Belfast Telegraph

Sunday Life

Ref's taking the Michael


By Stuart McKinley

Ronnie McFall hit out at referee Philip Walker after he was forced to substitute midfielder Michael Collins less than half an hour into yesterday's 2-0 friendly defeat against Championship side Sheffield United.

Collins became involved in a flare-up with Blades striker Jon Stead in the centre of the pitch and appeared to lash out at his opponent with his hand. Stead too looked as if he had gone towards Collins, but the Portadown man was the only one to leave the field, being replaced by Marc McCann.

Later in the game Johnny Topley was pushed off the ball by Chris Armstrong, but the winger remained on the pitch to open the scoring just a couple of minutes later.

Substitute James Ashworth then added the second in injury time as the Bramall Lane side finished their trip to Ireland with three wins from as many games.

"I was unhappy with the referee's display," said McFall.

"How does he ask for Collins to be taken off and then Chris Morgan pushes Colin Magill, Johnny Topley got pushed late on by two players and he tells us to take Collins off and there hasn't been a tackle in the match.

"In the incident with Collins it was a free-kick for us and even their players said to let him stay on."

The Ports more then held their own for around an hour, before the Blades, relegated from the Premiership last season, began to flex their muscles.

Newry City midfielder Richard Clarke, invited to guest by Sheffield United manager Bryan Robson so that he could have a closer look at the Northern Ireland under-21 international before considering an offer for him.

Playing in central midfield alongside Michael Tongue, Clarke kept possession well and didn't look out of place among Championship level players.

Armstrong's goal came after he made a surging run along the left wing and he tucked in the rebound after trialist Brian Close blocked his initial shot.

Ashmore then hammered home from the right side of the box after Gary Naysmith's left-wing cross wasn't cut out by the Ports defence or goalkeeper David Miskelly.

"I thought we did well with what was a make-shift defence," added McFall.

"We have lost Philip Craig and Henry McStay from last season and John Convery and Keith O'Hara are both out injured.

PORTADOWN: Miskelly, Close, McKeown, Marks, Redman, Boyle, Collins, Hagan, Richard Clarke, McCutcheon, Braniff Subs: Teggart, Magill, Liggett, O'Hara, McCann, Topley, McCullough

SHEFF UTD: Bennett; Geary, Morgan, Lucketti, Naysmith; Fahti, Richard Clarke, Tonge, Armstrong; Stead, Sharp Subs: Kilgallon, Leigertwood, Ashmore, A Quinn.

REFEREE: Philip Walker.

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