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McLaughlin under the weather after Cliftonville left to rue missed chances by McCallum's late equaliser


Portadown's Adam McCallum roars with delight after scoring a late equaliser against Cliftonville

Portadown's Adam McCallum roars with delight after scoring a late equaliser against Cliftonville


Portadown's Adam McCallum roars with delight after scoring a late equaliser against Cliftonville

It was snow joke for Paddy McLaughlin as he left Shamrock Park wondering how his Cliftonville team failed to take three points from Portadown.

The match only went ahead thanks to a sterling effort from a team of volunteers who, with the benefit of a two-hour delay to the kick-off, cleared the pitch of snow and then didn't even get to enjoy watching from the stands due to Covid-19 restrictions.

Matthew Tipton praised his Ports players for matching the work rate of those willing fans as their combined efforts were rewarded when Adam McCallum headed home an 89th-minute equaliser to give them a 1-1 draw, but McLaughlin was left stunned as history repeated itself a week after Glentoran struck a last-gasp winner against the Reds at The Oval.

Had they taken their chances either side of Rory Hale's 61st-minute strike, Cliftonville would have been out of sight and that, plus referee Ross Dunlop ignoring penalty claims when McCallum allegedly handled in the second half, left McLaughlin reflecting on dropping two points that would have moved the Solitude men up to fourth place in the Danske Bank Premiership.

"We'd numerous chances and we'd a stonewall penalty turned down. I think it was clear handball and you're hoping the referee sees that," said McLaughlin. "That might have been 2-0 and you hope that would be game over, but it didn't go our way and when you miss other chances to extend your lead, it leaves you open, and it only takes one set-piece to punish you and that's what happened."

After a first half in which the best chances failed to trouble either goalkeeper, Cliftonville came out flying after the break and it wouldn't have been an injustice if they had been more than one goal ahead before they finally scored, with Paul O'Neill in particular working Portadown goalkeeper Jacob Carney.

When the breakthrough finally did come, it was worth the wait. Hale pulled Kris Lowe's right-wing cross out of the air with his body and actually twisted away from goal before crashing a powerful shot into the top corner.

Teenager Carney - on loan from Manchester United - then showed why he is highly thought of at Old Trafford with a superb fingertip save to deny Ronan Doherty with 15 minutes to go.

Failure to kill the game off cost Cliftonville when McCallum timed his run to perfection to nod home Ben Tilney's corner from the right and give the Ports a third successive draw.

The hosts could even have won it in added time when substitute Stephen Murray broke through, but was crowded out before he could get a shot away.

"Both sides forgot about defending in injury time - I know we certainly did because we were exposed in the last couple of minutes," said McLaughlin.

"I think we definitely deserved a point and I think we should have won the match but, again, we could have lost it late on because we went a bit gung-ho, that just comes from frustration after conceding so late on."

Tipton said: "People have said that with no relegation we're playing the season out, but we want to play, and the effort that went in to get the game on shows that. I'm pleased that the players showed the same effort as the people who worked so hard to get it on and they got a point that we deserved."

Sunday Life