Belfast Telegraph

Ports storming to success

By Stuart McKinley

Portadown midfielder Robert Garrett has revealed that it wasn't the dramatic injury-time winner against Carrick Rangers that sparked the Ports revival.

In fact, the key moment that triggered the turnaround for the Shamrock Park men after four successive league defeats came about an hour earlier, during a frank half-time showdown.

Garrett lifted the lid on a stormy dressing room exchange, that involved manager Ronnie McFall - who was under fire from a section of the club's support at the time - his coaching staff and the players.

There is no doubt that whatever was said made a difference as the Ports produced a stirring second-half comeback when they came from 2-0 down to take all three points - and that was also after centre-half Garry Breen was sent-off while Carrick were still 2-1 ahead.

"We came in 2-0 down at half-time in that game against Carrick and a few home truths were thrown out at half-time," he explained.

"We went out like a new team - more like the team of last season.

"We went down to 10 men and still fought our way back and that was the turning point for us.

"When the home truths were thrown out people realised 'yes, we need to step up now.'

"It was coming from everyone. Ronnie, Kieran Harding, Trevor Williamson and players. Everyone just said how they felt and it seems to have worked for us.

"These things can have an impact and although it doesn't usually happen at half-time in a game when you come in 2-0 down at home and after such a bad run we were on everything came out in the open and it has helped.

Ahead of today's home meeting with Glentoran the Ports are unbeaten in their last three games, a run that only the Premiership's top two - Crusaders and Cliftonville - can better.

With seven points on the board from home wins against Carrick and Linfield, either side of a draw at Ballymena United, it's hard to argue against the impact that half-time soul-searching session has had on McFall's team.

The disquiet in the stands has settled too. Although that might be down to a statement from the board at the start of last month which all but confirmed McFall (pictured) will step aside when his contract expires at the end of the season.

Already the longest serving manager in Europe, this weekend marks 29 years since he took charge at Shamrock Park and Garrett believes that the barbs thrown at the manager during their losing streak were unwarranted and that the players have to take their share of the responsibility."It was a bit frustrating for us as players as well," said Garrett.

"It was Ronnie who was taking all the flak when we as players weren't turning it on out on the pitch.

"Too many of us weren't turning up in games and he took it all instead of us getting it.

"The players - and the board too, obviously - are 100 per cent behind him."

Portadown's upturn in form has come at a time when Glentoran too have gone three games unbeaten under new manager Alan Kernaghan, after losing in his first two matches in charge.

That has meant the Ports have been unable to make any inroads as they battle with the Glens for a place in the top six. Today, however, presents the perfect opportunity to eat into the six-point gap between the teams.

"We've turned things around in the last three games and we've looked our normal selves and we hope that can continue," said Garrett.

"They are the team that is immediately ahead of us and we have to try to win the game to get closer to them.

"We dug in against Linfield and we could have won more than 2-0. We rode our luck at times too, but we deserved it.

"It was frustrating that the match at Warrenpoint was off last week because we want to keep the run going, but we just have to try to take the form we have shown in the last month into the next game and try to keep picking up points to move up the table."

Belfast Telegraph


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