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Last-gasp Ports whip up a title storm at Windsor Park

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Leveller: Portadown’s Chris Casement celebrates after his cross led to Jimmy
Callacher’s own goal

Leveller: Portadown’s Chris Casement celebrates after his cross led to Jimmy Callacher’s own goal

Leveller: Portadown’s Chris Casement celebrates after his cross led to Jimmy Callacher’s own goal

Ronnie McFall's Portadown last night put the boot into Linfield's title challenge at Windsor Park. Midfielder Sean Mackle bagged a last-gasp winner, which now leaves the Blues three points behind table-topping Crusaders, who can stretch their lead even further today at Mourneview Park.

It looked good for the home team when player-manager Warren Feeney headed his team in front in the first half - his first goal in a blue shirt.

But Linfield shot themselves in the foot when Aaron Burns missed a second half spot kick.

Blues defender Jimmy Callacher then headed into his own net to gift the Ports an equaliser before Mackle struck the defining blow with only two minutes remaining.

Just to add salt into the gaping Blues' wounds, Portadown arrived in South Belfast without their main strike force - Darren Murray, Gary Twigg and Mark McAllister.

"I thought we got what we deserved," beamed Ports boss Ronnie McFall. "The first half was pretty even, but we bossed it after the break.

"We got a break for the equaliser, but we came close to scoring on a few occasions before Mackle got the winner.

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"We now have eight games left and still have a lot to do in terms of the title. There will be many twist and turns over the remaining matches."

Feeney made only one alteration to the side that won at Dungannon, drafting in Michael Carvill for Stephen Lowry. The influential Ross Clarke was suspended.

McFall brought in former Blues favourites Robbie Garrett and Chris Casement and handed teenager Shea Conaty a starting slot.

Feeney got the Blues off to the perfect start with his opener on 11 minutes. He was left in acres of space for a Carvill cross and his header zipped past David Miskelly. It was embarrassingly easy -reflected in the former international's celebration.

The visitors almost levelled four minutes later. Mackle forced Blues defender Sean Ward into an error and when the midfielder cut the ball back for Peter McMahon, his shot flashed inches wide.

Seconds later, a back pass to his goalkeeper by Chris Ramsey fell woefully short, allowing Andy Waterworth a run on goal, but the red-faced defender managed to track back to retrieve the situation, with the home fans howling for a penalty kick!

Portadown had a real let-off on 19 minutes. Aaron Burns whipped in a tantalising cross from the left that Feeney missed by inches. When Carvill delivered another peach from the right, Waterworth's header crashed off the crossbar, with Miskelly beaten.

The Ports upped the tempo as the half progressed. Casement hoofed a 25 yard free kick wide after Blues skipper Jamie Mulgrew had flattened Garrett, before McMahon forced Ross Glendinning into his first save of the night from the makeshift striker's looping header.

Linfield missed a golden opportunity to take a stranglehold over the game on 59 minutes when Burns' penalty kick was saved by Miskelly.

Ports midfielder Tim Mouncey raised a hand to meet a Mulgrew cross and referee Raymond Hetherington was perfectly position to make the decision.

Burns went for power rather than guile, but big Miskelly stood his ground and managed to beat away the midfielder's rasping spot kick.

They were made to pay for that howler as the Ports were level on 69 minutes.

Casement's free kick was met by the diving head of Callacher and, although Glendinning managed to get a hand to the ball, he failed to keep it out.

Portadown were almost in front seconds later. Casement tried his luck with a thumping 35-yard drive that Glendinning was relieved to see fly past the post.

It was panic stations after that for the home fans. Young Conaty came within inches of giving the Ports the lead on 82 minutes, but he looked on in frustration as his header bounced back off the crossbar.

Then Garrett tried his luck from distance and wasn't far away, with Glendinning scampering across his goal.

The Ports duly delivered the final punch on 88 minutes when Mackle ripped through the static Linfield backline to plant the ball right into the bottom corner.


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