Ports put brakes on Crumlin’s winning streak

by James Hendicott

Portmarnock AFC took a huge step towards Leinster Senior League top-tier survival on Sunday, as a gutsy performance away to high-flying league big-boys Crumlin United ended their hosts five-game winning run in a staunch second-half defensive performance.

Portmarnock were expansive in the first half. They had slightly the better of a scrappy opening period, but did concede two slightly unnecessary close range free kicks, both of which they scrambled away, just.

Crumlin have a great astro turf weapon in the well-placed distribution of goalkeeper Michael Quinn, who had the home side launching plays from easy platforms inside the Portmarnock half.
It was just such an attack that saw Craig Walsh clear straight through the middle but he failed to control a bouncing volley 20 yards out and slammed it wide.

The North Dublin side were less direct, with sharp passing and intricate interplay. They largely lacked a final ball, but when they found their range, a sharp cutback from Phillip Rushe to Sam O’Connor down the right hand side saw the latter calmly side-foot Portmarnock in front from 10 yards with less than 15 minutes gone.

Kieron Reilly found himself battling with Portmarnock keeper Brian Kane for a bouncing ball shortly afterwards, as the visitors looked comfortably the better side early on.

They could – and really should – have had a 20th minute penalty as O’Connor was tripped chasing away from goal.

Crumlin were also lucky to keep 11 on the pitch when Jake Donnelly only got booked for a high challenge on Ray Whelehan in midfield, prompting a shoving match. Almost immediately afterwards, Crumlin had two decent chances with players free in the area, but both came at awkward height, and the ball eventually fell just wide. On balance, though, Portmarnock were slightly unfortunate to go in only 1-0 up.

Crumlin brought on Graham Zambra at half time to try and sharpen up their attack, and immediately looked a better attacking prospect. A lovely take down from Zambra resulted in Walsh volleying just wide from distance with the keeper beaten.

The home side, in fact, were suddenly very much on top. Alan McGreal volleyed into the stantion from 20 yards. O’Connor headed a pacey ball just over at the other end, before Donnelly saw a hit from 25 yards deflected over the bar.

A hooked finish from Crumlin’s Conor Murphy, shifted back into midfield to make room for Zambra, also flew inches over.

With Crumlin dominant misfiring, Portmarnock started to ring their own changes to stem the tide, but the chances get coming as the game became one-way traffic.

Zambra fired over from a McGreal cut back. Donnelly drew a fine save from Kane. Murphy dipped a volley just over, and several goalmouth scrambles end up hacked clear.

Crumlin’s goal had rarely been troubled, but their forward line kept misfiring. For all the threat, Portmarnock were visibly growing in confidence defensively, and even the appearance of Crumlin ‘keeper Quinn up top for a late corner wasn’t enough, as the hosts five-game winning streak came to an abrupt halt.

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