Portadown manager Niall Currie has issued an apology to the club supporters - and warning to the players - following the latest promotion setback.
Saturday’s 1-0 defeat away to Ballyclare Comrades marked the fourth loss of the campaign to the same side and left Portadown seven points off a top-three spot.
Currie retains a belief in the ability of his squad to secure a promotion play-off position but only with a major improvement on a weekend display he described as “gutless” and “embarrassing”.
“I want to apologise to the supporters who gave us such wonderful backing last weekend and deserved far, far better than that gutless and embarrassing performance,” said Currie. “I accept the criticism from the fanbase and apologise for not clapping the supporters on my way off but, to be honest, I was ashamed and also only had my focus on getting back to the changing room to talk to the players.
“It was one of my lowest days in football as we failed to produce any kind of offensive response to falling a goal down to Ballyclare.
“The bare minimum fans deserve or desire is total commitment from the squad but that was absent last weekend.
“I have made it clear that most of those players will never get a better opportunity to play for a big club but can still get that top-three finish we need to stay in contention for promotion.
“I watch us in training and we look sensational but have to put that out on the pitch when it counts most.
“That top-three spot is still achievable but only if the players embrace the responsibility of the expectations.”
Currie accepts the potential cost of failing to secure an automatic return to the Danske Bank Premiership but insists his priority remains a return to the form which left Portadown with one defeat in 12 games ahead of last weekend’s Bluefin Sport Championship setback.
“I left Ards in the Premiership sitting on 20 or so points by the end of November, a tally some have either yet to meet or just hit in February this season,” said Currie. “But I wanted to manage Portadown then and I will keep my head down and continue to work hard on getting us towards what I still think is a realistic target.
“I’m no quitter but if the club decide to go in a different direction then there is nothing I can do about that choice.
“We accept draws are not good enough but still believe.
“The biggest frustration has been the injuries, with so many long-term problems costing us and people like Jamie Douglas and Stefan Lavery needed back as soon as possible.
“We lacked the ability to change the game offensively on Saturday, with a defender in Ross Larkin thrown up top late on.”
Portadown face Harland and Wolff Welders on Saturday from 3 o’clock at Shamrock Park.