WITH just two league victories apiece under their belts from 10 starts this season, Portadown and Ballymena will have few complaints that they failed to add to their win tally after this evenly-balanced encounter.
Mind you, managers Ronnie McFall and Glenn Ferguson each made quite a stab at claiming they felt pick-pocketed at losing a couple of points after what wasn’t exactly a classic match.
But that’s the way football bosses tell ’em.
McFall felt the second-half Alan Teggart penalty which made it all-square should never have been awarded. Maybe he had a point against referee Tim Marshall, who’ll experience better days as a whistler.
Ferguson suggested that Portadown played “the high ball into the middle while we played the better football”.
But his defence failed to clear two of those high balls – delivered with pin-point accuracy by Ross Redman – which led to an opportunist brace from burgeoning Shamrock Park hero Darren Murray.
Meanwhile, the Ports were cumbersome in defence after just three minutes when United opened the scoring – Mark Surgeoner was left with a vacant net to belt home from all of four yards after great work down the right by Teggart, David Munster and James McCabe.
“We definitely deserved to win this one, after recovering well from that defensive mix-up at the start. We were caught cold, but showed character in fighting back,” McFall said.
“The penalty followed a free-kick that should never have been given, and the spot-kick was dubious after the ref claimed Chris Ramsey had fouled Teggart.
“The ref was handing out free-kicks and yellow cards against players on both sides who won the ball cleanly in 50-50 challenges.
“Still, we did well, considering that our entire regular midfield is injured. We’ll recover from our poor start to the league when they’re all available again.”
Ferguson insisted: “We made mistakes for their two goals, but were well in command, especially in the second-half. I think the penalty decision was the right one. Ramsey didn’t play the ball.
“My two centre-halves Munster and Aaron Stewart were immense, and while keeper Dwayne Nelson was at fault for their second goal, he brought off a superb save from Jamie Tomelty near the end that guaranteed the draw.”
Murray scavenged from a couple of flicked headers – one from Michael McLellan (14 minutes) and the other from Brian Gartland (34 minutes) for his double act, with Nelson flapping and missing during the run-up to the second.
And Ports keeper David Miskelly had no chance with the spot-kick after Teggart picked himself off the ground and rifled it home.