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Football: Reds show they have great Ville after comeback; CARNEGIE IRISH LEAGUE: Portadown 2 Cliftonville 2, Shamrock Pk PORTS MISS OUT ON JOINT-TOP.

Byline: Darren FULLERTON

PORTADOWN spurned the chance to go joint top of the Carnegie Premier Division after surrendering a comfortable 2-0 lead to a resurgent Cliftonville at Shamrock Park.

Allan Smart, the hero of Saturday's dramatic 3-2 win at The Oval, put the Ports in the box-seat with two headed goals in the first-half.

But Cliftonville hit back in the second period with a goal from John O'Loughlin and an eye-catching strike from raiding full-back Ronan Scannell.

The tale of two halves left both managers conceding disappointment at sharing the spoils.

Ports boss Ronnie McFall was fuming at throwing away a winning position, while Reds chief Eddie Patterson was rueing several missed chances to win the game in the second period.

Patterson said: "At half-time I questioned the players' commitment and pride in their jersey.

"But in the second period they came out and showed real character. We clawed our way back with some superb football and I am disappointed we didn't win the game.

"Kevin Pressman made a couple of top saves to deny us the win, but I have to be happy at the way we fought back from two goals down."

McFall was haunted by similar frustration as Portadown failed to secure the win they needed to go second on goal difference behind Glentoran, who play Ballymena United tonight.

The Ports boss was also rueing a hamstring injury that cost him the services of Michael Collins at halftime.

"Losing Collins was a major blow," said McFall. "We were coasting at 2- 0, but in the second half we didn't turn up.

"Cliftonville are the best football team we've played this season, but I'm disappointed because it was a missed opportunity for us to put pressure on the top of the table."

McFall also claimed he was forced to withdraw goal hero Smart after referee Adrian McCourt warned the Scot he would be sent off if he committed an-other foul.

"Allan was already on a yellow and the referee told him he would go after one more foul," said McFall. "I had no choice but to take Smart off and that helped turn the game because he was causing them problems."

Smart had gifted Portadown a two-goal lead by the 24th minute with his seventh and eighth goals of the season.

The first arrived in the fourth minute when the former Oldham striker headed home Peter Kennedy's free-kick.

He made it 2-0 with an- other close-range header following good work from Convery.

Squeezed in between those two goals, Convery headed home Marc McCann's set-piece, only for referee McCourt to rule the 'goal' out for for pushing.

A resilient Cliftonville were back in the game nine minutes after the break.

Scannell raced to the bye-line and his drilled cross was met by O'Loughlin, who fired home from close range.

Former Sheffield Wednesday keeper Pressman then came to Portadown's rescue on the hour mark with a wonderful save to deny Gary Kennedy's powerful header.

But there was little Pressman could do about Cliftonville's equaliser in the 72nd minute, Scannell's shot curling inside the far post after the keeper had saved O'Loughlin's initial drive.

Pressman also spread himself to block George McMullan, Downey grazed the upright with a spectacular volley and the Ports keeper saved superbly from O'Loughlin in a one-onone as time ran out.

PORTADOWN: Pressman, Craig, O''Hara, McStay, Convery, McCann (Baker 87), Teggart, Smart (Braniff 59), McCutcheon, Kennedy, Collins (Marks 46).

CLIFTONVILLE: Connolly, Fleming, R Scannell, Johnston, O''Hara, McAlinden, M Hol - land, McMullan, O''Loughlin (Friars 88), Downey, Kennedy. Subs not used: Cleary, B Holland.


PORTS TUSSLE: Mark Holland tackles Portadown's Alan Teggart yesterday' FRUSTRATION: Ronnie McFall
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Jan 2, 2007
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