Darren Murray retaining his focus after day of highs and lows
It was a case of roll up for the Darren Murray show at Seaview. He hit two goals - one a sensational solo effort - and received two bookings resulting in a dismissal, and all of it happening in the middle of a transfer storm.
The striker wants to move to Cliftonville but Portadown don't want him to leave. Murray's talent is not in question but he still left everyone scratching their heads following his bizarre challenge on Josh Robinson in the 83rd minute which left his team-mates fighting to hold on to a massive 2-1 victory at the home of the champions.
Shortly after scoring a first-half spot-kick, Murray said he was booked for timewasting when fixing his shin pads.
"As far as I'm concerned I was booked for fixing my shin pads when he (referee Arnold Hunter) could have blown the whistle as I was near the half-way line," said Murray.
"For the second one I did kick out but I went for the ball. Luckily enough the boys held on for the win and it's three points on the board. Ronnie (McFall) and the club have shown faith in me and not once have they said they haven't. On the pitch you forget about everything, you are paid to play football and I'm there to score goals."
Ports boss Ronnie McFall knows Murray is keen on a change of scenery but he wants to see the striker deliver for Portadown.
"The transfer speculation is not tiring for me because I just focus on his ability," said McFall.
"He's a young lad who wants to play football. I remember when I was at The Oval and Norman Whiteside was training with us. Bob Bishop said his biggest ingredient is he just want to play and Murray comes into that category. He just wants to play football."
McFall is also angry at the Irish FA for informing the Ports on Thursday that Michael Gault and Mark McAllister were suspended for the clash.
"There's no point in talking about the IFA," he added. "That's just the way I see it. We've had Chris Casement's dismissal and the Irish Cup final at The Oval among other incidents."
Murray scored both his side's goals but Portadown's real star man was keeper David Miskelly, who brilliantly foiled Craig McClean, Jordan Forsythe and Paul Heatley.
The visitors opened the scoring in the 10th minute courtesy of Murray's penalty, an easy decision for Hunter to make after Robinson had brought down Gary Twigg. Five minutes later, Heatley blasted in a stunning equaliser from 22 yards but Murray showed his class in the 31st minute, ghosting past Billy Joe Burns and Robinson before rifling the ball into the roof of the net.
Crues boss Stephen Baxter said his side would take this early punch on the chin and come off the ropes.
"We were light in defence as Colin (Coates) was ill but Gary Twigg did very well while playing on one leg against David Magowan, who has been a superstar for us and we just had to change it," said Baxter.
"Despite putting them under immense pressure in the second half we couldn't get the breakthrough. Portadown were my tip for the title last season and they are a top, top team.
"This means something in the grand scheme of things but at the moment we won't lose a lot of sleep over it but we want to get going. We need to see several of our key players fit and available for selection but the other teams are the same as us. No excuses from us as we were outplayed in the first half after a good opening 10 minutes."
Midfielder Declan Caddell will have an operation on his foot tomorrow and could be out of action for up to 12 weeks. The Crues will have to soldier on and win big battles without him.
Crusaders: O'Neill, Burns, Magowan, Robinson, McClean, Snoddy, Mitchell, Forsythe, Owens, Whyte, Heatley. Subs: Clarke (for Magowan, 46 mins), O'Carroll (Snoddy, 68 mins), McKibbin, Stewart, Vauls.
Portadown: Miskelly, Casement, Redman, O'Hara, Ramsey, Mackle, Murray, Oman, Twigg, Garrett, Richardson. Subs: McMahon (Richardson, 54 mins), Breen (Oman, 65 mins), Stewart (Twigg, 75 mins), Brennan, Soares.
Man of the match: David Miskelly
Match rating: 7/10
Referee: Arnold Hunter (Maguiresbridge)