Portadown’s unbeaten start to the season continued when Gary Twigg pounced late on to give them a 2-1 win at Cliftonville at Solitude on Friday night.
Cliftonville were intent on protecting a run that has seen them win their last 24 domestic ties at home and it looked to be safe when Chris Curran was adjudged to be fouled in the box and a penalty awarded on 65 minutes. Ports keeper David Miskelly felt the former Ballinamallard winger had made the most of minimal contact and vented his frustration at the officials before composing himself to deny Joe Gormley’s spot kick with his legs.
The stale mate only lasted a further four minutes as the returning Marc Smyth controlled his volley to, seemingly, put the Champions on their way to a fourth straight victory in the league. Ronnie McFall’s men, though, seemed to have rediscovered the form that saw them finish runner’s up two seasons ago and drew level with seven minutes remaining as former Linfield defender Chris Casement’s wicked free kick dipped under Conor Devlin in the Reds net.
Things got better for the visitors as, with the clock about to run down, Cliftonville failed to deal with a routine ball into the box and when the dust settled it was the former Shamrock Rovers hit man Twigg who kept his head to fire the ball home and into second place in the table.
The “Big Two” derby between Linfield and Glentoran seems to have lost some of its lustre as both sides attempt to fight their way through a sticky patch of late. The Glens problems are of the financial variety but it is David Jeffrey who is under the most pressure as Linfield have suffered a dramatic loss of form which the causes for are much less readily identifiable.
The Blues boss has a lot of credit built up among the Windsor faithful but even that must be wearing thin after last year’s third placed finish coupled with a disastrous start in this campaign which sees them in the unthinkable position of propping up the league after four games.
Linfield had the better chances of a typically feisty first half with Mark McAllister hitting the upright and Elliot Morris having to be at his brilliant best to push Niall Quinn’s free kick around the post just before the break. The first half also saw the dismissal of Aaron Burns for an off the ball incident with Ryan O’Neill but the home side were still the team in the ascendancy for the opening hour.
Both sides were reduced to ten men in the 74th minute as Jason Hill received a second yellow. Niall Quinn should then have sealed the points for the Blues but he blasted wide when sent clear on goal to leave David Jeffrey’s ruing another lost opportunity and wondering how many more he will be afforded.
Newly promoted Ards recorded their first Premiership win as they deservedly overcame Ballymena United at Dixon Park on Saturday afternoon. The home side dominated for the majority of the game and went ahead when Ben Roy cut inside to arc an unstoppable shot into the top corner just after the half hour mark.
William Faulkner added a second on 79 minutes with an even better strike as he weaved his way into the box before thundering his shot into the roof of the net to move his side off the bottom and condemn a disappointing Ballymena to their second defeat of the season.
Ballinamallard United are up to third as former Longford Town midfielder Jason McCartney struck twice in a 3-0 win over Warrenpoint Town in Ferney Park. McCartney struck a 39th minute penalty to give his side the lead and then took advantage of a defensive mix up to slide in for his second just before half time. He then capped a wonderful display to turn provider for Richard Lecky to tap in on 74 minutes to leave newly promoted Warrenpoint second from bottom with three points from a possible twelve.
Friday’s mid Ulster derby saw Dungannon Swifts and Glenavon play out an entertaining three-all draw that sees Dungannon hold onto fourth place but Gary Hamilton’s side slip into the bottom half despite being the division’s second highest scorers.
In the weekend’s final game Coleraine recorded their fourth consecutive league draw as a late Timmy Adamson equaliser gave Crusaders a share of the spoils at the Showgrounds that leaves Crues in ninth position while Coleraine are in eighth spot by virtue of more goals scored.