Portadown’s Mark McAllister believes his team have a massive incentive ahead of Saturday’s Irish Cup clash with Ballymena United at The Oval.
It all went wrong for Ronnie McFall’s side in last weekend’s league outing against Dungannon Swifts when the influential Robbie Garrett and talismanic defender Chris Casement were dismissed in a crazy final 60 seconds.
But McAllister, who joined the Ports form Linfield last summer, insists everyone will be “busting a gut” to reach the final for the two boys who will be sitting in the grandstand.
“You couldn’t have written the script, having both players red carded with only seconds remaining,” said McAllister.
“If anything, it will make us even more determined to reach the final.
“Both players have been such an influence this season. Robbie has really found his best form again, while I regard Chris as the best right back in the league.
“He’ll really be missed for his set pieces. We know when we get a free kick 25 or 30 yards from goal, Chris will be odds on to hit the target. He’s scored some vital goals this season.
“But we have a great belief in the squad. We know Ballymena have a big reputation in cup competitions. They seem to reserve their best form for knockout tournaments.
“We know we’ll need to be at our best. But we all desperately want to reach the final.
“It’s the biggest day of the season – one that everyone looks forward to.”
McAllister will almost certainly be handed a starting slot even though he has just recovered from a hamstring problem.
“I sustained the injury against Cliftonville three or four weeks back,” he added.
“I came on for the second half against Dungannon last week and that was my first decent run out.
“Unfortunately, it wasn’t a great game for my return. They made it difficult for us and there wasn’t much of a chance of getting any rhythm going – it was scrappy.”
McAllister has great memories of the Irish Cup from his days at Windsor Park.
“I was lucky enough to win it three times at Linfield,” he recalls.
“I also scored three goals in those victories which made it even more memorable.
“Of course, I was in the Dungannon team that lost to Linfield in the final a few years back. It was my miss from the penalty shoot-out that cost us, so I’ve sampled the disappointment as well.
“Hopefully, there will be none of that on Saturday night.
“Portadown are a big club and they haven’t won the cup for 10 years. It would be great to reach the final for officials, supporters and for the big man, Ronnie McFall.”