Portadown get some help to fend off Annagh and retain Irish Premiership spot

Mission accomplished for Paul Doolin.

rough at Portadown in late January on a mission to save the club from a second relegation in five years, his side finished the job with a stark but delightful 1-0 win over neighbors Annagh United to win their play-off 4-2 in total .

After 88 minutes of nerve-wracking football, it took an own goal from Annagh’s Lee Upton two minutes from time to separate the teams.

Ports opened the doors to the game, with free entry leading to an almost full house.

Those who came hoping for more entertainment after Tuesday’s thrilling first leg, which swung first to Portadown and then Annagh before the Ports won 3-2, were largely disappointed.

If that match looked like a cup tie with thrills and five goals, this one felt more like a cup final. Tight and wary, it was as if the teams felt each other rather than having met 72 hours earlier.

Apart from a shot from Oisin Conaty which Annagh keeper Eoin Hughes handled comfortably and Adam Salley who failed to control Josh Doherty’s cross when he might have only had the keeper to beat, it was a largely uneventful opening period.

With the one-goal lead from the first leg probably suited Portadown better, but little by little Annagh offered a threat. Indeed, Peter Duffin had the ball in the net in the 25th minute, but he had moved away from offside as he took possession.

Finally, a great opportunity to score presented itself just before half-time. Annagh won the ball deep in the Portadown half which allowed Ryan Harpur to find Stephen Murray on the right and his shot across goal flew just inches from the post.

An hour into the game, the large crowd was still waiting for either goalkeeper to make a meaningful save. Perhaps fed up with a lack of action, Hughes moved off his line to meet a clearance 30 yards from goal but only headed as far as Conaty. He took a chance with the unguarded goal, but sent an effort 35 yards wide.

Salley fired into the arms of the keeper from range and on the other end Craig Taylor sent a speculative ladle over the bar, but there was still nothing more than half chances at best.

Portadown had a great chance to secure the tie 13 minutes from time after Conaty sent the ball low just past goal but substitute Jack Smith just couldn’t connect as he ran from the left.

It was the Ports heart that was in their mouths just a moment later as Annagh thought they had scored a crucial goal to equalise.

Jordan Campbell sent home a header from Taylor’s corner, but before the celebrations could even begin, referee Shane Andrews had whistled to rule out the goal for an infringement at the edge of the penalty area.

After 87 minutes of waiting, the ball finally hit the net and Portadown’s top-flight status was assured.

Stephen Teggart, who scored a sweet equalizer in the first leg, worked his way into the penalty area superbly and his ball driven through goal ended up in Upton’s net as Salley pressured from behind .

It’s hard work for Doolin and the Ports, and they won’t care about entertainment – or lack thereof.

PORTADOWN: Barr, Hall (Finnegan 65), Beverland, McNally, Ruddy, Conaty, Teggart, Mashigo, Doherty (Smith 76), Stedman, Salley.

Unused Subs: Burns, McCallum, Finnegan, Tipton, Anderson, Rutkowski.

ANNAGH UNITED: Hughes, McCullough, Upton, Campbell, Rogers, Moffat (Malone 89), Harpur, Norton (Hunter 64), Murray, Duffin (Carroll 76), Taylor. Unused subtitles: Cusack, McConville, McKinney, Kerr.

Referee: Shane Andrews (Comber)

Man of the Match: Howard Beverly

Match rating: 4/10

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