Ronnie McFall leads his Portadown team into their ‘biggest game of the season so far’ urging them to show the country that they are out of their own league.
The Shamrock Park men — who won the Premier League title only six years ago — were banished to the intermediate ranks in the spring when their application for the inaugural Premiership was lodged late and despite appeals, the Irish FA refused to accept it.
They will enjoy some unexpected limelight after their demotion when they go up against Linfield in the Co-Operative Insurance Cup quarter-finals tonight and McFall has another cup upset in mind after dumping Cliftonville out in the last round of the competition.
Although because of the make-up of his squad McFall isn’t exactly looking upon tonight’s first-leg contest at Shamrock Park as a potential giant-killing.
“We still have a squad of Premier League quality players, there is no question about that,” said McFall, well aware that there was plenty of interest in his personnel from top clubs during the summer.
“I have always had a lot of belief and trust in the players and they don’t have anything to prove to anyone.
“We went to Cliftonville in the last round and dominated the game before John Convery had to go off injured. After that we held on bit, but there is no doubt that we deserved to win the game.
“It’s good for the club to have drawn Linfield now, so far it’s our biggest game of the season and it’s a match that the players are all keen to be involved in and put on a good show.”
McFall has come in for some strong criticism from fans this season. Not only are they frustrated that an administrative error means they are left watching football at a lower level, the team didn’t get off to the blistering start that was threatened after the first week of action and defeats to Ballinamallard United, Loughgall, Coagh United and Limavady United led to supporters displaying their anger.
A run of seven wins in all competitions during November has the Ports back on track and they now lie two points behind Ballinamallard in the fight for the right to play in the Premiership next season.
“It took the players a while to get their heads around where we are and what we are up against,” said McFall.
“We never thought it would be a cake-walk and that has proved to be the case.
“We’ve settled now, the new players that we have brought in have started to gel and I have never had any doubt that the skill in the team is sufficient to see us get back into the Premiership next season.
“The league is our priority, but we also set ourselves a target of wanting to do well in the senior competitions, the Irish Cup and the Co-operative Insurance Cup to lay down a marker for next season when all being well we’ll be playing in the top flight again.”
Given that the Ports play Ards on Saturday and that the league is what McFall has his sights set on he won’t risk any players who are carrying knocks this evening and he will delay a decision on whether Richard Clarke — who made his return from knee surgery in the 2-1 win over H&W Welders in the Intermediate Cup on Saturday — will play tonight.
Neil Armstrong will continue in goal with David Miskelly injured.
- Portadown’s Irish Cup tie with Dundela on Saturday, December 13 will have a 3pm kick-off at Shamrock Park.