Glenavon 3 – 2 Crusaders
Danske Bank Premiership
Mourneview Park, Saturday September 22nd 2018
Match Report by Calum Jones
Photos by Alan Weir and Maynard Collins
Glenavon came from behind twice to win a pulsating five-goal thriller against champions Crusaders at Mourneview Park on Saturday.
The 3 – 2 victory saw the Lurgan Blues cut Linfield’s lead at the top of the table to just two points.
In a highly entertaining, end-to-end game which was full of chances, it was Ross Clarke who headed the Crues in front on 26 minutes, but Ben Doherty equalised with a low drive from outside the box four minutes later.
Clarke put the visitors in front again in the 68th minute before Mark Sykes scored a brilliant overhead kick to bring Glenavon level for a second time.
The match was then decided by a stunning solo goal from Josh Daniels five minutes from time.
Crusaders started the brighter of the two sides, with Jordan Forsythe shooting straight at Jonathan Tuffey in the opening minute, and Paul Heatley firing over from a narrow angle after Tuffey had done well to force him wide.
Clarke had an excellent game for the Crues, posing a threat all afternoon, and he very nearly opened the scoring with a curled effort from the edge of the box which struck Tuffey’s left-hand post in the 10th minute.
At the other end Rhys Marshall headed wide from an Andrew Hall corner on 21 minutes.
The opening goal arrived in the 26th minute, the result of a corner-kick which was given away cheaply by Glenavon when Dylan King’s attempted back-pass crossed the by-line. Heatley swung the ball in and Howard Beverland rose highest at the back post to direct the ball goalwards. With his back to goal, Clarke flicked his header over Marshall and beyond Tuffey to make it 1 – 0 to the visitors.
The former Linfield man might have grabbed his second just a couple of minutes later when Jordan Owens flicked on Forsythe’s long throw, but Clarke could only direct his diving header wide.
Doherty scored the first of Glenavon’s three superb goals on the half-hour mark. His misplaced pass found the feet of Crusaders’ Billy-Joe Burns, but the right-back’s first touch was poor, allowing Sykes to get a tackle in. The ball broke for Doherty and he skipped past Matthew Snoddy before firing in a low drive with his left foot which beat Sean O’Neill and went in off the foot of the post.
It was the home side who ended the first half the stronger, with Sykes firing a left-footed shot narrowly over the bar five minutes from the break after he’d turned Michael Carvill before Stephen Murray shot wide of the far post after Andrew Mitchell helped a Marshall throw-in on to his strike partner.
Sykes was involved again in stoppage time at the end of the first half. O’Neill failed to hold Daniels’ initial shot and Sykes picked up the loose ball, but his shot was straight at the Crues keeper and it was honours even at the break.
Referee Arnold Hunter had to be replaced by fourth official Tony Clarke at half-time, and in the 52nd minute Clarke made the baffling decision not to award a penalty to Glenavon when Mitchell was blatantly pulled down in the box by Crues left-back Mark McChrystal.
The home side came agonisingly close to going in front two minutes later when McChrystal cleared Doherty’s shot off the line after the midfielder had been set up by Murray.
It was clear that Crusaders still carried a potent threat at the other end, and on the hour mark Heatley sliced his volley over the top after he’d been found by a cross from Forsythe.
The visitors then missed a golden chance to go ahead in the 66th minute when the ball fell kindly to Colin Coates at the back post after Clarke had whipped a cross into the box. The Crues captain got his shot all wrong, slicing harmlessly over the bar with his left foot when it looked to be easier to hit the target.
Crusaders didn’t have to wait long for their second, however, as they took the lead just two minutes later. McChrystal launched a throw-in down the line which Owens flicked on with his head. Marshall and Marron failed to clear the ball and it carried through to the feet of Clarke who burst into the box and sent his low shot past Tuffey to put the champions ahead for a second time.
Just as they did in the first half, Glenavon hit back quickly. Daniels’ cross into the box from the left flank was punched clear by O’Neill. Marshall bravely sent the ball back into the penalty area just before he was clattered by Clarke, finding Sykes at the far post. With a moment of magic reminiscent of the great Brazilian forward Rivaldo, Sykes controlled the ball on his chest and teed himself up for an acrobatic bicycle kick that beat O’Neill and found the net despite the best efforts of McChrystal to keep it out on the line.
Lifted by the equalising goal, the Mourneview crowd really got behind Glenavon in the closing stages and a winner seemed inevitable, although nobody could have anticipated that it would be quite such a spectacular goal.
Gary Hamilton recently spoke about challenging Daniels to score more goals this season, and the winger sent a clear message that he’s up for that challenge by producing a goal of staggering quality to secure the three points for Glenavon.
With five minutes to go, Daniels picked the ball up deep inside his own half, surged clear of the halfway line before ghosting effortlessly past the challenges of Burns and Snoddy, then struck a stunning shot with his right foot which sailed beyond the dive of the helpless O’Neill and into the top corner from all of 30 yards.
Moments before Daniels’ goal, Crusaders manager Stephen Baxter made a double substitution to send on players of the calibre of David Cushley and Rory Patterson, and the Mourneview faithful knew it was highly likely that the champions would create at least one more great chance for themselves before the final whistle.
That chance arrived with three minutes of normal time remaining, and it was Patterson to whom it fell following a poor mistake by King. The former Linfield and Derry City striker looked certain to score as he wound up to shoot, but Tuffey made an exceptional save to deny him, spreading himself wide and getting a strong right arm to the ball to preserve the home side’s lead. If Sykes’ goal reminded you of Rivaldo, then it’s fair to say that Tuffey’s save was Schmeichel-esque.
Glenavon should have killed the game off twice in injury-time when first Daniels and then both Murray and substitute Gary Muir had golden chances to wrap things up but failed to convert. Not that the Mourneview crowd cared when the final whistle sounded to bring the curtain down on a famous victory.
Glenavon’s win, coupled with leaders Linfield being held to a goalless draw by Coleraine on Saturday afternoon, means that the Lurgan Blues are now just two points behind David Healy’s side, and the Mourneview men travel to the Bangor Fuels Arena to take on Ards in a rearranged fixture on Tuesday night (kick-off 7.45pm) knowing that another three points would see them move into top spot in the standings.
Glenavon: 1. Jonathan Tuffey (C), 3. Dylan King, 4. Caolan Marron, 7. Josh Daniels, 8. Rhys Marshall, 9. Andrew Mitchell, 10. Mark Sykes, 11. Andrew Hall, 24. Stephen Murray, 27. James Singleton, 31. Ben Doherty
Subs: 23. Gary Muir (for 11. Andrew Hall, 71 mins), 6. Niall Grace (for 9. Andrew Mitchell, 87 mins); not used: 12. Stephen Donnelly, 15. Aaron Harmon, 16. Sammy Clingan, 26. Kris Lindsay, 30. Jordan Jenkins
Goals: 31. Ben Doherty (30 mins), 10. Mark Sykes (79 mins), 7. Josh Daniels (85 mins)
Yellow Cards: 3. Dylan King (57 mins)
Crusaders: 1. Sean O’Neill, 2. Billy-Joe Burns, 3. Mark McChrystal, 4. Howard Beverland, 6. Colin Coates (C), 10. Michael Carvill, 14. Jordan Forsythe, 18. Jordan Owens, 19. Matthew Snoddy, 22. Paul Heatley, 25. Ross Clarke
Subs: 11. David Cushley (for 10. Michael Carvill, 83 mins), 29. Rory Patterson (for 25. Ross Clarke, 83 mins); not used: 8. Sean Ward, 9. Jamie Glackin, 16. Kyle Owens, 20. Rodney Brown, 26. Harry Doherty
Goals: 25. Ross Clarke (26 mins, 68 mins)
Yellow Cards: 10. Michael Carvill (39 mins), 2. Billy-Joe Burns (43 mins), 19. Matthew Snoddy (63 mins), 6. Colin Coates (71 mins)
Referee: Arnold Hunter (Tony Clarke)