Ballymena United manager Glenn Ferguson is demanding his players show their desire to clinch a top six place when they visit Shamrock Park on Saturday.
The Sky Blues have inched their way up the Premiership table, having roared five points clear of Glenavon, who occupy seventh spot.
Victory over Portadown in County Armagh will not immediately improve United’s current position, but it would catapult them to within six points of Ronnie McFall’s team – which would be a huge psychological advantage at this stage of the campaign.
“It’s never easy against Portadown,” said Ferguson.
“Even though they have lost a player of Kevin Braniff’s calibre, they have a great squad.
“Portadown have hit a bit of form of late. They grabbed a great win in the Irish Cup at Cliftonville – it was the Reds’ first defeat in 16-odd games.
“They then banged in four against Dungannon, who are always difficult opponents. So we know what to expect. Boys like Twigg, Murray, McMahon and Mackle will always get goals – we need to be defensively clued in.”
United, of course, have their own goal predators, including new boy Darren Boyce, who has made the seamless transfer from Dungannon in the January window.
It has been honours even between the sides this season. United enjoyed a 2-1 win back in September, but then lost out 1-0 at Shamrock Park in February.
“I’ve no doubt that it will be an equally tight contest,” added Ferguson.
“Unfortunately, we will be missing Johnny Taylor due to suspension. He will be a big loss.
“There are another few little niggles, including Gavin Taggart, who sustained a rib injury in the Irish Cup win over Harland & Wolff Welders.”