Portadown supporters’ reaction suggests in unison with Paul Doolin squad verdict

Portadown’s difficult start to the Premiership season featured a fifth successive demoralising defeat on Saturday - but a first from the stands at the final whistle as widespread and warm applause offered praise for shoots of progress.

A first goal from open play left Portadown with the gap cut to 2-1 during a thrilling 30 minutes of football against Cliftonville.

The high-flying visitors finished with the same margin of victory after 90 minutes but Ports boss Paul Doolin could point to positives in the loss acknowledged by the home supporters.

The January appointment managed to guide Portadown to a relegation rescue mission last season but early results in his first full campaign would suggest another year fighting the drop.

Portadown manager Paul Doolin following the final whistle last Saturday at Shamrock Park against Cliftonville. Pic by Pacemaker.

However, Doolin shared the view from the stands that Saturday’s display offered evidence of forward steps towards a first point.

“No-one likes to lose...all-in-all, there were a lot of things to be positive about and I think it’s the best that I’ve seen us playing since I’ve been involved,” said Doolin. “I thought we were outstanding (after Cliftonville’s second goal) but probably just don’t have that striker to finish those chances.

“You think back to a midweek game here last year and we never really were able to compete with them but I thought today we were really good.

“We scored a great goal and were unlucky.

“We’ve still new players coming off the bench today - in general, anyone that played I thought was outstanding.

“I thought our build-up play was so good and our defending great.

“They’re good but we looked today like we’ve come on.

“With so many new players still in the group, it’s about trying to get that team (cohesion).

“We had a strong bench too, which makes a difference.

“People will say we’ve lost but, for us, we’ve got to try and take that (performance) into Carrick next and beyond.

“When you look at the back four - Jason (Akiotu) was very good today but still possibly not 100 per cent right from his groin injury.

“Lee (Upton) has moved to the left (centre-back) and looks better on that side and it gives Paddy (McNally) that opportunity on his natural side.

“Stephen (Teggart) was good again at right-back.

“In the middle you’ve Leo (Donnellan), Mark (Russell) is a really good player...Jordan (Jenkins) is getting a little more (adjusted) and Oisin (Conaty) up top against Glentoran last week was very good and again tonight, without that experience of someone like Cliftonville and Joe Gormley coming off the bench.

“They had chances in the second half, Jethren (Barr) made a great save and there was a goal-saving tackle by Tumelo Tlou, another decent signing as a natural right-back.

“We’ve played five and not won and no points...but that was the best we’ve played and looked physically.”