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Spectators savour stunning Portadown and Ballymena goal-fest at Shamrock Park


Revival: Ballymena United skipper Allan Jenkins celebrates as his side stage a late stunning fightback

Revival: Ballymena United skipper Allan Jenkins celebrates as his side stage a late stunning fightback

Revival: Ballymena United skipper Allan Jenkins celebrates as his side stage a late stunning fightback

Top drawer finishing and rock bottom defending contrived to serve up this 10-goal soccer odyssey at Shamrock Park - and it leaves both managers with matching headaches.

Ballymena United boss Glenn Ferguson has to sort out his back line in time for Saturday's Wasp League Cup Final against Cliftonville, while Ronnie McFall has to do likewise as Portadown prepare for a vital top-of-the-table league clash with Crusaders on Friday night.

McFall was the angrier of the two as the opposing gaffers had to accept a single point after seeing their men hammer home a quintet of super strikes.

"They conceded two soft goals from set pieces," McFall fumed.

"There can be no excuse for this. We led 5-3 with nine minutes to go and simply threw away two points. Frankly, this feels like a defeat - we're four points behind Crusaders and should be just two points adrift.

"But we're still well in the hunt with plenty of football to play."

It was so unlike Portadown, who have been up there with the best in tight defending - just 32 goals conceded in their previous 25 games, although Ferguson was more used to these concessions. United have the worst goals against record in the Danske Bank Premiership, with Saturday's five meaning that 61 have crossed their line in 26 outings.

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"They have to understand they'll be facing consistent Cliftonville strikers like Joe Gormley and David McDaid on Saturday," he reflected. "I can just imagine Alan Hansen remarking on the 'terrible defending' against Portadown, although the same can be said for both sides with the goals raining in."

Both sets of defenders were as leaky as the proverbial sieve for most of the 90 minutes and the forwards took full advantage - especially Portadown's hat-trick hero Gary Twigg and Ballymena's Matthew Tipton, who helped himself to a couple.

Twigg commented: "It was personally pleasing to score three. But three points are the name of the game and we let it slip away. This draw feels like a defeat."

It was a hectic start, with Portadown 2-1 ahead after just 12 minutes.

Twigg was first to register when he rounded off a dream move via Robert Garrett, Peter McMahon and Darren Murray to crack the ball into the roof of the net.

Two minutes later, Tipton levelled for United when he took advantage of casual defending and set himself up for an unstoppable left-foot shot past David Miskelly. And the Ports restored their lead when Peter McMahon picked up a loose ball and scored via the post through a thicket of legs from 20 yards.

It was 3-2 for the home side at the break with Twigg adding his second just before the half-hour and Darren Boyce reducing the lead just before the break - after which Portadown lost influential defender Chris Casement after a heavy foul by Gary Thompson.

The Ports added number four on 68 minutes when Twigg completed his hat-trick with a super solo effort, but tenacious Ballymena fought back through a Johnny Taylor header.

McFall's men should have had it sealed on 81 minutes when Darren Murray cracked home the fifth after deftly rounding keeper Stuart Addis.

However, that slack home defending let in Tipton for his second and United's fourth - a subtle looped header - and Allan Jenkins nipped in at the far post for the final equaliser.

Full marks also go to Tony Kane whose assists set up the final three United scores, two of them from those set pieces which angered McFall so much.

• Ballinmallard United last night outlined their intention to appeal the six-match ban imposed on Johnny Lafferty.

The former Strabane Athletic striker was dismissed for headbutting Dungannon Swifts' Andrew Burns during last week's Irish Cup sixth round tie at Stangmore Park, however Mallards' disciplinary officer David Clarke explained: "The sanction of violent conduct by a headbutt is one of the most serious charges that can be imposed on a player by the IFA. Not only does this charge result in an additional six-match suspension for Johnny Lafferty that would effectively rule him out for half of the remainder of the season, but more importantly it is a serious slur on Johnny's character and reputation that must be challenged given his denial of the charge and the evidence which we now have to support him."

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