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Linfield's Warren Feeney is brought down to earth with a bang

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Over the line: Gary Twigg forces the ball home for his second goal on Saturday

Over the line: Gary Twigg forces the ball home for his second goal on Saturday

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Warren Feeney

Warren Feeney

©William Cherry / Presseye

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Over the line: Gary Twigg forces the ball home for his second goal on Saturday

Call it a massive wake-up call, call it anything you like. It was simply a performance unacceptable for Linfield Football Club. This was as far from a statement of intent as you can imagine in Warren Feeney's first Premiership battle in charge of Linfield.

The Blues faithful were shocked as no-one saw this result coming after the European heroics this summer.

But forget about the result – it was the performance which was damning.

Feeney's new look squad was easily brushed aside by a Portadown team that were without the suspended Darren Murray, Chris Ramsey, Gary Breen, Emmet Friars and Michael Gault.

Ports boss Ronnie McFall handed competitive debuts to Jordan Lyttle and, from the bench, Shea Conaty, and while there looks to be a healthy mix of youth and experience at Shamrock Park, the Linfield post mortem will be painful.

A Gary Twigg brace had the home side on easy street before a calamitous own goal from Sean Ward sealed the visitors' fate.

Linfield's only consolation is that their trip to Glentoran on Wednesday night provides the prefect setting to restore some pride.

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Feeney didn't pull any punches with his players afterwards but the former Northern Ireland international looked genuinely shocked at what he witnessed.

"We didn't turn up but we have a great game on Wednesday night to put things right," said Feeney.

"Portadown played to their strengths but it's gone now and we must move on.

"There is a lot of football still to play.

"Some of them just had a bit of fear in their minds.

"There is hype around the first game and I'm glad it's over.

"We didn't move the ball with any purpose and I've told the boys we cannot play like that again."

Keeper Jonny Tuffey made his first key save of the season in the fourth minute, diving low to turn away Chris Casement's 30-yard free-kick round the post.

Jamie Mulgrew threatened at the other end but his low drive whistled past the upright.

On 11 minutes, Tuffey produced a stunning stop from close range to foil Sean Mackle after Mark McAllister's low cross had created the opening.

It was an early scare for Feeney's side but the Ports had a nervous moment themselves on 15 minutes when Ivan Sproule's right wing cross clipped the top of the crossbar.

Sproule blasted another shot wide from a tight angle as the fans waited for the early season fireworks to begin. That moment arrived in the 34th minute.

Twigg unleashed a stunning left foot thunderbolt that flew into the bottom corner of the net like a rocket.

Six minutes later Linfield were almost in double trouble when McAllister weaved his way into the penalty area and poked his shot goalwards but Tuffey's legs intervened.

In truth, the Blues were weak in the opening half and Feeney's first half-time team-talk in the Premiership would have been a cry for some passion and inspiration.

But disaster struck again in the 56th minute when the Blues defence failed to scramble clear a cross from Chris Casement and Twigg poked in his second from close range.

Feeney gave Kirk Millar his debut four minutes later, with Stephen Lowry making way, but the pain just got worse.

The third goal was a shambles from the visitors' perspective.

The Blues rearguard went missing as Ross Redman was allowed to cross into the centre where Sean Ward diverted the ball low past Tuffey just inside the post.

It was a horror moment that summed up Linfield's afternoon.

Aaron Burns' low long range effort sailed just wide of the upright and Andy Waterworth poked a shot against the post but Linfield were denied even a consolation. Not surprisingly, McFall looked like the cat that got the cream but he was keeping his feet on the ground with champions Cliftonville visiting on Wednesday.

"We have a lot of quality and it showed," he said.

"We controlled the game and it's a super start.

"Cliftonville and Shamrock Rovers were looking to sign Gary (Twigg) over the summer but there was no way he was going to leave. The two finishes sum him up, the first one was a super strike and then he produced the poacher's strike. It's a good combination with Mark McAllister, who's a strong lad and can bring other players into the game.

"Linfield struggled to handle both of them."

Only one of these sides looked like potential title contenders but Linfield may, in the end, be grateful this was the moment they produced what could be their worst performance of the campaign.

Portadown: Miskelly, Casement, Redman, O'Hara, McMahon, Mackle (Conaty 80), McAllister, Mouncey, Twigg, Garrett, Lyttle. Subs (not used): Brennan, Richardson, Soares, Skelton.

Linfield: Tuffey, Richards, Hegarty, Waterworth, Lowry (Millar 60), Carvill, Burns, Ward, Clarke (Callacher 83), Mulgrew, Sproule (Thompson 67) Subs (not used): Glendinning, Haughey.

Referee: Raymond Crangle (Belfast).


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