Ballymena United’s stuttering Danske Bank Premiership form continued as they were beaten at Shamrock Park today.
The Sky Blues recent run in the league now stretches to just one win in seven league games after defeat in a game which featured eight yellow cards and two reds.
Manager Glenn Ferguson made two changes to his starting line-up from the previous week’s draw with Dungannon, with Alan Teggart and Kyle McVey coming into the starting line-up with Darren Boyce and Aaron Stewart dropping to the bench.
And one of those switches paid early dividends in an unexpected sense as defender McVey fired Ballymena into a 13th minute lead.
United were awarded a free kick on the right flank after Ross Redman had been booked for flattening Neal Gawley on the touchline.
David Cushley curled in the free kick and Kyle McVey guided a neat volley past motionless keeper David Miskelly from 14 yards.
Portadown almost got back level on 17 minutes when Sean Mackle tricked Tony Kane on Ballymena’s right flank. He stood up a cross to the back post which eluded Johnny Taylor but Gary Twigg’s goalbound header rebounded off the head of the unwitting Taylor.
Ballymena came close to doubling their advantage on 36 minutes when Gary Thompson burst forward from midfield and advanced several steps before firing a dipping shot from 25 yards which came back off the face of the crossbar and into the grateful arms of Miskelly.
At the other end, Tony Kane made a crucial clearance at the back post to head clear from a dangerous Murray cross.
Ballymena suffered a blow eight minutes into the second period when they lost defensive talisman Johnny Taylor to a red card.
Portadown played a long ball forward and Taylor appeared to block Darren Murray’s run on the edge of the centre circle. The striker would have had a long way to go to get through on goal so referee Keith Kennedy’s red card came as a surprise.
Ballymena’s response was to drop skipper Allan Jenkins back into the centre of defence and as Portadown mounted a number of attacks with an extra man, keeper Dwayne Nelson showed some confident handling skills to cut out several crosses.
Portadown’s numerical advantage was short-lived as the home side were also reduced to 10 men on 64 minutes when Robert Garrett was sent off for his second bookable offence, a foul on Cushley.
But Portadown were back level on 72 minutes when Mark McAllister’s cross from the right pinballed around the Ballymena penalty area before Peter McMahon steered a volley past Nelson.
The United keeper produced a vital save to maintain parity on 77 minutes when Murray broke Ballymena’s offside trap to race through one-on-one with Nelson but as he attempted to round the keeper, Nelson produced a vital block to deny the striker.
But the home side went in front on 82 minutes when Chris Casement’s cross from the right deflected off a United defender’s head and Gary Twigg was on hand to beat Nelson to the loose ball and nod home.
Ballymena had a chance to equalise shortly afterwards when substitute Darren Boyce was played in but Miskelly was quickly off his line to block the striker’s effort.
Portadown: Miskelly, Casement, O’Hara, Breen, Redman (sub Ramsey 75), Mackle (sub McAllister 61), Gault, Garrett, McMahon, Murray (sub Mouncey 81), Twigg. Subs (not used): Brennan, Conaty.
Ballymena United: Nelson, Kane, McVey, Taylor, McBride, Gawley (sub McCullagh 60), Thompson, Jenkins, Teggart (sub Stewart 60), Cushley (sub Boyce 75), Tipton. Subs (not used): Davidson, Ruddy.
Referee: Keith Kennedy (Lisburn).