David Jeffrey walked out of Shamrock Park ‘delighted’ after his Ballymena United team picked up their first away win of the Premiership season.
The 1-0 victory over Portadown, however, came at a cost with midfielder Daniel Bramall carried off during the second half.
Jeffrey rushed straight to hospital where the Englishman was being assessed, with fears that he had suffered a broken leg.
The injury blow to the summer signing from Barnsley left Jeffrey with mixed emotions after Andy McGrory netted the winner 13 minutes from time — just two minutes after the Ports had been reduced to nine men when Nathan Kerr joined Oisin Conaty in being red-carded by referee Evan Boyce.
Before that match-winning strike, Ballymena had only registered one real effort on target through substitute Paul McElroy on a day of few chances.
“Not withstanding what happened to young Daniel, we are going away delighted,” said Jeffrey.
“It wasn’t pretty and we know that we can perform much better, but there were reasons why. The players put so much into the win over Crusaders on Wednesday night and it’s a quick turnaround.
“If someone had given me 1-0, three points away to Portadown before the match I would have taken their hand off.
“Resilience, hard work and sheer grit and determination got us over the line.”
Despite having Conaty sent off for kicking out at Caolan Loughran following a tussle after 32 minutes, it was Portadown who had looked the more threatening.
Lee Bonis tested United goalkeeper Jordan Williamson with a firmly struck free-kick under the wall after 20 minutes and then, after winning the ball himself midway inside the opposition half, the striker was on the end of Stephen Teggart’s ball into the box early in the second period as the Ports went close again.
Kerr had received his first yellow card early in the second half and when he collided with Ryan Waide on 75 minutes, referee Boyce called the play back despite Ballymena being in possession and showed him a second followed by a red.
The Sky Blues then seized their chance and were ahead within a flash. Leroy Millar took a return ball after a throw-in and McGrory sneaked in to stab his cross into the net inside the six-yard box.
There were no complaints about the red cards from Portadown manager Matthew Tipton, although he did feel that the result didn’t reflect the performance of his team when at a numerical disadvantage.
“Forget the result, I thought we played well. We were the better team with 10 men, 11 men, nine men. It’s a scrappy goal we conceded, but I don’t think we concede it if we’ve 11 or 10 on the pitch,” said Tipton.
“When the players go out and perform like that, I can’t hammer them. What I have to do now is pick them up to make sure — yes, we played with 10 men and then nine men — that they go and be ready next week to deliver the same.
“It’s mentally what they had to do today and they have to be ready to do that mental shift of knowing when to go, when to sit back, knowing when to soak up pressure and when to play on the counter-attack and I thought we did that really well.
“I can’t defend either red card. There are things I could say that led up to Oisin’s. I think it’s a foul leading up to it, he got pulled down and then kicked out, which he shouldn’t have.
“Nathan’s was two silly yellow cards. Certainly the second one he doesn’t need to do it, but people make mistakes in life.”
PORTADOWN: J Barr 6, Kerr 6, McCallum 6, Finnegan 6, Hall 6, Teggart 7, Ruddy 6, B McKeown 6, Conaty 5, Bonis 6, Lavery 6 (Warde, 79 mins, 5). Unused subs: Doherty, Tipton Anderson, McLeod, Glenfield, Rutkowski.
Ballymena: Williamson 6, McGrory 7, Loughran 6, Keeley 6, Redman 6, Henderson (Wilson, 46 mins, 5), Millar 6, Winchester 6, O McKeown 5 (McElroy, 46 mins, 6), Bramall 5 (Waide, 59 mins, 6), Smith 5. Unused subs: Johnston, Chapman, B Barr, Beattie.
Referee: Evan Boyce (Ballygowan) 7.