Portadown boss Ronnie McFall happy with attacking options

Portadown's Darren Murray
Portadown's Darren Murray

Portadown manager Ronnie McFall has a striking problem – but it isn’t costing him a minute’s sleep.

The Ports traditionally play a 4-4-2 system, and it crushed Crusaders on Saturday. The two up front – Darren Murray and Mark McAllister – were the chief architects of this stunning win.

Murray hit a great opener and set up the other two for ex-Blues man McAllister with whom he has struck up an instant, almost telepathic, rapport.

Trouble is, the third man of the Ports potent striking force, Gary Twigg, was out injured on Saturday and McFall must be wondering which duo to use as the season progresses.

For when the three are up front together, they don’t really hit it off.

McFall reflected: “Yes – it’s a good problem to have. The partnership of Murray-McAllister worked a treat on Saturday and Gary is out for a week or two with a hamstring injury. I’ll face it when he’s fit, but you need that sort of in-depth quality for a long league programme, what with injuries and suspensions.

“And another new signing, midfielder Michael Gault, will be ready soon so there’ll be plenty of competition for places.”

Portadown walked this one, and Crues boss Stephen Baxter was brutally honest in his assessment.

“We were beaten by a better side. I’m not happy with our performance, especially at Paul Heatley for getting himself sent off with a silly reaction when he lashed out (58 minutes when the Ports led 1-0).

“I’ve given him a flea in his ear and he’ll learn.

“He was drawn into that one and he realises he was stupid. The ref had no option, and Paul – who’s such a nice lad off the field – is gutted that he let the side down.”

All the action came in the second-half, with Murray opening the scoring on 48 minutes when nothing seemed on.

He spun on a Tim Mouncey header, chested the ball down, and lashed home from 15 yards.

After the Heaney red mist, Murray turned provider, firstly with a long throw-in to McAllister who swept aside a David Magowan challenge to rifle home.

Then, for the third, Murray beat three men on the left, squared to a perfectly-positioned McAllister and he slammed it past keeper Sean O’Neill from the edge of the ‘box’.

Crusaders’ staged a late riposte, with sub Joshua Jordan Owens pulling one back on 86 minutes and his fellow stand-in Gary McCutcheon hitting a volley which David Miskelly saved superbly to his right.

A decisive day for Portadown. But when his three strikers are fully fit, McFall will have a tough decision to make.

All three played against Ballymena in the previous week’s 3-2 poor-show reversal at the Showgrounds – and they never really gelled.