Cliftonville 1 Portadown 3
Neither manager had too much time to reflect on proceedings at Solitude on Saturday but it’s fair to say Eddie Patterson and Ronnie McFall will approach their respective derby fixtures tonight with contrasting moods.
Patterson remains perplexed by his Cliftonville side’s apparent change in mentality at half-time of their clash with Portadown, whose boss Ronnie McFall was delighted to record a third win of the season over the north Belfast outfit.
“Solitude is never an easy place to come to, so you’re always going to be happy picking up a win here because Cliftonville have been one of the League’s most consistently good teams over the last few years,” he said.
“We were probably a little bit fortunate to go in 1-0 up at half-time because Cliftonville had been the better side, but we improved in the second-half and looked comfortable the longer the game went on.”
Patterson, meanwhile, was at a loss to explain why the Reds failed to build on a promising first 45 period.
“The question I’ve left the players to mull over is simple — why?,” he explained.
“Why stop playing the way we were playing? Why stop doing the things that had us looking so good in the opening 45 minutes? Why come out and look totally disinterested in the second half?
“Neither myself nor the coaching staff told them to stop driving forward, stop dragging Portadown defenders all over the park and stop creating space for one another – so I'm left wondering why it happened.
“When we introduced Conal Burns from the bench, we reverted back to our early style of play.
“He wanted the ball, drove at the Portadown defence, caused them problems and put balls into the box.
“Yes, he had a couple of shots into the side netting but he was positive and drove us forward. Not enough players were doing that in the second-half.
“It was Conal’s cross which led to the goal and Rory Donnelly was hungry enough to go for it and produced a good finish.”
Speaking of good finishes, what a strike Kevin Braniff produced to fire the visitors three goals to the good with 13 minutes to play.
Receiving possession from Jordan Baker just inside the area, the 27-year-old took one touch to control and then spun to crash a volley into John Connolly’s bottom corner — a world away from the comical nature of the Ports’ first two strikes.
Matthew Tipton broke the deadlock just past the half-hour when, after failing to connect with an attempted overhead kick, the ball ricocheted off defender Peter Hutton, against Tipton and then over the line.
It was 2-0 when Connolly spilled a catch under pressure from Garry Breen and Hutton swung a boot at the ball, sending it into his own net.
Both sides quickly turn their attentions to this evening, when Portadown face Glenavon in their JJB Sports Irish Cup quarter final replay at Mourneview Park and Cliftonville host Crusaders in the first leg of their Setanta Sports Cup last eight clash.
“We wanted to keep our recent momentum going, which is why we went with our strongest possible team today,” added McFall.
“I know you maybe risk injuries or whatever by doing that but there’s no point in setting yourself up for a defeat and then entering the Glenavon game on a downer.
“I’m not prioritising any fixtures or any competitions, we want to win every game.”
Patterson, whose side also face the Crues next Saturday and Monday, said: “We need to respond in a positive manner because, if we go out and play the way we did in the second-half on Saturday, then we’re beat — simple as that.
“We need to have confidence in ourselves and in our ability. The players need only look at the first 45 minutes against Portadown to remind themselves of what they’re capable of.
“We played some of our best football of the season and will need to repeat it if we want a result against Crusaders.”