Just when Portadown fans thought it was safe to come out from behind the sofa, it seems the club have committed an almighty Halloween howler.
The Shamrock Park club produced a wicked display on Saturday afternoon, with Robert Garrett, Stephen Hughes and Brendan Shannon all scoring in a 3-1 win over Ards.
However, the club received a fright after the game when the media queried whether midfielder Garrett should have participated in the crucial Danske Bank Premiership fixture.
According to the suspension sheet on the Irish FA’s website Garrett was due to serve a one-match ban for collecting five booking, commencing on Monday, October 24. As this was Portadown’s first competitive game since that date, Garrett should have played no part in the Ards game.
Incredibly, the catastrophe could have been averted if Portadown had listened to their visitors. The Ards coaching staff told their counterparts at 1.30pm that they believed Garrett was suspended. Portadown’s caretaker manager Vinny Arkins then asked club officials to clarify the situation and they assured him that his suspension was not due to begin until the following Monday. Following the game, Arkins explained, “I asked the club before the game because somebody from Ards had said they thought he was suspended.
“I was told that Robbie’s suspension would start on the first Monday, 14 days after he received his fifth booking. That’s the Monday after the Ards game.
“I clarified it with the club that he was free to play, so if an error has been made it’s not an error on my side. That’s why people at the club have their jobs.
“I didn’t think of taking him out of the team because I believed what I was told.”
Unfortunately for Arkins and his players, it seems Portadown officials were reading an outdated version of the IFA’s rulebook.
Suspensions used to commence on the first Monday, 14 days after the fifth booking was issued. However, the rules were altered in the summer. Now, suspensions start on the first Monday, seven days after the final booking. All clubs were informed of the rule changes.
Also, the rules state that club must refer to Irish FA’s website for clarification.
Article 15.5 of the Disciplinary Code states, “Suspensions will be published weekly on the Irish Football Association website (“the Suspension List”) at the latest by every Friday afternoon of the season and clubs shall be obliged to refer to the website for this information.
“Clubs shall be wholly responsible for ensuring that suspensions are served. It is each club’s responsibility to ensure the eligibility of their players for any match.”
The Irish FA are likely to investigate the incident this week, with Ards hopeful that will be awarded a 3-0 win.
The timing of the Garrett incident could not have been worse for the Portadown board, coming in the same month as confirmation of their 12 point deduction for making undisclosed payments to players and the departure of respected manager Pat McGibbon.
Supporters of the crisis-struck Mid-Ulster club must be left wondering what the future holds for the once proud Shamrock Park club.