Crusaders breaks Portadown hearts with the late, late show
Portadown 3 Crusaders 4
Crusaders left Portadown heartbroken with two late goals to complete a dramatic comeback that took them into the quarter-finals of the NI League Cup.
The Ports were just four minutes away from booking a place in the last eight themselves after they produced a great response to going 1-0 down after ex-Port Marcio Soares put the Crues ahead on just nine minutes.
Two goals from Aaron Haire and one from Stephen Hughes, followed by a Mark Carson own goal, had the Ports 3-2 up at the break and that's how it looked like finishing until Paul Heatley and Michael Carvill struck to turn the game around and spare their travelling support extra time.
Until the 86th minute mark it looked like the Ports players were going to lift the gloom around Shamrock Park after the club found out earlier in the week that their appeal against a 12-point deduction had failed.
Manager Pat McGibbon will, however, take plenty of heart from the fact that his team were more than a match for the defending champions and current league leaders.
The Crues made a great start, and it was a former Ports player who got the goal.
Ross Holden broke down the right wing, cut inside along the byline and Soares diverted his cross into the net inside the six yard box with his knee.
The young Ports side hit back almost instantly though as they equalised just two minutes after that.
Eoin Kirwan played the ball forward from just inside the Crusaders half, Haire collected it and slid his finish into the bottom corner of the net from just outside the box.
Portadown completely turned the tables on the champions with two goals inside three minutes just before half time.
It was the Kirwan-Haire partnership that forged the opportunity that put the Ports in front on 40 minutes, with the former finding the latter with a pass from the left wing.
Haire then turned superbly on the edge of the box and took a couple of steps before curling the ball past Michael Dougherty and just inside the far post.
Amazingly the team that is rooted to the bottom of the Premiership then went 3-1 up on the leaders.
The Ports were awarded a free kick close to the corner flag on the right wing, Sam Simpson sent the ball into the six yard box and after Haire had got the slightest of touches at the near post Hughes pounced to poke the ball into the net.
The goal-rush continued when the Crues pulled one back just a minute later, but they could take very little credit for the goal.
Carvill, who had replaced the injured Holden after 34 minutes, sent a cross into the box and despite being under little pressure Ports defender Carson inadvertently headed the ball into his own net from six yards out.
Heatley and Carvill both fired low shots across the face of goal, but other than that the Crues hardly threatened an equaliser until right at the death.
Four minutes from time the ball dropped to Heatley 15 yards out and he swivled and sent a right-foot volley into the bottom corner of the net.
That looked like taking the game into extra-time, but a minute later the Crues won the game when Carvill stole in ahead of Ports goalkeeper Chris McGaughey to nod home Jordan Owens' knockdown.
PORTADOWN: McGaughey, Carson, Breen, Oman, Rodgers, Wilson, Garrett, Simpson (Ferris 90), Hughes (Withers 85), Kirwan, Haire.
Subs not used: Larkin, Henderson, Parker.
CRUSADERS: Dougherty, Burns, Gault, Coates, McClean, Holden (Carvill 34), Clarke, Mitchell (Snoddy 67), Heatley, Cushley, Soares (Owens 72).
Subs not used: O'Neill, Forsythe.
Referee: Ross Dunlop (Carrickfergus).