How specialist insight helped Portadown rescue a point against Larne

Portadown boss Matthew Tipton rejects as ‘nonsense’ the suggestion of new-found freedom for his newly-promoted players - but, following rescue missions against high-flying Coleraine and Larne twice inside four days, is happy to highlight the discipline and desire on display.

The Ports have met Linfield, Coleraine and Larne since NIFL confirmed a null-and-void Championship season would result in the cancellation of Premiership relegation.

Following a loss to league leaders Linfield, the Ports have now battled back for back-to-back draws against two top-four teams inside four days.

And Lee Bonis’ late equaliser on Tuesday owes a debut to both discipline and desire.

Lee Bonis following his equaliser on Tuesday for Portadown against Larne. Pic by Pacemaker.

“As a former goalkeeper, Dave (Miskelly, assistant manager) is always studying that position and something he identified was an opportunity at times for a goalkeeper to react late on in a way he may not normally...and Lee’s goal was maybe an example,” said Tipton. “Goalkeepers at clubs used to dominating the ball and limiting chances can go long spells without being called into action and we feel it can then be worth sticking a ball into the box, especially late on, to see if a goalkeeper will make a decision under those circumstances he would not earlier on.

“In the Championship we displayed plenty of fight to grab late goals and that’s something they’ve carried into the Premiership.

“At a certain point, it comes down to those players out on the pitch to keep fighting and have that self-belief.

“Tuesday’s equaliser for Lee (pictured) was a reward for that desire but also the team keeping in mind the point about goalkeepers then executing it in the right way by having our goalkeeper take the initial free-kick that allowed us to push players further up the pitch and be in a position to ultimately put the right delivery into the right area and ask a question.”

Tipton is dismissive of the viewpoint his players, on a first season back within the top flight, now approach games with an altered mindset free from relegation fears.

“The players deserve credit for getting those results against Coleraine and Larne thanks to performances and it’s nonsense for anyone to think suddenly a switch gets flicked and they feel now relegation is off the table this season it’s simply a case of just going out and playing with so-called freedom,” said Tipton. “No-one here wants to lose any game once you step on to the pitch and face an opponent and if it just came down to freedom the truth is we would get cut open by any side.

“You must have discipline, especially against teams like Coleraine and Larne, so I can only repeat my message at the time of the NIFL news that nothing has changed for us in terms of how we approach games.

“The results from those past two games came down to the players showing the discipline to follow our instructions and, ultimately, the desire not to give up.

“Saturday’s equaliser against Coleraine came at the end of a move we work on and when we took the lead on Tuesday off Ben Guy in the 2-2 draw with Larne it was thanks, in part, to our training.

“Against Cliftonville this weekend we go in still aiming to transfer our preparations into the match towards getting a result....that motivation to win never changes for us.”

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