Portadown 2 Dungannon Swifts 1
This vital win was worth three league places for Portadown as they moved up to fifth in the tight fight for a top six position — and it plunged Dungannon deep into relegation trouble.
Central defender Brian Gartland’s late headed goal made quite a difference as the Ports prepare to host Linfield tomorrow night, while the Swifts take on Ballymena United at Stangmore.
“We’ve had a superb run in the last 16 games,” Gartland said, after the bruising — and rather boring — match on Saturday.
“It adds up to 11 wins, four draws and just the one defeat and we’re delighted about that.”
Gartland missed that one loss — against Crusaders three weeks ago — and the Crues will be praying the Ports’ winning run continues against the Blues as they snap at the heels of the league leaders.
Gartland’s 80th minute winner was his first since he arrived at Shamrock Park in January — a majestic header that converted a pin-point Ross Redman free-kick.
“Ross is one of the best crossers of ball in the Irish League and he laid it up superbly for me,” said the 24-year-old. “I love to rib the lads that they lost the only game I missed, but there again my strike-rate isn’t all that impressive!”
Disgruntled Swifts boss Dixie Robinson insisted the free-kick should never have been awarded.
“The referee was close to the incident,” he reflected.
“He didn’t give it, but the assistant saw something the ref missed — and which frankly I didn’t see — and we lost a valuable point.
“I can’t blame my players. We were four or five missing and the team gave everything they had.”
The scoring was opened on 60 minutes when Portadown failed to clear a Ryan Mullan cross and it was pounced upon by Ryan O’Neill who smashed it home from close-in.
The Ports levelled within two minutes when the industrious Shane McCabe sent Jordan Baker clear with a peach of a pass and the in-form striker raced through to whip the ball hard and low past keeper Sean O’Neill.
Portadown were the better side after that and the Gartland winner was just about deserved.
Said manager Ronnie McFall: “It was a flat sort of game, but both sets of players have been involved in two matches a week since January and you have to admire their determination — and both had four or five missing through knocks and injuries.”