Belfast Telegraph

Gary Twigg has Irish Cup vision

Portadown 3 - Linfield 2

By Stuart McKinley

Gary Twigg dumped Linfield out of the Irish Cup and then revealed that he was only playing in the game because Portadown had no other strikers available.

And after inflicting Cup agony on the Blues, the Scotsman is prepared to play through the pain barrier for the rest of the season if it means helping the Ports to silverware.

Chris Casement had already put the hosts ahead with a seventh-minute penalty when Twigg made what was to be a telling impact on the quarter-final tie.

Although his left knee and right hamstring were both heavily strapped, Twigg twice punished poor Blues defending, firstly with a trademark close-range finish midway through the first half and he then struck a stunning second from a tight angle just before half time that gave Linfield goalkeeper Ross Glendinning no chance.

The Blues' late rally, which saw Stephen Lowry score twice, did give their fans - who had booed the team off at half time - some hope, but it is Twigg and his team-mates, rather than dejected Linfield manager Warren Feeney who had his close friend Harry Kewell as a guest at the match, who are looking forward to a semi-final battle with Ballymena United on March 21.

"It's been a tough season for me. I'd say the only game I've been 100 per cent fit for was the first one of the season," said Twigg.

"It's been so difficult and it'll probably stay the same now until the end of the season. I don't think things are going to clear up.

"If the other two boys had been available I probably wouldn't have played.

"I had to play because Darren Murray is still suspended and Mark McAllister is injured. His is a muscle injury and if he'd played he could have ended up being out for the season, so it was wise that I played instead of him because mine probably isn't going to get any worse.

"It's the business end of the season and everybody wants to play. I think everybody is willing to play through the pain barrier when you have big games."

The Ports have now given themselves a chance of salvaging something from a season that before Christmas had promised so much.

Their win over Crusaders on the first Saturday of December put them on top of the Danske Bank Premiership, but since then they have won only three league games out of 10 - including beating Linfield 2-1 last weekend - and are now 10 points behind the Crues.

Twigg isn't living with any regrets though. Instead he is looking forward with a desire to make up for the disappointment of the Ports' last semi-final, when he was only fit enough to make a cameo appearance off the bench as they lost 1-0 to Glentoran two years ago.

"We could have been looking at a different scenario if we'd done the same things in the last couple of months that we have in the last two weeks, but there is no point looking back now," said Twigg.

"There is nothing we can do about what's happened, we just have to focus on what's coming. We've got a big game against Glentoran next and obviously a semi-final of the Irish Cup and we'll be looking to win as many games as possible and see where we are at the end of the season.

"The last time we got to the semi-final I was on the bench and probably shouldn't even have been on the bench. Hopefully this time around I'll be fit enough to play."

Twigg's second goal was superb. His left-foot strike flew into the top corner, sending the already happy Ports faithful into delirium.

For a man who is usually a penalty-box predator, it was special, but he wasn't getting carried away with the finish.

"The first one was just as good," he said.

"I'm a striker, I don't care what sort of goals I score.

"Other people will look at it and think it was a good goal, but to me they all count."

Portadown: Miskelly, Casement, Breen, O'Hara, Redman, Mackle, Gault, Garrett, Mouncey, McMahon, Twigg. Substitutions: Conaty (Twigg, 76 mins).

Linfield: Ross Glendinning, Belezika, Ward, Callacher, Quinn, Carvill, Lowry, Mulgrew, R Clarke, Waterworth, Feeney. Substitutions: Morrow (Feeney, 32 mins), Brown (Carvill, 58 mins), Millar (Callacher, 70 mins).

Man of the match: Gary Twigg (pictured)

Match rating: 7/10

Referee: Andrew Davey (Bangor)

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