Portadown simply had to win this one to stay in early touch – and they did it in style against a strangely out-of-sorts Crusaders.
A brace of goals from Mark McAllister was upstaged by man of the match Darren Murray – who scored the opener – and the Crues answered four minutes from time when Jordan Owens was one-on-one with keeper David Miskelly.
Miskelly and his counterpart Sean O’Neill showed real brilliance, and Crues boss Stephen Baxter said, “Had it not been for their brilliance, the number of goals could have been at least doubled.”
All the action was reserved for the second-half when all four goals hit the nets. Murray hit the opener three minutes after the break when he chested down a Tim Mouncey header and smashed in from the edge of the box.
Then he proceeded to the other end and headed a Paul Heatley snap-shot off his own line. But then came another turning point when Heatley was red-carded for elbowing Robert Garrett in the face and Crusaders never recovered from that.
McAllister hit his brace – the first from a long throw-in from all action Murray and the second when Murray jinked past three defenders and laid it on for the ex-Linfield man to crack home.
Crues boss Stephen was refreshingly honest when he conceded that the better team won, but added, “I have to as say that Paul (Heatley) acted rather stupidly and gave the ref no option. He allowed himself to be drawn into a reaction and paid the penalty. The Ports streamed forward after that and I gave Paul a flea in his ear.”
Portadown boss Ronnie McFall said, “We really had to win this one after just one victory from our first three matches and we did it comprehensively. The partnership of Murray-McAllister worked a treat.
“We have Gary Twigg still to come – he was out with a hamstring injury – so we’re well set, especially with Michael Gault keen to get into the side.”