After watching Glentoran reach the top of the Danske Bank Premiership last Saturday against Institute (my match report from that game can be viewed by clicking here), this week I am dropping down a division, to the Bluefin Sport Championship to watch second-from-bottom Dergview entertain the league leaders Portadown at Darragh Park, with this being the Castlederg side’s first home match in two months. Portadown will look to build on their six-point lead at the top, while Dergview have three games in hand over PSNI in tenth, so three points here will go a long way in ensuring they can break out of the relegation zone once they have caught up with their other matches.

Both sides looking to get back to winning ways at Darragh Park

After Dergview had their last home game against Dundela postponed due to a waterlogged pitch, Dergview took the 75-mile trip to Dixon Park as they faced Ballyclare Comrades, with the hosts getting the better of Dergview, beating them 2-0. Portadown faced Ballinamallard last time out in a top of the table clash, with the points being shared as the game ended in a dramatic 3-3 draw. Portadown went 2-0 up with two goals from Adam Salley being cancelled out by McCartney and Smyth before Kelly put Ballinamallard in the lead in the 83rd minute. Portadown then scored a dramatic last-minute equaliser, thanks to captain Luke Wilson.

The league table before kick-off

Both sides bring in players, but Portadown lose Goalkeeper to the MLS

Dergview have been busy recently in the transfer market, signing Stephen Curry from Institute, Limavady United forward Sean McCarron, and Emmett McNabb from Tummery. All three players made their debuts in Dergview’s last game against Ballyclare Comrades, with the trio being put straight into the starting XI.

Portadown’s biggest signing in the January transfer window is probably their manager Matthew Tipton agreeing to a three-year extension to his contract with the club, along with bringing in Glenavon forward Stephen Murray on loan from Glenavon, who played for the club last time out against Ballinamallard. The Port’s have lost goalkeeper Bobby Edwards to the MLS in the USA, with the American moving to FC Cincinnati.

Sproule calls on players to take advantage of the pressure, while Tipton says title race is not over yet  

Dergview manager Ivan Sproule spoke to the Strabane Chronicle about how he wanted his players to take advantage of the pressure that is being put on them being at the wrong end of the table, “Feeling sorry is not going to get us out of a relegation battle. We need to win a game of football and we’ll be going out to beat Portadown on Saturday. Portadown are top of the league and a million miles away from where we are at at the moment as a team, but we have to be collectively strong and give a good account of ourselves. If we can take the chances that we missed last week at key times, then we will give ourselves a better chance of going on to win and pick up three points.

Portadown manager spoke to the Newsletter, claiming how his team must not think that the title race is over, “We might still have the best defensive record in the division but, after conceding five goals in the past two games, we want to get back to keeping clean sheets. We will always respect the opposition but want to go into games with the intensity of our own performance from the first whistle and keep it going. We have 13 games left and 25 gone so the finish line is not in sight yet.

Mangers make one change a piece in their starting XI

Ivan Sproule has gone with a similar side to the game against Ballyclare, with only one change in his starting XI as Matthew Callaghan replaced Adam Buchanan in midfield. For Portadown, Matthew Tipton dropped his son to the bench in favour of Lee Bonis.

Dergview Starting XI:

Portadown Starting XI:

First Half – Competitive but no clear-cut chances

The game started with Portadown putting early pressure on the Dergview backline, with a shot from Murray going over after he couldn’t get the ball in the position he wanted after being caught under his feet. Portadown continued putting the pressure on the Derg box with Bonis forcing the Dergview keeper Buchanan into a save after only four minutes, diving low to his right-hand side.

Dergview had their first attack of the game in the 5th minute of play, but the ball rolled through to Devine in the Portadown net. The Castlederg side continued putting the pressure on Portadown with Callaghan displaying his skill, being brought down and giving Dergview a free-kick just over the half-way line. The goal was cleared out for a corner, but Dergview failed to capitalise on this with the visitors clearing the ball downfield.

Callaghan hit the side netting for Dergview just a minute later, with a powerful shot from the right-hand side of the pitch almost forcing Devine into a save. Dergview were through on goal with Paul Smith after a Portadown defender miss kicked the ball, but some great tracking ball ensured that nothing came from the chance.

Portadown had a chance in the 11th minute of play with Murray playing a great ball out to the right-hand side where a cross from Bonis drifted onto the top of the net. Portadown had two chances to go 1-0 up around the 20th minute when shots from Salley were blocked from the edge of the box. Another ball came into Dergview box, with the keeper getting a hold of the ball after a goalmouth scramble. Dergview were able to counter from this, winning a free kick in their final third. McNabb was the taker, with his shot being blocked and deflecting out to Smith who squared it across to Stephen Curry whose shot was saved by Devine.

Just before the half-hour mark Portadown had a corner, which was cleared by the Derg defence, before a cross from the right-hand side being collected by Buchanan. Smith displayed some great control on the halfway line before the ball was intercepted with the resulting pass. The first half fizzled out with still no major clear-cut chances for either side, only one minute of added time was played, and that brought the first half to a close.

Half Time Score – Dergview 0 Portadown 0

Half Time Thoughts – Competitive, but no clear-cut chances

The first half was competitive, but not much else. Both sides struggled to get a hold of the game, with neither side being able to settle into a rhythm. Dergview played a ‘scrappy’ style of football, clearing the ball at every opportunity although they did show glimpses of quality. Portadown had the greater share of the ball but didn’t make the Dergview keeper work in the way their position of the league would suggest.

Second Half – Dergview not following the script

The second half kicked off in similar fashion to the first with the league leaders putting pressure on the relegation contender’s backline. The Port’s had a free kick in the 46th minute, but the resulting cross went over the line for a goal kick. A minute later Portadown had a corner, but this drifted out of play uncontested for a goal kick. Portadown continued to have a multitude of shots blocked or saved by Dergview before the hour mark of the match.

But despite the dominance from Portadown, it was Dergview who found themselves 1-0 up. It was a result of a stunning free-kick from former Institute forward Paul Smith from outside the box, swerving from right to left and catching the keeper off guard.

The hosts used the momentum to launch more attacks on the league leader’s backline, with a header going wide. The Castlederg side also had a shot cleared off the line, with the ball only going as far as Smith whose resulting shot was blocked by the Portadown defence. Dergview were then called offside, ending their period of domination for now.

Portadown started to get back into the game forcing the Dergview goalkeeper into dropping the ball back into the danger area but quickly gathered it back in. The first substitution of the game came in the 66th minute with Conall McGrandles coming on to the pitch to replace Liam McKenna for Portadown.

Portadown had a great opportunity through Lavery down the left-hand side, cutting back to his right foot but the shot was weak and didn’t trouble to Dergview keeper. Portadown then made their second substitution of the match, Callum Ferris coming to the pitch replacing Murray. While the Portadown substitutes were settling into the game, Smith continued to show his class, dropping deep and controlling the ball brilliantly.

Dergview found themselves 2-0 thanks to a fantastic run from the left-hand side of the pitch by former Limavady United forward Sean McCarron, running down the left touchline, cutting back and firing it low into the far-right corner of the net, giving Dergview a surprise 2-0 lead against the league leaders.

Portadown made their final substitution of the match, with George Tipton replacing Christopher Crane. Dergview also made a change, with Damien McNulty coming on to the pitch to replace the injured Buchannan.

Dergview then found themselves 3-0 up with Matthew Callaghan tapping in a cross from Smith after he made a terrific run down the right-hand side, giving the Derg a comfortable lead with only four minutes left. Gareth Doherty came on to replace goalscorer Callaghan in the 87th minute, with Dergview looking very comfortable.

Lee Bonis got a goal back for the Port’s in the 90th minute, but this was nothing more than a consolation after he slotted the ball in the bottom right corner of the net. Dergview then made a defensive change with Paul Smith being replaced by Adam Buchanan. The referee’s whistle brought the tie to an end, with Dergview getting a crucial three points and Portadown seeing their lead at the top being cut to five points after Ballinamallards draw against Ards

Final Score: Dergview 3 Portadown 1

Full-Time Thoughts – Dergview a different side after going in front

Until the Dergview opener, Portadown looked the stronger side and most likely to score. After their opener Dergview looked a completely different side, winning every ball and looking like they would score every time they went forward. Portadown looked flat and tired, with Dergview showing they can compete against the big teams in the league with a potential revival on the cards at Darragh Park.

Man of the Match – Paul Smith

After struggling to get into the game in the early stages, he really stepped up his game in the second half scoring a wonderful free-kick and assisting Callaghan with a cross from the right-hand side. He showed great control when dropping deep and controlled the Dergview press.

Other contenders for man of the match were Matthew Callaghan and Sean McCarron for Dergview, and Lee Bonis and Adam Salley for Portadown.

Player Ratings – Former Institute players make the difference up front for Dergview

Dergview: Alan Buchanan 6, Sproule 7, M. Buchanan 6 (McNulty 6), Maxwell 6, Falconer 6, Curry 7, Callaghan 7 (Doherty 6), Burns 7, McNabb 7, Smith 9 (Buchanan 6), McCarron 8.

Portadown: Devine 6, Teggart 6, Finnegan 6, McNally 6, Crane 6 (Tipton 6), Salley 7, McKenna 6 (McGrandles 6), Wilson 7, Lavery 7, Bonis 7, Murray 6 (Ferris 6).

Looking Ahead – Dergview look to build on victory, while Ports look to increase the gap after defeat

Next time out for Dergview is a home tie against PSNI before a trip to Ards followed by Newry City coming to Castlederg.

Portadown are without a game next weekend due to the 6th round of the Irish Cup, their next match is against Knockbreda at home, followed by hosting Queen’s University at Shamrock Park.

The league table as it stands after Saturday’s matches: