Portadown's survival mission still on after victory over Ballinamallard
Portadown 1 Ballinamallard 0
Portadown's Premiership survival mission is still on.
And now manager Niall Currie will pin his hopes on Ards – the club he left in December to take the Ports job – to help them in their relegation fight.
A goal from teenage defender Ross Larkin – his first for the club – 11 minutes into the second half was enough to beat Ballinamallard United on a night when it was win or bust.
After seeing their team win back-to-back games for the first time this season Portadown fans are now relying on Ards beating Carrick Rangers this afternoon in order to keep their hopes alive ahead of Tuesday's trip to face the Red and Blues.
In a whirlwind start both team had excellent chances to grab the lead in the opening couple of minutes.
First it was Ballinamallard who attacked down the left wing through full-back Jay McCartney. His cross was met by Stuart Hutchinson and his header came back off the crossbar with Ports goalkeeper Chris McGaughey well beaten.
Almost immediately the Ports broke and Matthew Hazley found himself in a great position, 25 yards out with only the goalkeeper to beat, but he rushed his shot and it was easy for Richard Brush to deal with.
After that all-action opening it was shots from distance and set pieces that brought about any efforts on goal.
Good build-up play from the Ports on 16 minutes ended with Robert Garrett shooting over from 30 yards and three minutes later the home defence was cut open after Garry Breen dived into a challenge, leaving Ryan Curran in the clear on the edge of the box, but he lacked composure and accuracy as he fired over the bar.
The Ports approach play was impressive and midway through the first half Niall Henderson got forward on the right wing, but rather than delivering a cross he pull the ball back towards the in-rushing Hazley, but the pass never quite reached him.
Ballinamallard broke away on 29 minutes, with tricky winger Ryan Mayse shooting just wide of McGaughey's left-hand post.
Portadown then began to force a number of corners. From the first on 30 Brendan Shannon's header was blocked on the six-yard line, with the defender all alone in appealing for a handball.
From another on 38 minutes the ball dropped to Breen eight yards out, he hit a shot on the turn which flew over the bar.
Another neat Ports move just before half time released Stephen Hughes on the left. He cut inside and sent the ball in low across the face of goal. With little else on Sean Mackle tried his luck with a back heel that was followed by shouts of 'handball' from both players and supporters, but referee Steven Gregg remained unmoved.
The Mallards were inches away from hammering t he final nail in the Ports' coffin five minuntes after the break when only a timely intervention on the line from Larkin denied Curran after he had weaved his way into a shooting position to the right of goal.
Larkin then made an even more telling impact at the other end to give the Ports the lead on 56 minutes.
Hazley collected the ball from a short free-kick, sent a low cross in from the right and Larkin stole in unmarked at the near post to tuck the ball into the net.
With confidence boosted by that goal the Ports went looking for more and two minutes later Sean Mackle unleashed a powerful drive from the right wing that had Brush full stretch to save.
Ten minutes after the goal Larkin was key again, blocking substitute Warner Mullen from shooting just inside the box after he had been teed up by Shane McGinry.
Larkin was the man in the right place at the right time again with 10 minutes to go as he denied the Mallards what looked like a certain equaliser.
Shane McCabe pulled the strings in midfield and the ball then landed at the feet of Mullen after McGaughey couldn't hold a shot, but just as he was about to pull the trigger with the goal at his mercy Larkin took the ball off his toe and cleared.
Ballinamallard dominated possession after that, but without a cutting edge Portadown hung on and survive for at least another day.
PORTADOWN: McGaughey, Handerson, Larkin, Breen, Shannon, Mackle, L Wilson, Garrett, Hazley, Hughes (Holmes 80 mins), Soares (Gardiner 73 mins). Subs: Lyttle, Richardson, Maciulaitis.
BALLINAMALLARD UNITED: Brush, McConnell, Morris, McLaughlin, McCartney, Mayse, McCabe, Tahney (Frempong 85 mins), McGinry, Hutchinson (Mullen 52 mins), Curran. Subs: Crawford, Elliott. McCann.
Referee: Steven Gregg.
MAN OF THE MATCH: Ross Larkin
Match rating: 7/10.
Belfast Telegraph Digital