Glenavon 4 – 0 Ballymena United
Danske Bank Premiership
Mourneview Park, Friday August 24th 2018
Match Report by Calum Jones
Glenavon broke their Mourneview Park duck in style on Friday night with a 4 – 0 victory over Ballymena United, picking up their first home win since defeating Warrenpoint Town 1 – 0 on Boxing Day.
It was a classic game of two halves, with all four goals coming in the second period, and the dismissal of Ballymena captain Andrew Burns, who was shown a straight red card for a reckless two-footed lunge on Mark Sykes just before half-time, was undoubtedly a turning point.
Aaron Harmon, handed his first league start by manager Gary Hamilton, opened the scoring for Glenavon on 58 minutes, while Josh Daniels doubled the lead 10 minutes later when he converted a Dylan King free-kick.
Substitute Stephen Murray added a fine third in the 76th minute before Andrew Hall wrapped up a convincing victory with the fourth goal five minutes from time.
The home side started brightly enough and were immediately on the attack from kick-off, forcing Burns to slice a clearance wide of his own net, while Daniels got a shot in from a tight angle which forced a save from Ross Glendinning two minutes later.
However, as the first half wore on it was the visitors who grew in confidence. Steven McCullough forced Jonathan Tuffey into a save from a 25-yard free-kick on 27 minutes.
Glenavon striker Andrew Mitchell denied the visitors the opening goal in the 35th minute when he headed Jonathan Addis’s effort off the line following a James Knowles corner. Shane McGinty then fired a low effort narrowly wide seven minutes later.
The complexion of the game changed on the brink of half-time when United skipper Burns was given his marching orders by referee Steven Gregg. Sykes was driving towards the Ballymena penalty area when Burns lunged in on him with a dangerously high, two-footed tackle.
Burns’s sending off definitely swung the momentum of the game in Glenavon’s favour, but it would be foolish to suggest that it was the defining factor in the Lurgan Blues’ victory, because the home side looked like a completely different team in the second half, getting the ball down on the deck and playing a slick passing game, with one-twos and triangles, and the visitors were powerless to withstand the onslaught.
The opening goal arrived 12 minutes into the second period. Sykes played an excellent through-ball down the right flank for Rhys Marshall and the full-back laid the ball off for Harmon on the edge of the box. The midfielder expertly placed a low left-foot shot past Glendinning and into the bottom corner.
The lead was doubled ten minutes later when substitute King picked out Daniels with a long free-kick from close to the halfway line. The winger scored with a brilliant header which looped over Glendinning and into the far corner. It was a goal which left Glenavon manager Hamilton flabbergasted in the dugout.
Hamilton himself would have been proud of the third goal. Hall’s cross from the right looked to have gone behind for a goal-kick, but Daniels kept it alive, lunging to brilliantly send the ball back into the danger area. Substitute Murray produced an outstanding first touch to bring the ball under control, then swivelled and volleyed in off the far post in one movement.
Daniels was a constant threat on the left flank in the second half, and he was the provider again for Hall’s goal. He combined well with debutant and former Derry City teammate Ben Doherty, skipping between two Ballymena defenders and playing a neat one-two with the left-back to break in the box before pulling it back for Hall at the far post. The winger slotted into an empty net to round off a resounding home win for Glenavon.
It was a third victory in a row for the Mourneview men and sees them leap to the top of the league table, although Linfield will have the opportunity to regain top spot on Saturday afternoon when they travel to Solitude to take on Cliftonville.
The Lurgan Blues open their League Cup campaign on Tuesday night (August 28th) as they welcome Championship side Dergview to Mourneview Park for a second round tie (kick-off 7.45 pm), before they return to Premiership action next Saturday (September 1st) when Glentoran are the visitors to Mourneview.
Glenavon: 1. Jonathan Tuffey (C), 4. Caolan Marron, 7. Josh Daniels, 8. Rhys Marshall, 9. Andrew Mitchell, 10. Mark Sykes, 11. Andrew Hall, 12. Stephen Donnelly, 15. Aaron Harmon, 23. Gary Muir, 27. James Singleton
Subs: 24. Stephen Murray (for 12. Stephen Donnelly, 45 mins), 31. Ben Doherty (for 23. Gary Muir, 45 mins), 3. Dylan King (for 27. James Singleton, 69 mins); not used: 6. Niall Grace, 20. Conor McCloskey, 26. Kris Lindsay, 30. Jordan Jenkins
Goals: 15. Aaron Harmon (58 mins), 7. Josh Daniels (67 mins), 24. Stephen Murray (76 mins), 11. Andrew Hall (84 mins)
Yellow Cards: 27. James Singleton (27 mins), 23. Gary Muir (40 mins), 15. Aaron Harmon (56 mins)
Ballymena United: 1. Ross Glendinning, 4. Jonathan Addis, 5. Scot Whiteside, 6. Ryan Mayse, 7. Shane McGinty, 10. James Knowles, 11. Steven McCullough, 14. Andrew Burns, 16. Matthew Shevlin, 17. Andy McGrory, 20. Jude Winchester
Subs: 2. Tony Kane (for 16. Matthew Shevlin, 61 mins), 23. Leroy Millar (for 20. Jude Winchester, 84 mins); not used: 12. William Faulkner, 18. Thomas McDermott, 21. Jim Ervin, 22. Adam Lecky, 24. Reece Glendinning
Yellow Cards: 4. Jonathan Addis (81 mins)
Red Cards: 14. Andrew Burns (45 mins)
Referee: Steven Gregg