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Form and substance

Portadown’s recent form is all the evidence Paddy McLaughlin needs that Cliftonville will face a stern test in this evening’s Danske Bank Premiership encounter.

The Reds have failed to win inside 90 minutes on two previous visits to Shamrock Park this season, coming from behind to edge a League Cup encounter in extra-time before pocketing a late point on League duty, and the Manager expects an even tougher challenge on the back of the Ports’ upturn in fortunes.

After seeing off Warrenpoint Town at the end of February, Paul Doolin’s side have also got the better of both Ballymena United and Coleraine of late – without conceding a goal in the process – and, having been mired in automatic relegation worries as recently as a month ago, can climb out of the drop zone with a win tonight.

“They’ve done brilliantly since Dooler has gone in there,” says McLaughlin.

“Over the last few weeks, they’ve picked up some big points, especially at home. They are a tough side to crack at home, so we expect a tough game.

“Every game in this League is the same, there’s never really much between the sides. Just look at Linfield at Warrenpoint. It was a very difficult game and it looked as if they’d drop points but scored a late winner.

“We don’t expect anything different at Portadown, but we’re looking forward to it because we can’t wait to get back on the pitch as soon as we can after Friday night.”

In addition to the frustrations of their Samuel Gelston’s Whiskey Irish Cup semi-final defeat to Crusaders last time out, McLaughlin believes his players will have been heartened by the Red Army’s response at the final whistle.

The team were given a standing ovation at Windsor Park as supporters made clear their appreciation for the side’s efforts throughout the campaign, with the Manager observing it as a clear message that the fans will remain steadfast behind them for every step of the Premiership run-in.

“That was good to see but no surprise because it’s been like that all season long,” he adds.

“There’s been a good bond between the players and the fans, which has helped get us over the line so many times and which will be important for every single match as we move forward.

“The fans applauded the team off on Friday because they know they’ve been giving it everything all season long and they know the players will keep doing that game after game.”

Portadown v Cliftonville
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Under-16s: £5
Primary School: £1
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