Belfast Telegraph

Portadown's Kevin Braniff braced for title tilt

By Graham Luney

It was easy to see where it went wrong for Crusaders and where it went right for Portadown at Seaview.

There was no case for the Crues defence - without Colin Coates and Paul Leeman they were ripped apart.

The Ports took full advantage and their red hot strikers Matthew Tipton and Kevin Braniff plunged the knife in where it hurts.

They led a makeshift home backline a merry dance but all over the pitch the Ports looked slick while the Crues were simply shocking.

Perhaps fans are surprised at the mid-Ulster men's blistering start to the season - Crusaders supporters are certainly scratching their heads at their own side's fall from grace.

They looked a poor imitation of the team that kept pace with Linfield right to the finishing line last season. In contrast, Portadown are beginning to believe that they can get their hands on the Gibson Cup and two-goal hero Braniff offered another reminder of their menacing attacking threat.

"It's always tough trying to come here and play on this pitch," said the striker.

"We worked hard in the first half, got the goals and thankfully got the third early in the second to kill the game off.

"I'm glad I only have to play here once or twice a year. For the first goal I was glad to get on the end of it and I caught it well on the volley. Thankfully it went into the net.

"The second one I managed to twist, turn and got a shot off which luckily went in.

"I definitely didn't handle the ball. I didn't know there was a debate about it until after the game when the lads mentioned it to me. I caught the ball on my thigh, turned and hit it.

"It's a great changing room to be in and everyone's buzzing.

"For the last few years I have been here we have always started off badly but now we're winning games and the mood is very different."

The Crues are still looking for their first home win of the campaign and, as Baxter said afterwards, they have only produced one good performance in the league this season - the 3-0 win at Ballymena United.

"There's no histrionics," said Baxter.

"They've played well, they are a good team, physical, strong and they were professional, well organised and worthy winners.

"We'll have to go back to the drawing board and see if we can get players fit.

"We've got one good performance this season, Ballymena United away, and outside of that it's been mediocre.

"We just aren't playing with any fluency and that's it."

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