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Portadown manager McFall in for long haul


Take it as Red: Portadown players welcome Peter McMahon's goal

Take it as Red: Portadown players welcome Peter McMahon's goal

Take it as Red: Portadown players welcome Peter McMahon's goal

Portadown 2 Glentoran 1: Portadown top of the league was the raucous chorus that rang out from the Shamrock Park fans on Saturday as the Ports supplanted derby rivals Glenavon from the summit, with this hard-fought win over the Belfast Glens.

But manager Ronnie McFall wasn't joining in the triumph song.

McFall's choral skills are an unknown quantity – and he might join the soccer aria if his team are on top on the only day it matters, the final Satuday of the season.

But right now, he's playing it canny.

"It's a good start, but we lead by just a single point," he said, with both the Lurgan and Windsor Park Blues breathing down his neck.

"Only a quarter of the league is gone. There's a marathon of matches left. Anyone can beat anyone in the tightest league in years.

"True, we had a poor start last year and failed to make the top six. There's a spirit and determination in the team now that we were sadly lacking last season.

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"Hopefully we can stay in the race, provided we can escape injuries and suspensions.

"Our small squad is the main drawback. Happily, we showed real spirit and fight to take the points today."

The Ports certainly didn't play like potential champions for the first 55 minutes – neither side was on song – but when Marcus Kane put the Glens in front with a peach of a goal, it was as if an unknown hand had flicked a switch, and a pedestrian match was transformed into a thriller.

Kane (pictured) ran onto a pass from Johnny Addis and nipped in front of a static Ports' rearguard to bend the ball home from 25 yards.

It was a cracking left-foot effort, leaving Portadown goalkeeper David Miskelly stranded and the Glens' supporters behind his goal in raptures.

Ports centre-back Garry Breen – the best defender on the field – said: "Their goal was certainly a wake-up call for us and we really responded.

"Kane's goal was a rare piece of opportunism, I have to say. We reacted with determination, and we deserved to win, but we made it difficult with a poor first-half display."

The Ports' ace striker Gary Twigg – 10 goals from nine league matches – led the charge.

He hit the equaliser 12 minutes later, when he connected beatifully with a Ryan McStay corner to nod deftly home.

And the Scotsman laid on what turned out to be the winner with five minutes left on the clock, heading a subtle Kevin Braniff cross onto the bar before it dropped into the path of Peter McMahon jsut a yard out and he bundled the ball into the net.

Glentoran manager Eddie Patterson said: "Elliott Morris got a hand to Twigg's header and pushed it against the crossbar, but it rebounded perfectly to McMahon.

"I'm convinced Elliott would have kept it out, had he not been hurt."

The injury happened after the second-half turned all-action.

Morris's defence sold him a "pup" of a pass-back. The 'keeper and Darren Murray clattered into one another as they stretched for the ball and both required treatment.

"It was purely accidental," said Patterson, who insisted his men had done enough for at least a point.

"I'm proud of the way they played," he added, and then spent most of his post-match analysis highlighting what he claimed were "the glaring inconsistencies" of referee Mervyn Smyth, who red-carded Calum Birney near the end for a two-footed lunge at Ryan McStay.

"It led to a bit of a melee – much more than 'handbags at 10 paces' – and Mr Smyth make hard work of sorting it out," said Patterson.

"Ok, it was the right decision, but a certain Portadown defender was equally guilty early on in the match.

"It should have been a penalty and the referee seemed to be working on his own agenda in shelling out yellow cards for some fouls and not for others.

"I was not impressed."

But you can't argue with statistics. Glentoran – once right up there – are now languishing eighth in the table, while Linfield (early occupants of the bottom rung) are just one point adrift of the Ports.

And that's what already makes it an entriguing title race, even though we've only just reached the end of the second month of the season.

"It's a hard league to call," McFall insisted.

"Any one of five or six teams could take the title. We have the ability and quality, but so do quite a few others."

PORTADOWN: Miskelly, Casement, Breen, McMahon, Murray, Braniff, McCafferty, McStay, Twigg, Friars, Trainor (Ramsey, 66 mins). Unused subs: Brennan, Mackle, Mouncey, Judge.

GLENTORAN: Morris, O'Neill, Kane, Magee, Birney, McAlorum, M Clarke, Scullion (O'Hanlon, 75 mins), Boyd (R Clarke, 28 mins). Miskimmin (Stewart, 80 mins), Addis. Unused subs: Callacher, McGuigan.

Referee: Mervyn Smith (Belfast).

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