IRISH LEAGUE: Portadown boss Ronnie McFall believes victory against Crusaders could kick-start season

Portadown defeated Crusaders at Seaview on the opening day of the season
Portadown defeated Crusaders at Seaview on the opening day of the season

Ronnie McFall believes victory against Crusaders on Saturday could be the catalyst to kick-start Portadown’s season.

The Ports find themselves wedged in an ugly mire after 13 league games, with back-to-back 3-0 defeats – against Cliftonville and Ballinamallard United respectively – leaving the Shamrock Park outfit labouring in seventh spot in the table.

It has been a disappointing opening for a club that had designs on a genuine title tilt this term.

A mounting injury list has punctured any significant progress – a crisis that shows no signs of relenting as McFall prepares for the visit of the champions on Saturday.

Major doubts persist over strike trio Gary Twigg, Mark McAllister and Darren Murray (all hamstring), while Sean Mackle, Peter McMahon and Tim Mouncey are also unlikely to feature.

“I have always said that if we have key players fit then we will compete against anyone in this league,” McFall said.

“Last week we had Twigg and McMahon playing with injuries which isn’t ideal.

“Then Mackle picks up a hamstring injury.

“The injuries have been a major problem all season and we have had no respite. Ross Redman is about the only player who has remained fit throughout the games.

“I am confident we can start climbing the table, but we need those key players firing on all cylinders.

“If we start getting players back then we will be fine – no question about that.

“But we need fit players on the park.

“We just have to battle on through these injuries and try and stay as close as we can to the top teams. Then when we get players back we will be in a position to improve up the league.

“Any club would miss players of the quality we have injured at present.”

Victory against Crusaders would be a timely fillip for McFall as he looks to transform the club’s ailing fortunes.

The Shore Road visitors are on the rebound themselves following a surprise 2-0 defeat to Ballymena United in the County Antrim Shield on Tuesday night.

“Crusaders are a quality side. They are champions for a reason,” McFall added.

“They have so much quality and strength in depth. Stephen Baxter has done a great job in the length of time he has been there.

“They are joint top of the table so they are a formidable force.

“They might be out of two cup competitions, but they won’t be dwelling on that. They have too much quality.”

McFall will be hoping for a repeat of the victory Portadown enjoyed against the Crues on the opening day of the season when two Murray goals sealed a 2-1 win at Seaview.

“It was a good performance, and we need something similar on Saturday,” he added.

“The only difference is that we are missing some key players this time around.

“But if we can beat Crusaders then it would be a massive boost for the whole club. Confidence dips when you lose games, so this could galvanise the club.

“It is a massive challenge but it’s one I am relishing.”