Belfast Telegraph

Sean O'Neill aims to have last laugh on Portadown

By Keith Bailie

Crusaders' goalkeeper Sean O'Neill has been cheered by the actions of Manchester United defender Daley Blind.

O'Neill was left red-faced on Tuesday night when his massive mis-kick allowed Ballymena United's David Cushley to score the goal that helped knock the Crues out of the County Antrim Shield. However, O'Neill's spirits were lifted when he saw Blind slice the ball into his own net in front of nearly 60,000 fans at Old Trafford the next night.

Blind's effort may have been disallowed, but that didn't stop it being a viral sensation on various social media sites.

O'Neill laughed: "I was watching the League Cup highlights the other night and I saw Daley Blind slicing one into his own net with no one anywhere near him.

"He's a Dutch international, who has played in a World Cup semi-final, so if he can slice a ball then so can an Irish League goalkeeper.

"His slice actually made mine look like a pretty good clearance."

O'Neill certainly won't be losing any sleep over his rare kicking error. The ebullient character has already moved on.

"It's just one of those things that happens in football sometimes. It's horrible at the time, but I'm not going to let it bother me, or affect my game in any way. You just forget about it and get on with things. Saturday is a different game."

Tomorrow, Crusaders travel to Shamrock Park to play an out-of-sorts Portadown side who have been making the headlines for all the wrong reasons in recent weeks, with long-standing manager Ronnie McFall coming under unprecedented pressure.

O'Neill doesn't believe the fact Portadown have lost their last four competitive games is relevant to this weekend's match, as McFall's men have a superb record against Stephen Baxter's side. On the first day of the season, they humbled the champions 2-1 at Seaview.

"It doesn't really seem to matter how Portadown are doing in the league, they always give us a good game. I think they've beaten us four of the last five times we've played them.

"They're an inconsistent team and have been for a few years, so I don't read anything into the fact that they lost 3-0 to Ballinamallard last week. They've got quality players in their side so they're capable of beating us at Shamrock Park, so we have to be prepared for that.

"They've had a difficult start to the season and obviously there seems to be some issues there but, for me, Ronnie McFall signed well in the summer. That's why we need to be on our guard, because even though results are poor they've got plenty of ability."

Champions Crusaders are currently second to Linfield on goals scored but O'Neill believes the Irish League hasn't seen the best of the Hatchetmen this season.

"In many ways I don't really think we've got going yet. I don't think we've played our best football or done ourselves justice, but despite that we're joint top of the league.

"We've just kept our heads down and put points on the board. We've got draws and wins when we've not played all that well.

"I believe there's more to come from us and that at some point it will come together for us, and we will put a few goals past someone. It's a good feeling to be second in the league knowing that there's more to come."

Belfast Telegraph


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