IRISH LEAGUE: Ports hoping January numbers can bring some overdue joy against Cliftonville

Mark Carson (left) could return this weekend for the Ports - with Adam Foley (right) aiming to continue his bright start with the club. Pic by PressEye Ltd.
Mark Carson (left) could return this weekend for the Ports - with Adam Foley (right) aiming to continue his bright start with the club. Pic by PressEye Ltd.

What a difference a few weeks can make in football.

It’s just seven weeks since Niall Currie took the reigns of a turbulent Portadown for the first time in a game that ended as a 1-0 reverse to 10-man Cliftonville.

As he leads his charges to Solitude for a repeat of that fixture this weekend, the starting line-up is likely to bear little resemblance to the one Currie fielded on December 10.

The boss has since secured deals for Jordan Lyttle, Marcio Soares, Shea McGerrigan, Adam Foley, Tiarnan Mulvenna, Jaime Gardiner and Matthew Hazley to aid this season’s relegation fight. Sam Simpson, Aaron Haire and Alan Byrne - who each stepped off the substitutes’ bench back in December against the Reds - were part of a list of released players confirmed this week, along with Matthew Parker.

Injury issues and suspension will limit Currie’s options for this weekend as basement-based Portadown attempt to close the nine-point gap on Carrick Rangers.

“Robert Garrett, Ken Oman, Tim Mouncey and Garry Breen each trained and should be fit for selection, with Mark Carson a late fitness check,” said Currie.

“However, we will be without Keith O’Hara, Jordan Lyttle, Brendan Shannon, Sean Mackle, Stephen Hughes and Mark McAllister.”

Cliftonville play host to Currie’s men aiming to add to an impressive home record and run of form against the Ports that marks 11 consecutive wins and as many clean sheets.

“We do not focus on head-to-head records to be honest but certainly the goal is to make the most of home advantage against any side,” said Cliftonville boss Gerard Lyttle. “Portadown worked really hard in Niall’s first match and I am sure we will have to work hard to get anything out of the weekend.

“We will go into the match prepared and ready for the challenge.

“We have been defensively sound this season, which is a credit to every player at the club.”