Portadown: Matthew Tipton to let players ‘off the leash’ for Championship promotion run-in

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Portadown, having had to wait three weeks for Saturday’s Dundela date, will now be ‘let off the leash’ by manager Matthew Tipton.

Promotion-chasing Ports trail second-place Carrick Rangers by seven points entering the closing five games of the Bluefin Sport Championship campaign.

A battle with Dundela tomorrow (Saturday) could help push the Ports one step closer towards cementing a top-three position - or hand the weekend hosts the crucial initiative.

With three points the gap and both clubs having played one gamer fewer than Carrick, the stakes prove high ahead of Saturday’s visit to Wilgar Park.

Tipton has spent the past few weeks tweaking training to legislate for blank matchdays as a result of weather issues and Declan Dunne’s call-up to Northern Ireland under 21s but is counting down the days until sending out his squad for the crunch clash.

“You can see the hunger in the players, especially after having to sit back and see other games take place and the league table change a bit since our last game,” said Tipton. “With just five games left it is time to let the players off the leash.

“We are in the right mindset and have the physical and tactical strengths to push on over this run-in.

“With Carrick recently getting the win over Larne, this game takes on even greater importance than when originally scheduled.

“Our goal is to chase down Carrick - that is the focus for the final fixtures over looking to just cement the gap on Dundela.

“This squad has the drive needed for what lies ahead so it is about moving forward, not looking back.

“Our training sessions had been planned out in advance of the Dundela game, so we had to rethink and rejig to keep everyone fresh.

“But the players have been brilliant and approached every session and the whole situation with a great determination.”

Tipton feels January arrivals have increased both the defensive stability and attacking energy across the Ports squad.

“We felt we had the right physicality at the start of the season but, for whatever reason, it never quite clicked,” said Tipton. “But I look at this current squad and feel it is suited to going out with that real drive and desire.

“My starting side stays the same as originally settled but the substitutes’ bench will probably change based on what I’ve seen in training and the reserves’ games over the past few weeks.”

Kick-off will be 3 o’clock.

Supporters’ club will be operating transport to Dundela as follows: OFFICIAL TRAVEL CLUB: Shamrock Park 1.30, JD Tipler’s 1.45; SHAMROCK REDS: Shamrock Park 1.45; RICHHILL REDS: Village square 1.30.