RONAN Hale came off the bench to earn Larne three valuable points in a 2-1 win away to Portadown on Tuesday evening.
Hale, who had only been on the pitch for five minutes, scored an eye-catching goal which saw Larne retake the lead after Andy Mitchell’s early penalty was cancelled out by Lee Bonis at the end of the first half.
The game’s opening goal arrived with 10 minutes on the clock. Larne worked the ball well on the right flank and Tomas Cosgrove’s cross was charged down by home defender Ruairi Croskery.
After consultation between referee Lee Tavinder and assistant Vikki Finlay a penalty was awarded and Mitchell fired down the middle for the game’s opening goal.
Larne could have doubled the lead four minutes later when the Invermen again built down the right flank. This time Lee Lynch crossed low for Davy McDaid, but the striker fired high over the bar from 15 yards.
There was a lengthy stoppage midway through the first half while Portadown captain Luke Wilson received treatment after sustaining an innocuous-looking injury, which resulted in the midfielder being stretchered off.
Larne continued to dominate proceedings and almost doubled their lead on 41 minutes when Dean Jarvis flashed over a cross from the left and John Herron’s headed effort skimmed off the top of the crossbar.
Portadown spent the majority of the first half protecting their own goal, but went into the break level when they scored two minutes into stoppage time.
Sam Warde looked like he was fouled 25 yards from the Larne goal, but referee Lee Tavinder played a good advantage, with Croskery slipping the ball left to Bonis and the striker produced a cool finish under the onrushing Conor Devlin.
The second half was more of an end-to-end affair, with Croskery and Salley having half chances for the home side.
At the end other end it was a similar story, with Tomas Cosgrove shooting from 25 yards, on 53 minutes, but it produced a routine save for Jacob Carney.
That all changed 20 minutes from time however, when Ronan Hale, who had only been on the pitch for five minutes as a substitute, struck as Larne retook the lead.
After a bit of pinball inside the box, after Marty Donnelly tried to get his shot away, John Herro slipped the ball to Herron and he unleashed a sweet effort with the outside of his right foot which cut across Carney and into the top left corner.
Hale came close to adding to his tally twice after this, producing a good save from Carney and firing just wide, as Larne held on for the victory.
The result sees Larne remain in fourth, but crucially close the gap on the sides above them.
Portadown: Carney, Hall, Finnegan, McKeown, Salley, Bonis, Wilson (’34 Wilson), Croskery (‘68 Teggart), Conaty, Kerr, Warde
Unused subs: Buchanan, Murray, Guy, Healy, Murphy,
Larne: Devlin, Watson (’46 Hughes), Robinson, Herron (’75 Sule), McDaid (’65 Hale), Donnelly, Lynch, A Mitchell, Wade Slater, Cosgrove, Jarvis
Unused subs: C Mitchell, Randall, McKendry, Lusty
Referee: Lee Tavinder