(This report originally appeared in the Portadown Times)
Loughgall added a Mid-Ulster Cup exit to Portadown’s problems with a 3-2 victory at Lakeview Park.
Daniel Ryan’s double on top of a superb angled Aaron Walsh drive sent NIFL Championship One-based Loughgall marching into the semi-finals at the expense of a Portadown side packed with youth alongside senior players such as Michael Gault, Ken Oman, Chris Ramsey and Tim Mouncey.
The Villagers broke the deadlock on six minutes when a Loughgall counter-attack following Portadown’s corner-kick ended with Jamie Rea releasing Walsh along the left and he capped a driving run with a powerful shot from a tight angle that flashed past Northern Ireland youth international Conor Larkin.
Marcio Soares, now established in the senior set-up with Portadown but still a teenager, was at the heart of the visitors’ positive play.
Christian Stewart came close with a smart volley on the run off John Gibson’s crossfield pass but the next goal was scored by the visitors.
Matt McMahon, who spent a short spell on the books at Portadown after returning home from Aberdeen, tested Larkin with a crisp shot which the goalkeeper pushed out – with an unmarked Ryan ready to convert the rebound.
Shea Conaty, a team-mate of Larkin’s in the Northern Ireland squad, released Soares with a measured pass but Loughgall goalkeeper Gareth Buchanan managed to stop the shot with a low save.
Larkin then pulled off saves to frustrate Rea and Ryan in quick succession.
Soares gained his reward for an encouraging first-half display by closing the gap on 43 minutes. Ramsey pushed the ball wide to Gibson on the right flank and his first-time pass behind the Loughgall backline was collected by Soares, with the striker managing to round Buchanan and slot into the inviting net.
Soares and Gibson combined early in the second half but the latter cleared the crossbar with a shot under pressure off the former’s pass.
Soares then picked out summer arrival Tiago Ferreira but Buchanan produced the stop.
Ryan increased Loughgall’s advantage on 75 minutes when his low shot from distance nestled inside the post and over the line.
Soares forced Buchanan into a diving one-handed save with an angled shot on the run as the Ports pushed for a way back into the tie.
Teenager Adam Brown made his mark on his senior debut by curling home a delightful free-kick in the closing moments.
However, Loughgall remained resolute until the final whistle.
LOUGHGALL: Gareth Buchanan, Wilson Tavares, Graham Taylor, Ricky Copeland, Nicky Hudson, Gary Henderson, Marcus Dallas, Aaron Walsh, Matt McMahon, Daniel Ryan, Jamie Rea. Subs: Stuart Mallen (on for Walsh, 77 mins), John Uprichard, Bill Morrow, Stefan Thompson.
PORTADOWN: Conor Larkin, John Gibson, Matthew Parker, Michael Gault, Chris Ramsey, Ken Oman, Mark Carson, Tim Mouncey, Marcio Soares, Shea Conaty, Christian Stewart. Subs: Adam White (on for Mouncey, 67 mins), David Miskelly, Owen McConville, Adam Brown (on for Stewart, 73 mins), Tiago Ferreira (on for Conaty, 46 min).