Cliftonville 1 Portadown 2
TWO goals in the final six minutes earned Portadown a superb victory at Solitude on Friday night.
Trailing to a Marc Smyth strike, Ronnie McFall’s side drew level through Chris Casement before Gary Twigg’s injury-time conversion condemned the Champions to their first domestic home defeat in almost exactly a year.
Reds boss Tommy Breslin made just a single change to the team which overcame H&W Welders on League Cup duty on Monday night, with Jaimie McGovern coming in for Dermot McVeigh - who has joined Carrick Rangers on loan until January - while Liam Boyce recovered from the effects of a midweek illness to lead the line for a Reds side aiming to preserve their 100% start to the season.
Portadown had their usual wealth of injury woes to contend with as Keith O’Hara and Tim Mouncey once again sat out alongside long-term absentee Ross Redman but, buoyed by the attacking menace of Kevin Braniff, Gray Twigg and Darren Murray but it was Chris Ramsey - reprising an unfamiliar midfield role - who was first to try his luck with a rangy strike that brought a flying save out of Conor Devlin.
Cliftonville’s best opportunity of the first-half fell to Chris Curran, but his first-time strike from a Gormley lay-off was blocked by the legs of goalkeeper David Miskelly.
Those very same limbs came to the rescue again to repel a Gormley penalty after Curran had been felled inside the area but it wasn’t long before Smyth made the breakthrough with a smart finish from Martin Donnelly’s corner delivery.
The visitors always looked dangerous, however, and restored parity when Casement’s free-kick deceived a wrong-footed Devlin to set up a grandstand finale.
Both sides certainly went for it but it was the Ports who stole the points when, amid defensive hesitancy from the Reds, Twigg pounced to thunder home.
CLIFTONVILLE: Devlin, McGovern, R Scannell, Donnelly, McNeill, Smyth, Catney, Gormley, Curran, Cosgrove, Boyce. Subs: McNally, Caldwell, Garrett (for Boyce, 75 mins), O’Carroll (for Gormley, 83 mins), Seydak (for Scannell, 60 mins).
PORTADOWN: Miskelly, Casement, Ramsey, Breen, McMahon, Murray, Braniff, Black, Friars, Twigg, McCafferty. Subs: Brennan, Okunaiya, Rooney, Paget, McConnell.
REFEREE: Mervyn Smyth (Belfast)