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We will make the Ports seasick, says boss Gary Taylor

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Sea change:  Gary Taylor played in the Irish Cup against Linfield in 2002 and now manages Portstewart today against Portadown

Sea change: Gary Taylor played in the Irish Cup against Linfield in 2002 and now manages Portstewart today against Portadown

Sea change: Gary Taylor played in the Irish Cup against Linfield in 2002 and now manages Portstewart today against Portadown

The first Saturday in February isn't usually the time to plan a fun visit to the north coast.

It's pretty chilly up there at this time of the year and Portstewart manager Gary Taylor is hoping to make Portadown's trip to the seaside anything but enjoyable by giving them a cold reception.

The Seahawks welcome Ronnie McFall's men for an Irish Cup sixth round tie that is the biggest home match in their history and Taylor's men are determined to spoil the Ports' day out by kicking sand in their face.

Portstewart are the lowest ranked team left in this season's competition, with 32 league places separating them from the Premiership title challengers and although Taylor is well aware of the quality that the Ports possess, he believes there is plenty of ability in his own squad to at least give the Shamrock Park side a fright.

"It's a great draw for us, hosting one of the top teams in the country for the first time," said Taylor, who played for the club before becoming boss.

"I was involved in matches away to Cliftonville, Coleraine and Linfield in the Irish Cup as a player, but this is a first at our own ground and they don't come much bigger than Portadown.

"They are in the fight for the league title and Ronnie McFall has won more trophies than some clubs, so we know that it will be tough.

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"The boys feel that they can do well and we'll have a go - if we are going to go out it's better to do that than just surrender.

"We'll see how we compete and we believe that we have some players of Premiership quality in the squad to be able to do that."

The names may not be familiar to the football public in Northern Ireland, but there are players who can back up Taylor's word.

David McClements spent time at both Manchester City and Sheffield Wednesday as a youth, Richard Vauls was at Stoke City and John Neill played in the 2008 Irish Cup final for Coleraine when they lost 2-0 to Linfield.

Taylor believes that some of his lesser known names can also shake up the Ports, who have Irish Cup winners in the shape of Keith O'Hara, Michael Gault and Robert Garrett in their ranks.

"As well as those guys we have lads like James Peden, Ryan Doherty and Luke Bradley who are talented players," said Taylor.

"You can see signs in some of the things that David McClements does - his touch and his control - that shows he has played at a higher level. You can see he's got quality.

"We are a young team, most of our players are in their mid-20s and at the very least this will be a great experience for them and they will play without fear."

As is the way when it comes to matches like this, managers either send club representatives to run their eye over the unfamiliar opposition or take advantage of some favourable scheduling to take a look themselves.

As luck would have it, if Portstewart were going to face one of the big boys, Portadown were the ones Taylor knows most about.

"The couple of times that I have been able to watch Coleraine this season they have been playing Portadown, so I have seen them and I also watched them against Crusaders - although they lost 6-0 and I don't know if I learned much about them that night.

"I knew about them anyway without having to watch them. They have top players all over the pitch.

"We will prepare for that and try to hold them as long as we can.

"If we do that then you never know what might happen," he added.

Taylor was in the Portstewart team that lost 3-0 to Linfield 13 years ago as the Blues went on to win the Irish Cup, ironically beating Portadown in the final.

Taylor hopes that today's game is a much happier occasion for the club.

"It was great for the club going to Windsor Park, a lot of lads hadn't been there before and some of them froze on the day," said Taylor.

"I just hope that doesn't happen this time, but the fact that we are at home in familiar surroundings should help and we have been on a good run recently too."


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