�Press Eye Ltd Northern Ireland - 10th March 2012'Mandatory Credit - Picture by Darren Kidd/Presseye.com ' 'Carling Premiership, Portadown v Cliftonville at Shamrock Park.' Cliftonville's Ryan Catney makes it 3-3

IT took some time to catch breath following Saturday’s Carling Premiership spectacular at Shamrock Park.

Six goals, two red cards and a classy hat-trick from Matthew Tipton provided the backdrop to this pulsating clash.

For the fans in the stands it was a rewarding day of thrilling action that left many in disbelief at the final whistle.

There were others who benefited from Saturday’s stalemate, not least Premiership leaders Linfield who saw their lead at the top extended to nine points.

Last week Blues boss David Jeffrey blasted those onlookers who dared to declare the title race over - but that debate is fast becoming redundant as Linfield edge towards a 51st Gibson Cup success.

And for Portadown’s hat-trick hero Tipton, the prospects of Jeffrey’s Blues capitulating are virtually nil.

“They are a good team and they are not going to drop enough points in the remaining seven games,” he said.

“We will try and battle on, but we have to be realistic and look at the facts. Linfield haven’t lost three games out of seven all season, and they are not going to do it now.

“We will wait and see what the split brings, but it is a big ask.”

The Ports withstood a barrage of pressure to suddenly find themselves two goals to the good on Saturday.

Tipton sent them into a 2-0 lead after only 15 minutes courtesy of two clinical headers.

Cliftonville thought they had clawed themselves back into the game in the 40th minute when Barry Johnston’s long-range effort spun off the post and appeared to cross the line - but referee Brian Turkington was not convinced.

Cliftonville responded with gusto after the break to draw themselves level.

Diarmuid O’Carroll volleyed a superb reply for the visitors in the 51st minute before Martin Donnelly tied the scores with a 71st-minute penalty.

Neil McCafferty brought down Ryan Catney inside the box, a challenge that earned the Ports midfielder a second yellow card from Turkington.

Ten-man Portadown then regained the lead with Tipton bagging his hat-trick goal five minutes later with another decisive finish, only for Catney to catch out Ports goalkeeper David Miskelly with a lobbed cross than nestled in the back of the net in the final minute.

Straight from the restart Tipton attempted an audacious effort from the centre circle that had Reds keeper John Connolly scrambling.

There was still time for Connolly to be sent off in injury time after the referee’s assistant adjudged the shot-stopper to have handled outside the box.

“We are disappointed. People want me to smile with the ball afterwards, and I do want to score goals. But at the end of the day we are a team and we want to win the league,” Tipton added.

“I think Cliftonville’s equaliser has knocked the stuffing out of us, and even the most optimistic of us now would say we are struggling.

“So the overriding feeling is of disappointment - it was a bittersweet moment scoring the hat-trick because we didn’t win the game.”

Cliftonville boss Tommy Breslin was left to rue two points dropped on Saturday.

He also conceded the title race was over.

“We are just playing to consolidate now. Linfield won so they are nine ahead of Portadown and 11 ahead of us,” he said.

“I have said it has been over for a while now. The title is Linfield’s to throw away and I will be surprised if they do.

“It was a good game with six goals and two red cards, but I thought on the balance of chances we should have won.

“We have to be a bit more clinical in front of goal.”

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