North Down entertained Portadown at Comber Leisure Centre last Saturday in a fixture neither team could afford to lose as both attempt to catch league pace setters Newry. North Down were without a number of regulars and their defensive reserves were further stretched to the full when Paul Adgey appeared to break a finger just before half time.
It was Portadown who held the upper hand early on but play was mainly confined to midfield. After 15 minutes Portadown attacked down the right and poor tackling allowed them to play the ball back to mid circle where Neil Gilmore had the simple task of hitting into the net. Neither side was able to dominate but it was Portadown who stretched their lead when Adgey was unlucky to concede a corner .The Portadown routine worked and Stephen Johnston beat Gareth McBride with a weak shot. Half time arrived with North Down failing to threaten the Portadown goal and the visitors comfortable at 2-0..
A stern half time team talk saw a different home team appear in the second period. Ross Linter made a penetrating run into the Portadown circle after 5 minutes and slipped the ball to Tom Donnan who expertly beat Jamie Knipe with a flick which went in off the post. North Down were piling on the pressure and gaps started to appear in the Portadown defence. They won a shot corner which David Shepherd blasted onto the post and Donnan scored the rebound only to realise the umpire had blown his whistle for an infringement. Justice was done when Shepherd equalised from the resulting corner with a well directed flick. Mark Forrest made space on the left and smashed a harmless looking cross into the circle but the normally reliable Knipe deflected the ball into the net off his kicker to give North Down a 3-2 lead.
Portadown did not lie down and enjoyed a spell of pressure winning a number of corners but McBride kept their attempts out. With 10 minutes remaining Andy Forrest drove into the 25 and crossed for Stevie Dalzell to deflect home the vital fourth goal. North Down were then able to run the clock down to claim a hard fought victory and will now travel to Newry this Saturday in confident mood for a fixture which is likely to determine this seasons league champions.
All in all, and despite testing weather conditions, this was a very enjoyable game played in a good spirit and umpired very efficiently by umpires McGoldrick and Wray.