Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 1 October 2014

Ronnie McFall focuses on Ports win as Braniff fallout rages on

Three points: Ronnie McFall was concentrating on his side's win
Three points: Ronnie McFall was concentrating on his side's win

There is, it seems, no way back after the rather public 'divorce' between Portadown and the sublimely talented ex-skipper Kevin Braniff – and the aftermath of this first win in seven served to underline the fact.

Manager Ronnie McFall stormed: "I don't want to mention his name," as the after-match analysis got under way. So the 'decree-nisi' will be a matter of form when the transfer window opens in January, with the Ports willing to accept a cash deal or player exchange.

For his part, Braniff was nowhere to be seen at Shamrock Park on Saturday – the outcome of his petulant action on Tuesday night when he threw his top at the bench after being subbed during the 4-0 humiliation at Ballymena, and was then fined and transfer-listed.

He insisted he would never kick a ball while McFall was in charge at Portadown – and the sentiments were firmly mutual as McFall swiftly changed the subject.

"Let's just concentrate on this spirited, fighting performance," said the manager, whose relief at the result was palpable, even if it was against the Irish League's basement side. "There was a new determination about the team, which has been missing of late.

"We were also much tighter at the back. This could be the start of a good run for us after this performance. And the fact is that three players – Sean Mackle, Keith O'Hara and Ross Redman – are well on the mend after long-term injury. I take great heart from this – we're still very much in the picture after other results went in our favour."

Striker Gary Twigg – Braniff's replacement as captain – was following the "don't mention his name" edict. But he did comment: "I'm proud to be captain. I was skipper at (Shamrock) Rovers and I have to say I enjoyed the responsibility. We also played much better today after such a long, lean spell and we must retain this spirit and look to the future."

Twigg had every reason to be pleased, for he had a major say in this rare, welcome victory which moves the Ports up a slot to fifth.

He laid on the first goal after just five minutes when he nodded a Shane O'Connor free-kick to the feet of fellow marksman Darren Murray, who clipped it deftly over unguarded keeper Jonathan Parr.

And the new skipper helped himself to the second 10 minutes after the restart, although it was served on a platter by rank poor defending. Two Town defenders made a hash of a long up-field punt and Twigg had the time and space to let it bounce and lash it home with his left foot.

Manager Barry Gray was furious. "We played without a hint of spirit," he said. "I told the players I had my doubts whether they want Premiership football.

"This was a gutless show after last week's 5-1 reversal at Windsor Park. Frankly, I question their commitment to stay in the Premiership. True, the fact that we have to play all our games away from home may be a factor. But unless they buck up their ideas, our fate could be sealed by the time we return to our home ground on December 23.

"We retained our old habit of giving away goals, and that's just not good enough."

PORTADOWN: Miskelly, Casement, Breen, Friars, McStay, McMahon (Mouncey, 79 mins), McCafferty, Twigg, Murray, O'Connor, Ramsey. Unused subs: Brennan, Barton, Traynor, Rooney.

WARRENPOINT: J Parr, Cowan, S Parr, D Hughes, S Hughes, McCabe (Havern, 72 mins), Smith, Bagnall, M Hughes, Devlin, Grant (McMullan, 66 mins). Unused subs: Anderson, McGuigan.

Referee: Mervyn Smyth (Belfast).

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