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Rivals dread trip to Shamrock: Lowry

Portadown 0 - Crusaders 1

By Ian Callender

Philip Lowry has warned his brother Stephen that Linfield will be in for a tough time when they visit Shamrock Park in three weeks.

Portadown's debutant all but handed the Premiership title to Crusaders when he claimed that, despite his new side's five-match losing run, no team enjoys visiting the Mid-Ulster venue.

So, after the defending champions maintained their eight-point advantage at the top of the table with a 90th-minute winner, the pressure is all on the chasing pack.

"No-one wants to come to Shamrock Park, even though we are going through a bad period," said Lowry.

"When I was at Linfield it was always a ground you hated playing at because you knew it was going to be a tough game."

And with the Crues' closest pursuers - Cliftonville, the Blues and Glenavon - all having to visit Portadown before the end of the season, Lowry says he saw enough on Saturday to believe they will get no favours.

"It is a squad littered with experience and trophies and while the Irish Cup is our only hope this season we can still have a say in the title race," he added.

Certainly, Crusaders boss Stephen Baxter was more than relieved to have left Shamrock Park for the last time in the league this season with another three points - his salute in front of the visiting fans underlined that.

"It was a battle and it was just going to take one moment. Thankfully it fell our way and when you get a winning goal at the death it spurs everyone on," said Baxter.

Defender Josh Robinson tried to claim the goal, but his team-mates accepted his header from Craig McClean's corner was going wide until Gary Twigg's unlucky deflection diverted it into his own net.

There was still time for Portadown to almost snatch an equaliser but, at the right end, Twigg saw his header tipped over the bar by the otherwise unemployed Sean O'Neill, who kept his first clean sheet in eight league games.

Ports boss Ronnie McFall noted: "We have lost to Glenavon, Ballymena and here in injury-time, all from set-pieces we haven't dealt with."

PORTADOWN: Brennan, Casement, O'Hara, Oman, Redman, Lowry, Gault, Garrett, Mackle, McAllister (Soares, 66 mins), Twigg.

CRUSADERS: O'Neill, Burns, Robinson, Coates, McClean, Forsythe (Whyte, 76 mins), Snoddy, Caddell, Heatley (O'Carroll, 84 mins), Carvill, Owens.

Man of the match: Billy Joe Burns

Match rating: 6/10

Referee: Ross Dunlop

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