IRISH LEAGUE: Whyte slots home penalty as Crusaders seal narrow win over Portadown

Robert Garrett in action for Portadown during defeat by Crusaders. Pic by PressEye Ltd.
Robert Garrett in action for Portadown during defeat by Crusaders. Pic by PressEye Ltd.

Gavin Whtye’s second-half spot-kick success kept defending champions Crusaders on course for a third consecutive Danske Bank Premiership crown.

The battle between the league leaders and top-flight’s basement side left Portadown frustrated at a penalty kick awarded on 66 minutes after referee Arnold Hunter felt Ken Oman had fouled Jordan Owens.

The Crues converted to break the deadlock on an afternoon which featured a run of scoring opportunities for the visitors in the face of stubborn resistance by the home side struggling for a lifeline in the battle against relegation.

Portadown lacked a cutting edge to match Crusaders’ frontline threat but produced a spirited performance under interim boss Vinny Arkins that will offer encouragement to the home fans.

Paul Heatley was at the heart of Crusaders’ efforts to find the net from open play as the playmaker cleared the crossbar on a number of occasions and tested the home defence.

Owens provided a challenge to the Ports backline with his physical presence and forced goalkeeper Chris McGaughey into a string of saves during one close-range flurry inside the packed penalty area.

The Ports’ three-man backline of Oman, Alan Byrne and Keith O’Hara formed a resolute unit within the hosts’ hard-working performance.

Portadown’s best chance at grabbing a goal arrived when Aaron Haire picked up the ball wide on the left with goalkeeper Sean O’Neill racing out of his area. However, the shot was cleared by the recovering Colin Coates.

PORTADOWN: Chris McGaughey, Mark Carson, Ken Oman, Alan Byrne, Keith O’Hara, Matthew Parker, Robert Garrett, Niall Henderson, Brendan Shannon, Stephen Hughes, Aaron Haire. Subs: Garry Breen (Oman, 74), Sean Mackle (Henderson, 74), Eoin Kirwan (Shannon, 83), Zak Wilson, Conor Larkin.

CRUSADERS: Sean O’Neill, Billy Joe Burns, Howard Beverland, Colin Coates, Michael Carvill, Jordan Forsythe, Craig McLean, Jordan Owens, Richard Clarke, Paul Heatley, Gavin Whyte. Subs: Michael Gault (Clarke, 77), Andrew Mitchell, Marcio Soares, David Cushley (Heatley, 88), Michael Dougherty.

Referee: Arnold Hunter.