Cliftonville 1 – 3 Glenavon
Danske Bank Premiership
Solitude, Saturday April 14th 2018
Match Report by Calum Jones
Glenavon moved back up to third place in the Danske Bank Premiership with a convincing 3 – 1 victory away to Cliftonville on Saturday.
All four of the game’s goals came in the space of less than 10 second-half minutes, with Andy McGrory opening the scoring for the Lurgan Blues from the penalty spot in the 67th minute after Joel Cooper had been brought down by Jamie McGovern, who was also shown a straight red card.
Two minutes later Glenavon doubled their lead when top scorer Andrew Mitchell blasted into the roof of the net, but the home side responded in the 70th minute through Joe Gormley, who grabbed his 30th goal of the season.
Mitchell got his second of the game in the 75th minute to seal the three points for Glenavon when he converted a Mark Sykes cross which had been flicked on by Bobby Burns.
The home side had an excellent opportunity to open the scoring in the fifth minute. Goalkeeper Brian Neeson’s goal-kick was flicked on by the head of Rory Donnelly into the path of strike partner Gormley, but Joe ‘the Goal’ sent his half-volley wide of Jonathan Tuffey’s right-hand post.
On 13 minutes Sykes had a pop from 25 yards with a free-kick which bounced awkwardly in front of Neeson, but the Cliftonville keeper was able to get down to his left to make a smart save, tipping the ball round the post.
Neeson was called into action again three minutes later to deny McGrory, while Cooper’s follow-up was cleared off the line by a Reds defender. At the other end Burns did well to deflect a Rory Donnelly effort behind with his head on 28 minutes.
On the half-hour mark the home side had appeals for a penalty turned down when Conor McDonald felt he was impeded while trying to get a shot in on goal.
Five minutes later Neeson produced what surely must go down as one of the saves of the season to deny Cooper. The Glenavon winger was sent clear by a long ball over the top by Robbie Norton. Cooper controlled the ball brilliantly on his chest to take it into the box and beyond McGovern before striking a wicked effort which was destined for the top corner, but Neeson somehow managed to get his left hand to the ball and divert it over the bar.
Neeson’s counterpart Tuffey then made an excellent save of his own in the 43rd minute. Cliftonville captain Chris Curran played the ball out to Gormley on the right and his cross picked out Rory Donnelly, who nipped in front of Andrew Doyle and sent a volleyed effort towards the bottom corner, only for Tuffey to dive down to his left and make the stop.
In the last action of the opening half Gormley rose to meet a Levi Ives corner. The striker sent his header goalwards, but McGrory was on hand to head the ball off the line and ensure the game remained scoreless at the break.
Ten minutes into the second period Cooper was unlucky not to score following an excellent jinking run, with Cliftonville defenders blocking two of the winger’s efforts in quick succession.
Cooper was heavily involved again minutes later when Glenavon’s opening goal did arrive. Burns played a dangerous long pass over the top and Neeson raced off his line, only to misjudge the bounce of the ball. Cooper got to it first, stealing a march on McGovern. The Cliftonville defender tried desperately to recover and hook the ball clear, but referee Evan Boyce adjudged his challenge to have been unfair and awarded a penalty, then subsequently gave McGovern his marching orders.
McGrory assumed responsibility for the spot-kick and he made no mistake, sending Neeson the wrong way as he calmly stroked his penalty into the net to make it 1 – 0 to the Lurgan Blues.
Glenavon’s lead was doubled just two minutes later. Rhys Marshall sent a long speculative clearance forward and Neeson struggled to read the bounce once more, only managing to palm the ball down to substitute Stephen Murray. Murray had the presence of mind to hold the ball up before playing it into the path of Mitchell, who took one touch to set himself before rifling a left-footed shot into the roof of the net.
Cliftonville pulled a goal back on 70 minutes through Gormley. Rory Donnelly played a ball down the right flank for Curran and the winger cleverly burst past Doyle before pulling it back for Gormley, who got his right foot to the ball ahead of Marshall on the six-yard box and buried his finish past Tuffey to bring the home side right back into the match.
However, any hopes of a Cliftonville comeback were swiftly dismissed by Mitchell’s second goal of the afternoon. Sykes took a corner-kick short to play a one-two with Cooper, sending over a cross when the ball was returned to him. Burns got on the end of it, flicking the ball with his head towards the far post where the predatory Mitchell was lurking. The striker made no mistake from close range, turning the ball in to score his fourth goal in three games and secure what could potentially be three very important points for Glenavon.
This victory was the Lurgan Blues’ first since late February, when they defeated Linfield at Windsor Park, and David Healy’s side’s 2 – 0 defeat to Crusaders at the weekend means that Glenavon move back above the Blues into third spot with just two rounds of fixtures remaining.
Glenavon will end their league campaign with two home fixtures. They entertain Ballymena United next Saturday (April 21st), before welcoming potential champions Coleraine to Mourneview Park the following weekend.
Cliftonville: 13. Brian Neeson, 2. Jamie McGovern, 3. Levi Ives, 6. Jamie Harney, 7. Chris Curran (C), 8. Ruairi Harkin, 19. Joe Gormley, 21. Jay Donnelly, 22. Ross Lavery, 26. Shane Grimes, 28. Conor McDonald, 77. Rory Donnelly
Subs: 10. Stephen Garrett (for 28. Conor McDonald, 78 mins), 18. Jude Winchester (for 8. Ruairi Harkin, 85 mins); not used: 20. Declan Dunne, 22. Ross Lavery, 23. Tomas Cosgrove
Goals: 19. Joe Gormley (70 mins)
Yellow Cards: 8. Ruairi Harkin (44 mins), 21. Jay Donnelly (89 mins), 7. Chris Curran (90+4 mins)
Red Cards: 2. Jamie McGovern (65 mins)
Glenavon: 1. Jonathan Tuffey (C), 3. Bobby Burns, 4. Simon Kelly 5. Andrew Doyle, 8. Rhys Marshall, 9. Andrew Mitchell, 10. Marc Griffin, 14. Mark Sykes, 17. Andy McGrory, 22. Robbie Norton, 23. Joel Cooper,
Subs: 24. Stephen Murray (for 10. Marc Griffin, 51 mins), 7. Josh Daniels (for 17. Andy McGrory, 83 mins), 15. Caolan Marron (for 4. Simon Kelly, 90 mins); not used: 6. Eric Foley, 21. Jack O’Mahony
Goals: 17. Andy McGrory (66 mins (pen)), Andrew Mitchell (68 mins, 74 mins)
Yellow Cards: None
Referee: Evan Boyce