of the play would have critics of the local game eating their words, followed by a fairly sizeable slice of humble pie.
The quality of the finishing from Jim Ervin and Robert Garrett wasn’t bad either.
Make no mistake about it, though, Linfield won’t get everything their own way in the title race.
Anyone who doubted Portadown’s title credentials had those dispelled on Saturday, not by the result of the top two battle, but by the Ports performance.
Their mid-Ulster rivals Glenavon were criticised for being negative when they knocked the Blues out of the IRN-BRU League Cup a couple of weeks ago, but Portadown’s display was as positive as you’ll see from a visiting team at Windsor Park.
Although Linfield took the points, there would have been few eyebrows raised if the visitors had come away with a handsome victory.
“The day we played at Shamrock Park we played well, could have had a couple of penalties, but it just wasn’t our day. This time it was our day,” was how Jeffrey described the contrast between two similarly fought out games.
Portadown went into the match having learned of the death of club president Noel Dalzell just a few hours before.
Well known in Irish League circles, the Portadown businessman passed away after a lengthy illness.
“It’s a very sad day for the club,” added McFall. “There is a big void left at the club now and we’ll all miss a genuine and generous man who was a real character.”