Portadown 2 Ballymena United 1
Portadown manager Ronnie McFall will spend the next week reflecting - not on his impending 25th anniversary in charge at Shamrock Park, but on how he will replace top striker Matthew Tipton.
The Welshman, leading scorer with the Ports, broke his collar bone on Saturday and could be out until the New Year and, and with stand-in Richard Lecky sidelined until February with dodgy ankles — plus Saturday’s substitute Wesley Boyle nursing a groin injury — McFall will need all his ingenuity to stay in the higher reaches of the Carling Premiership.
“We’ll adapt ok,” said McFall after this close encounter with Ballymena United. “The trick will be to keep competing until the New Year, when the race really gets under way.”
It heaps more responsibility on Tipton’s co-striker Kevin Braniff, whose 26th minute goal opened Saturday’s scoring.
He robbed defender David Munster and whipped in what was meant as a cross, team-mate Sean Mackle jumped over the ball, hoodwinked keeper Wayne Drummond and the ball rolled home.
Following Tipton’s early exit after an accidental clash with Drummond, the Ports went further ahead on 66 minutes through Shane McCabe.
After that, though, Portadown rested on their laurels and paid the price when Gary McCutcheon found space from a throw-in and cracked home from 15 yards.