Larne: David McDaid free-kick hands leaders victory over battling Portadown

Portadown manager Matthew Tipton.
Portadown manager Matthew Tipton.

Larne left Shamrock Park with three points and one more step towards title glory thanks to a 2-1 victory over Portadown following a thrilling, flowing encounter.

Chris Ramsey and David McDaid sent league leaders Larne clear by 2-0 before a late Portadown fightback featured Adam Salley on target.

Larne boss Tiernan Lynch. Pic by Pacemaker.

Larne boss Tiernan Lynch. Pic by Pacemaker.

Portadown enjoyed early pressure in the clash of the Irish League second-tier’s top two sides.

A sweeping pass from outside his own area by centre-back Ross Larkin found Chris Lavery in space on the left wing, with the first cross half-cleared but the move eventually ending with Salley attacking Kevin Braniff’s downward header but goalkeeper Conor Devlin making a key punch.

Ben Tilney’s driving run along the left created problems for the Ports and he cut inside to find McDaid, with the striker’s touch towards Martin Donnelly curled goalwards but collected by Declan Dunne.

Tilney combined with his wing-back colleague Tomas Cosgrove soon after as a cross across the face of goal from left to right was fed back into the danger area and Donnelly controlled on the turn but Portadown produced a block.

Paddy McNally’s sliding challenge prevented Salley from meeting Jerry Thompson’s angled ball into the box as both sets of players managed to maintain the high tempo.

Liam McKenna’s searching free-kick to the back post was steered back by Aaron Duke but Larne managed to block Lavery’s shot.

Larkin then stepped in with a key block to deny McDaid following a Lee Lynch cutback.

The final talking point of the half featured a smart save by Dunne to push away Liam Hassin’s long-range shot.

The first sight of goal in the second half was a drive from distance - on this occasion it was Devlin who had to get behind Braniff’s attempt.

Larne broke the deadlock on 54 minutes off former Ports player Ramsey with a close-range finish after Lynch’s corner-kick ended with Dunne making an initial save but the centre-back reacted first to the loose ball.

Portadown carved out a golden opportunity to equalise when Gregg Hall’s ball was met on the run by the unmarked Duke but his sidefoot shot dropped the wrong side of the post.

Tilney and Lynch linked up around the Ports penalty area to carve out an opening for McDaid but Dunne dropped low to save.

A measured sliderule pass by Braniff found the path of Salley’s run inside the box but he was unable to direct his effort wide of Devlin.

McDaid cemented Larne’s lead with a stunning curling free-kick from distance that nestled in the top corner beyond the reach of a diving Dunne.

Portadown produced a rapid response as Salley popped up to find the net after Devlin stopped McKenna’s initial shot.

McKenna then cleared the crossbar with a looping header following Duke’s dangerous deep throw-in.

Salley came close to an equaliser moments later when the forward showed strength and pace to move clear of the Larne defence but Devlin pulled off the save.

PORTADOWN: Dunne, McCallum, Larkin, Lavery (Carmichael, 66), Salley, Braniff, Duke, Hall, Thompson, Wilson, McKenna.

Subs (not used): Murphy, Carson, Neill, Bradley.

LARNE: Devlin, Sule, Ramsey, Kelly, McDaid, Donnelly (Igiehon, 76), Tilney (Tear, 72), Lynch, Hassin (Stuart, 89), McNally, Cosgrove.

Subs (not used): Dougherty, Stewart.

Referee: Christopher Morrison.