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Portadown is 'a fantastic place to play' says loan signing Ben Tilney

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Ben Tilney

Ben Tilney

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Ben Tilney

With a heavy fall of snow covering the Shamrock Park pitch Portadown needed a team of dedicated volunteers and a two-hour delay to the kick off just to get Saturday's clash with Cliftonville played.

Other than white stuff the only other things that have settled as quickly at the Ports this winter are January loan signings Jacob Carney and Ben Tilney.

After those armed with shovels did their work earlier in the day Carney and Tilney, from Manchester United and Larne respectively, played key roles to help Matthew Tipton's men garner a 1-1 draw against the north-Belfast Reds.

With a bit more accuracy from his talented left foot Tilney might have put the Ports ahead in the first half. His failure to finish from a couple of long-range effort gave Cliftonville an advantage with the wind at their backs after the break and despite Carney's best efforts to deny Paul O'Neill and Chris Curran in quick succession even he couldn't stop Rory Hale's rocket finish on 61 minutes.

The most impressive of Carney's saves, tipping Ronan Doherty's powerful strike over the crossbar, kept the deficit at a single goal and that allowed the Ports to come from behind to grab a draw for the third time in a week when Tilney's teasing corner from the right was headed in by Adam McCallum seconds before the clock hit 90 minutes.

Tilney excelled as the left wing back in a free-flowing Larne system in the Championship and in the top flight following their promotion.

Now he is popping up all over the pitch - left, right and centre in a fluid Ports midfield - and providing quality and an energy too that has helped the team turn defeats into draws. Now the only thing missing is a first win in a Portadown shirt.

"I've been really enjoying it, it's a great dressing room, a young team and everyone is willing to work really, really hard," said Tilney.

"It's a fantastic place to play your football. The manager has been brilliant and it's a nice environment.

"It's been a tough start - it seems to have been every top-six team that we've played since I came, but it's perfect sometimes, it's good to have us all chucked in at the deep end.

"The games are coming thick and fast Saturdays and Tuesdays and credit to everyone that we are performing really well, digging in for 90 minutes which is fantastic."

The heavy schedule is in contrast to the first half of the season when injury sidelined the 23-year-old and such was Larne's impressive form that even after returning to fitness he couldn't get into the team, hence the switch to Shamrock Park.

"I had a knee injury and hadn't played at all, now I've gone from playing no football to Saturday, Tuesday, Saturday, Tuesday, which is fantastic for any player," he said.

"It's been really, really enjoyable. You've not time to dwell on mistakes or poor performances, it's just all about the next game and the run that we are going on it's good for me and the team."

Ports fans will just hope that Tilney stays around longer than the snow did.

PORTADOWN: Carney, Hall, Finnegan, McCallum, Scannell, Tilney, McKeown, Tipton (Warde 70 mins), Lavery (Murray 70 mins), Conaty, Bonis Unused subs: Buchanan, Guy, S Teggart, Kerr, Cowan.

CLIFTONVILLE: McCarey, Lowe, Bagnall, O'Reilly, A Donnelly, C Curran, R Doherty, Coffey (O'Connor 75 mins), Hale, R Curran, O'Neill (McCrudden 86mins). Unused subs: Dunne, McCrudden, Foster, Casey, Kearns, E Teggart.

Referee: Ross Dunlop (Carrickfergus).

Man of the match: Jacob Carney

Match rating: 6/10

Belfast Telegraph


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