By Gary Pews

PORT Glasgow’s players and management gathered this week to finally celebrate their promotion out of the Central League Second Division.

The Port virtually clinched the step-up two weeks ago with their 5-0 win at Newmains, but had to wait until last Saturday before Lanark’s defeat to Gartcairn made it certain that they will finish in the top three, and most probably in second place unless East Kilbride win their remaining three games by a 15-goal margin.

The promotion is well deserved, with the Port not having been out of the top two since the very start of the season, which began with four wins on the trot.

There was a worrying dip in form at the turn of the year, but the team regained it just in time for the closing stretch, and finished the season strongly with three vital wins. Home form was key to their success, with eight wins from 11 at Parklea, and despite the Port’s swashbuckling style in attack, the foundations of their promotion was built on a rock-solid defence, albeit with the occasional blip.

The Parklea men’s goals against column sees just 26 conceded, by far the best in the league, and seven fewer than league champions Glasgow Perthshire.

No-one down Parklea way is admitting it, but the promotion is perhaps more than they could have dreamed of, given that they were left in the summer with just six players, and manager Craig Brown, right, had to do yet another re-building job.

Brown said: “We suffered by just missing out on promotion last season by one point, which led to a lot of players leaving to play at a higher level and/or for financial gain.

“We had to use the pre-season friendlies and the Sectional League Cup games to bed in a lot of new players, but they actually gelled together very quickly and it all started to come together, and by half-way through the league we had won nine out of 11 games.

“But then came some bad results, and we also lost some players who weren’t getting a regular game or who were tempted by money offers we couldn’t make. That led to a lack of confidence and we also had some big refereeing decisions go against us.

“But I said at the time that if we got out the other end of it we would be stronger for it, and the players showed great guts and determination, and a lot of football ability, to do just that.

“They are a credit to themselves and to the club, and I couldn’t be prouder of them. As the manager I am very happy for everyone connected to the club, the fans, the players and the committee.”

The foundations are now being laid for next season, with 11 of the current squad already signed up for the First Division campaign.

Brown will look forward to being in charge at this higher level, but other clubs will have taken note of his rising stock, with an impressive record during his eight years in charge, not least the ability to continually rebuild and get the best out of his players, knowing when they need either a rocket or an arm round the shoulder.

For now, though, let the celebrations continue.