Glenavon 4 – 0 Cliftonville
Danske Bank Premiership
Mourneview Park, Saturday 27th April 2019
Match Report by Calum Jones
Photos by Alan Weir (AW) and Maynard Collins (MC)
Glenavon secured a third-place finish in the Danske Bank Premiership table by thumping Cliftonville 4 – 0 in the final league game of the season at Mourneview Park on Saturday afternoon.
Stephen Murray opened the scoring for the hosts in the 13th minute before Andrew Hall scored directly from a corner to double the lead on the half-hour mark.
Murray grabbed his second and Glenavon’s third on the stroke of half-time, while young substitute Ross Hunter rounded off the scoring when he scored a fourth goal on 88 minutes. That was after Ryan Catney, in what could turn out to be his final appearance in a Cliftonville shirt, was shown a straight red card by referee Tony Clarke for a rash tackle on Jordan Jenkins.
With one eye on the upcoming Europa League play-offs, manager Gary Hamilton made no fewer than seven changes to the team that lost 4 – 3 at Ballymena on Tuesday night, but there was an urgency and purpose about his side’s play on Saturday from the get-go which told the Mourneview Park faithful that this much-changed team was still determined to go out and get the victory required to ensure the Lurgan Blues would end their league campaign with a record top flight points total.
On five minutes Glenavon full-back Daniel Larmour surged forward and sent a low shot narrowly wide of the left-hand post, while Stephen Murray then had a shot blocked a minute later after some good football involving Hall and Jenkins.
At the other end Cliftonville captain Chris Curran whipped in a dangerous low cross which Seamus Sharkey did well to clear. From the resulting corner which was taken by Caoimhin McConnell, Garry Breen headed over the bar.
The home side broke the deadlock on 13 minutes. The impressive Eoin Wearen threaded a ball down the right flank for Jenkins, who in turn picked out his strike partner Murray with a low cross. Murray controlled the ball with his right foot before spinning and striking a low shot with his left which beat Cliftonville goalkeeper Richard Brush and found the bottom corner.
Ten minutes later Glenavon won a free-kick on the right flank. Hall sent the ball into the box and when Cliftonville failed to clear it Robbie Norton was presented with a shooting chance. The young midfielder dragged his low effort wide of the post.
Glenavon’s second goal arrived on 30 minutes, Hall striking a corner-kick from the left which deceived everybody and went straight into the far corner to double the hosts’ lead.
The Lurgan Blues were presented with a golden opportunity to add a third goal just two minutes later when Catney’s misplaced pass went straight to Hall. The Glenavon winger opted to shoot when the better option probably would have been to square the ball to the unmarked Robert Garrett. Brush was equal to Hall’s shot and the chance was lost.
Hall, who was named the Glenavon Man of the Match, had another effort at goal on 38 minutes when he was found following build-up play involving Garrett and Murray, but this time the Glenavon number 11’s shot was sliced wide of the near post.
The third goal which Glenavon’s dominance deserved eventually arrived in the 44th minute. Aaron Harmon, who was deployed as a right-back on Saturday, took a throw-in close to the corner flag on the right wing which picked out Garrett. When the midfielder returned the ball to Harmon he held off McConnell before sending in a low cross which picked Murray out close to the penalty spot. The striker grabbed his 15th league goal of the season with a controlled finish with his left foot which beat the dive of Brush and effectively killed the game off as a contest before the half-time whistle had even sounded.
Ten minutes into the second period Cliftonville defender Jamie Harney glanced a header wide of the far post after he’d been picked out by a McConnell cross.
Murray had an opportunity to bag his hat-trick on 62 minutes when Jenkins squared the ball to him but the striker was denied by Brush in the Cliftonville goal.
Frustration grew amongst the Cliftonville ranks, with Glenavon players on the receiving end of some rash tackles, and on 67 minutes Reds stalwart Catney was given his marching orders by referee Clarke in what may well have been his farewell appearance for Cliftonville. Catney hit Jenkins with a bad tackle which left the young striker needing treatment, and eventually resulted in him having to be substituted, and the referee had no option but to produce the red card.
With the three points comfortably secured, Hamilton introduced Glenavon academy graduates Hunter, Oisin Barr and Owen Taylor as the second half wore on, and the young lads certainly didn’t look out of place on the Premiership stage.
Hunter was found by Murray on 70 minutes and the midfielder’s left-footed shot went narrowly wide of the near post, brushing the side-netting.
Cliftonville came closest to getting a consolation goal three minutes later when Harmon had to clear the ball off the line following a corner, while Murray was denied his hat-trick again when Brush made another save on 86 minutes. The striker could perhaps have squared for the supporting Hunter instead.
Young Hunter wasn’t to be denied his opportunity two minutes later, however, when Hall robbed substitute Dylan Whiteway of the ball he played it across the six-yard box and picked Hunter out at the back post, presenting the midfielder with the simple task of tapping in to make the final score 4 – 0, a result which secured third place for the Lurgan Blues, as well as a record top flight points haul of 70.
Depending on the outcome of next Saturday’s Irish Cup final between Crusaders and Ballinamallard United, Glenavon’s Europa League play-off semi-final match will either take place on Tuesday 7th May (vs. Glentoran) or Saturday 11th May (vs. the winners of Coleraine vs. Glentoran). Should the Lurgan Blues successfully negotiate their semi-final, the final is then set to be played on either Saturday 11th May or Tuesday 14th May. Having finished in third place, Glenavon will now have home advantage in the semi-final and final (should they make it).
Glenavon: 18. James Taylor (GK), 5. Andrew Doyle (C), 11. Andrew Hall, 15. Aaron Harmon, 19. Daniel Larmour, 22. Robbie Norton, 24. Stephen Murray, 28. Robert Garrett, 30. Jordan Jenkins, 45. Eoin Wearen, 55. Seamus Sharkey
Subs: 13. Oisin Barr (for 5. Andrew Doyle, 61’), 25. Ross Hunter (for 28. Robert Garrett, 65’), 37. Owen Taylor (for 30. Jordan Jenkins, 75’); not used: 7. Josh Daniels, 36. Leighton Jameson, 42. Joel Bassett, 80. Gary Hamilton
Goals: 24. Stephen Murray (13’, 44’), 11. Andrew Hall (30’), 25. Ross Hunter (88’)
Yellow Cards: 28. Robert Garrett (64’), 25. Ross Hunter (76’)
Cliftonville: 1. Richard Brush (GK), 4. Garry Breen, 6. Jamie Harney, 7. Chris Curran (C), 9. Ryan Curran, 16. Liam Bagnall, 17. Ryan Catney, 18. Caoimhin McConnell, 23. Thomas Maguire, 24. Conor McMenamin, 25. Aaron Donnelly
Subs: 29. Donal Rocks (for 18. Caoimhin McConnell, 62′), 31. Dylan Whiteway (for 6. Jamie Harney, 81′); not used: 13. Brian Neeson (GK), 2. Jamie McGovern, 11. Rory Donnelly, 22. Ross Lavery, 32. Joe Gorman
Yellow Cards: 25. Aaron Donnelly (22’), 4. Garry Breen (28’), 6. Jamie Harney (62’), 16. Liam Bagnall (66’)
Red cards: 17. Ryan Catney (67’)
Referee: Tony Clarke