IRISH LEAGUE: Carrick and Portadown draw in basement battle
Wild celebrations on 82 minutes gave way to a sense of frustration at the final whistle for Portadown in the basement battle with Carrick Rangers.
Rangers entered the weekend tussle holding a 10-point advantage over bottom-placed Portadown in the Danske Bank Premierships standings.
The hosts’ position gained a boost just after the hour mark thanks to Adam Salley’s clever footwork inside the area and a finish inside the near post.
The Ports hit back to grab a share of the spoils when substitute Eoin Kirwan made his mark within three minutes of joining play with a bouncing half-volley hit that found the top corner.
The high stakes led to calls during the week for Portadown fans to turn out in numbers and the away support proved vocal across the 1-1 draw.
However, the post-match reaction proved reflective rather than raucous as Portadown took satisfaction from managing to rescue a draw but disappointment at failure to capitalise on superior possession.
“We are disappointed to only be coming away with a point,” said Portadown interim manager Vinny Arkins. “Over the 90 minutes we probably deserved to win it, although it goes back to the old thing of having possession but not turning it into chances.
“Then we get caught by a sucker-punch, although in fairness the lad has done well to jink inside and outside.
“He’s probably not hit it cleanly but it has gone into the back of the net.
“I’m glad for young Eoin to come on and score his first league goal for the club.
“We are all working for the same goal and realise the situation the club is in.
“We showed today we came with the attitude of trying to win games and we need to work on our play in front of goal.
“It was a big game but it’s good we are disappointed we only got a point, it shows we are moving in the right direction.
“You have to keep believing if you get into those positions you will score.
“The first 25 minutes included probably the best football we have played all season but there has to be something at the end of it.”
Carrick Rangers manager Aaron Callaghan proved pleased with a point three days after the club’s League Cup quarter-final success.
“Portadown’s shape caused us a few problems but we changed our shape and matched them up,” he said. “We were the better side for 20 minutes in the second half, the goal gave us some impetus.
“We gained a point on our nearest rivals, there was a quick turnover between games as they didn’t play during the week but we did, so there was a concern over that coming in about fatigue.
“Ideally, we would have been able to get our ice baths and cool downs after the midweek cup match but we had to do that on Thursday but then couldn’t do the training on the Friday so close to the game.
“It was important not to give Portadown any momentum.
“It was a fantastic individual goal by Adam when he was running, taking people on.
“I don’t think there were that many chances, I don’t think Brian Neeson had too many saves.
“Fitness levels have been poor and in order to compete at this level you need the players to be in tip-top shape.
“All-in-all it has been a good week, into the semi-final of a cup and a good point.
“I see it as a valuable point.
“It’s trying to build on the momentum and fitness”
CARRICK RANGERS: Neeson, Chapman, Hanley (Kelly, 63), Surgenor, M.Murray (Wilson, 83), Rice, TJ.Murray, McCullough, McNally, Salley (Morrow, 69), McNicholl.
Subs not used: Taggart, Lavery.
PORTADOWN: McGaughey, Carson, O’Hara, Breen, Byrne, Henderson (Mackle, 69), Garrett, Shannon, Parker (Kirwan, 79), Haire, Hughes.
Subs not used: Larkin, Simpson, Wilson.
Referee: Keith Kennedy.