Ronnie McFall is demanding that his players prove Tuesday night’s 5-0 thumping at the hands of Linfield was nothing more than a blip, by firing the Shamrock Park men into the semi-finals of the Irish Cup.
There won’t be wholesale changes from McFall. Injuries to the likes of club captain John Convery, Wesley Boyle, Richard Lecky and Neil Teggart largely dictate that the Ports boss will have to keep faith with most — if not all — of the team that slumped to that defeat at Windsor Park.
That, however, is not something that the experienced McFall, who has won the Irish Cup four times in a 30-year managerial career, will lose any sleep over as he plots the downfall of holders Crusaders on their own patch tomorrow.
“The defeat to Linfield came out of the blue. To put it into perspective it was only our third defeat in our last 15 league games,” said McFall.
“Linfield were superior to us on the night when we were poor, but I would put it down to an accumulation of factors, not least the fact that it was our fourth game in 10 days, all of which were very competitive.
“There will be no panic measures though. These players are largely responsible for the run that we have been on and the points that we have accumulated on the way, so I know that the quality is there in the team,” he added.
Now for the Ports though it’s about how they react to the Blues defeat as they go about dumping Crusaders from a second cup competition this season, having sent them spinning out of the Co-operative Insurance Cup back in the autumn.
The Crues will be hoping that history will repeat itself too though as they beat the Ports at Shamrock Park at this stage of the Irish Cup last season before going on to lift the trophy in May.
“After any defeat it’s about how you react and if you can bounce back,” said McFall.
“The fact that we beat Crusaders earlier in the season will count for nothing this time, but it does tell us that it is a game we are capable of winning.
“In cup football it is all about what happens on the day, whichever team performs generally goes through and I have no concerns that Tuesday night’s game is out of out of our system after a good training session.”
While the Ports are still fighting for a place in the top six of the Carling Premiership before the league splits at the end of the month, the prize for victory tomorrow afternoon is ultimately bigger than any other game they will play in March.
“Every game we have is a big one, but there is a place in the semi-final of the Irish Cup at stake,” said McFall.
“We wanted a good run in both cups and got to the semi-final of the Co-operative Insurance Cup.
“We’re in the quarter-final of the Irish Cup and want to make it to the semi-final. There are still a few players at the club from when we won it in 2005 and they want to experience that feeling again.”