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Ports relegated as Currie vows return to top flight

Ards 3 Portadown 2

By Keith Bailie

It was a cruel twist of fate that Niall Currie's former club Ards were the team that put the final nail in Portadown's Premiership coffin. Currie spent five seasons at Ards, fighting against the odds to make the homeless club a genuine top-flight force.

Just as Currie's dream became reality, he found himself on the other side of line, watching on from the away dugout as his new club Portadown were relegated to the Championship.

On the night, Ards won 3-2 with goals from David McAllister, Matthew Shevlin and Guillaume Keke sealing the win. In truth, while Portadown were relegated under Currie's watch, there was little he or his players could do about it.

A professional player transfer embargo, a 12-point deduction and two 3-0 gifts to Coleraine and Ards made life impossible for the Shamrock Reds, who suffered death by a thousand cuts.

Currie, however, believes his players could have done more. Reflecting on the season, he said: "The fans tonight were incredible. They sang from start to finish and applauded the team off the pitch at the full-time whistle. That's just after you've been relegated. Incredible.

"I wonder do all our players realise how lucky they are to have a support like that? Those supporters deserve so much better than what they have watched this season.

"It's a sad night for me, but we can take pride in the performances of the young players. They have been fantastic, but a club like Portadown should not be relying on kids. Some of the senior players at this club have really let us down this season.

"You can talk about off field issues, but we could have done more if we had our best team on the pitch on a regular basis.

"But we will rebuild from scratch in the summer. We will put a team together that is capable of competing in the Championship. I've had to rebuild from scratch at every club I've been at and I'll do it again here."

Ards had the lead within three minutes when left-winger McAllister drilled in from 20-yards.

Portadown equalised a minute before the break, Gary Breen heading in via a deflection.

Ards grabbed the lead in the 50th minute. Kyle Cherry split the Portadown defence with a sweet through ball that allowed Shevlin to round Breen before clipping the ball home.

It was 3-1 to Ards in the 56th minute. Frenchman Keke ghosted past the Portadown defence before slipping the ball in from an acute angle.

Portadown pulled a goal back in the 65th minute when youngster Callum Ferris tucked away a penalty after Stuart McMullan was sent off. Ports midfielder Sean Mackle also saw red in the 84th minute.

In the midst of the misery of relegation, Currie and the ever-loyal Portadown support have reasons to be optimistic. The first team squad contains a handful of highly-talented academy products that could take the Championship by storm.

Currie has won the second tier on four previous occasions.

Only a fool would back against him claiming the title for a fifth time.

ARDS: Hogg; Hall, S McMullan, Friars, Ruddy; McMillen, Cherry, McCullough, McAllister; Keke, Shevlin (Bradley 67)

PORTADOWN: McGaughey; Shannon, Larkin, Breen, O'Hara (Holmes 60); Gardiner (Ferris 60), Mackle, Garrett, Wilson, Hazley; Soares (Maciulatis 81)

Referee: Andy Davey (Bangor)

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