IRISH LEAGUE: Debut goal for Byrne as Portadown score four past Carrick

Stephen Hughes celebrates breaking the deadlock in a 4-0 win for Portadown against Carrick Rangers. Pic by PressEye Ltd.
Stephen Hughes celebrates breaking the deadlock in a 4-0 win for Portadown against Carrick Rangers. Pic by PressEye Ltd.
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Centre-back Alan Byrne enjoyed a spot on the scoresheet and a welcome clean sheet during a memorable Portadown debut to help secure success over Carrick Rangers by 4-0.

The Ports managed to stop the rot after three successive Danske Bank Premiership defeats as Kieran Harding’s return to Shamrock Park, following over a decade as assistant boss, ended in defeat.

Portadown dominated the possession against Harding’s Carrick.

Stephen Hughes burst into the penalty box early on but Ryan Morell managed to stop his low angled drive then react first to block Aaron Haire’s follow-up attempt.

Hughes enjoyed greater success in front of goal on 13 minutes when Niall Henderson’s cross towards Mikey Withers was headed down by Carrick defender Gareth McKeown.

Hughes reacted first to smash the loose ball into the top corner of the net and open his account in Portadown colours.

Brendan Shannon then hit the crossbar with a superb header off Haire’s excellent cross from the left wing.

A counter-attack suggested promise of a second Ports goal when Robert Garrett burst forward from his own box to link up with Withers. However, Garrett’s heavy touch allowed Steven McCullough to race across and block the threat.

Another slick move by the hosts featured Henderson, Mark Carson and Shannon creating space down the right but the cutback dropped just behind the run of the supporting Hughes.

Carrick entered the interval aiming to improve on a sole effort wide of the target by Tiaran McNicholl.

Carson, Haire, Shannon and Hughes attempted to create space for a shot early in the second half inside a packed penalty area without success and a McKeown free-kick for Carrick drifted all the way past a group of players without a decisive touch.

Hughes came close to a second goal when he combined with Garrett and managed to find a path past the Carrick backline but could only stab at a loose ball.

The hosts managed to double the advantage, however, on 74 minutes with Byrne’s goal helping to cap an assured first appearance for Portadown.

The impressive Haire scored Portadown’s third goal with a close-range finish to convert Withers’ headed knockdown off a Carson cross. The striker - who returned to Shamrock Park during the summer for a second spell with the club - left the pitch on a stretcher after over 10 minutes of treatment on the pitch by the medical staff following his goal.

Garrett closed the game on a positive note for the Ports by adding number four following clever footwork to find space for a low shot.

PORTADOWN: David Miskelly, Mark Carson, Adam Rodgers, Keith O’Hara, Alan Byrne, Brendan Shannon, Niall Henderson, Robert Garrett, Aaron Haire, Stephen Hughes, Mikey Withers. Subs: Chris McGaughey, Tim Mouncey, Nathaniel Ferris (Haire, 90), Sam Simpson (Shannon, 95), Eoin Kirwan (Hughes, 97).

CARRICK RANGERS: Ryan Morell, TJ Murray, Chris Morrow, Steven McCullough, Paddy McNally, Nathan Hanley, Tiarnan McNicholl, Adam Salley, Gareth McKeown, Mark Surgenor, Brian McCaul. Subs: Miguel Chines (McCaul, 54), Fra Rice (Morrow, 73), Glenn Taggart, Gary Lavery (Hanley, 64), Conor McFall.

Referee: Evan Boyce.