Result: Ards 1-0 Glenavon

As expected Gary Hamilton makes six changes from last week’s starting lineup: James Taylor, Andy Kilmartin, Kyle Neill, Mark Patton, Andy Doyle and Renato de Vecchi start.

There was a minute’s silence before kick off and a pause during the 5th minute of the game for a minute’s applause in honour of Derry City’s Ryan McBride who passed away on Sunday.

Photo by Maynard Collins

Not a lot of football being played with a lot of long balls but Glenavon seem to be edging the play as far as any quality is concerned. Gray dragged a shot well wide and Renato lobbed over from just outside the box.

The best chance of the half however fell to the hosts in the 23rd minute when Josh Doherty made great connection with Guillaume Keke’s cross but Taylor pulled off a great save, tipping the shot over the bar.

Photo by Maynard Collins

Three minutes later a potential mix-up in the Ards defence could have cost them a goal after Gray and Andy McGrory exchanged passes before the latter played the ball into the box for Renato, playing as a striker today. Aaron Hogg seemed to spill the ball as he collided with teammate Callum Byers. McGrory picked up the rebound and crossed back in but the danger was cleared as Robbie Norton, on as a substitute for Chris Turner who had picked up a hamstring injury, tried to get on the end of it.

Photo by Maynard Collins

Patton fired into the side netting in the first minute of the second half after he was played in by Renato who then had a header easily saved from Kyle Neill’s corner.

In the 64th minute Patton was unlucky when his header from Andy Kilmartin’s cross crashed back off the underside of the bar.

Ten minutes from time Craig McMillen was just off target as he tried his luck from 35 yards when he spotted Taylor off his line.

Callum Byers headed Doyle’s back post header off the line from an 88th minute Kyle Neill corner but the hosts won the game thanks to a penalty award a minute later for a hand ball against Simon Kelly.

Taylor went the right way and managed to save Michael Ruddy’s spot kick but he couldn’t hold the ball and the Ards penalty specialist fired home the rebound.

Ards: Hogg, Hall, Byers, Friars (c), Ruddy, Cherry (McCullough 67), Tommons, McMillen, Doherty, Keke (Arthurs 90), Liggett (McComb 79). Subs not used: McMullan, Hughes

Cautions: Liggett 63, Friars 65

Glenavon: Taylor, Doyle, Kelly, Lindsay, Neill, McGrory, Kilmartin (c), Turner (Norton 26), Patton, Renato (Jenkins 63), Gray (Hamilton 80). Subs not used: Young, O’Mahoney

Cautions: Patton 45, Lindsay 77

Referee: Lee Tavinder

Preview: Ards v Glenavon

Glenavon’s final match before the split, with a top six finish already secured, sees them head to the Bangor Fuels Arena to take on Ards. The hosts have picked up 7 points from their last five games and with a 12 point lead over second-bottom Carrick Rangers, are probably safe from any relegation play-off concerns. This leaves them free to have a real go at catching the teams above them, Colin Nixon’s side only trailing 7th placed Dungannon Swifts by four points.

Glenavon has lost just once in the last five league games (the defeat to Coleraine last Saturday), registering home wins against Ballinamallard and Dungannon with 0-0 draws away to Glentoran and Carrick.

Gary Hamilton has been clear in his comments after last week’s defeat at home to Coleraine that his priority is to avoid any serious injuries or suspensions kicking in ahead of next Saturday’s Irish Cup Semi-final. “It’ll be a different starting eleven next week,” he told BBC Sport in his post-match comments. “We’re never going to catch third place now, given the way results have gone, so next week (against Ards) we will rest the starting eleven for the following week and make sure that they’re right and they’re ready. They’ll do a training session and some will play a part in the Reserves game, on a grass pitch because obviously it’s a 4G pitch at Bangor and that’s the kind of pitch that I feel players can pick up injuries very quickly and that’s the last thing I want.”

Result: Glenavon 1-2 Coleraine

Photos by Alan Weir and Maynard Collins

Coleraine kept their excellent run of form going with this hard fought win at Mourneview but Glenavon will feel they deserved something from the game, creating more chances, but clinical finishing by Jamie McGonigle saw the Bannsiders head back up the road with all three points, taking them up to third place.

Chris Turner makes his long-awaited debut in Glenavon’s midfield and Kris Lindsay and Simon Kelly return to action in the centre of defence.

After a promising start from the visitors it was Glenavon that took the lead in the 10th minute. After Andrew Hall’s shot was blocked by  Mark Edgar, Rhys Marshall kept the ball alive and fed James Gray on the right of the box. His low shot took a deflection and fell nicely for Joel Cooper who showed great composure to fire in at the far post.

Photo by Maynard Collins

Coleraine were level in the 26th minute when Jamie McGonigle glanced a cross from Adam Mullan beyond the dive of Johnny Tuffey and into the bottom corner.

The second half was barely a minute old when Kelly smashed a shot off the under side of the bar from a Hall corner with James Singleton’s follow up being deflected for a corner.

As Hall prevented a throw in in the Coleraine third it proved to be an advantage to the Bannsiders as the ball was played down the line to Eoin Bradley and he cleverly flicked it inside to release McGonigle and he strode into the box before slotting it past Tuffey for his second goal of the game.

Guy Bates’ cross was played on to Cooper by Gray and the winger’s low shot across the goal went just wide of the far post. Bates himself then headed just over from a near post cross by Hall before having a penalty claim waved away after he was challenged in the box by Steven Douglas.

After Bates was replaced in the 65th minute by Greg Moorhouse a corner from the right delivered by Cooper was met at the near post by a combination of Kris Lindsay and Chris Turner, the header flashing just wide.

With 15 minutes to go Ian Parkhill should have sewn the points up but he fired wide when he should have hit the target. In the 87th minute Parkhill’s cross gave Tuffey something to worry about as the Glenavon keeper was forced to get a hand to the ball as it looked to be dipping just under the bar.

In stoppage time the Glenavon keeper came up for a corner and possibly got his head to Hall’s free kick but Coleraine played the ball out and but for a timely intervention by Turner, with Tuffey stranded up field, it could have resulted in a third goal for the visitors.

Glenavon: Tuffey (c), McGrory (Renato 74), Kelly, Lindsay, Singleton, Hall, Turner, Marshall (Sykes 45), Cooper, Bates (Moorhouse 65), Gray. Subs: Canning, Sykes, Marron, Moorhouse, De Vecchi.

Cautions: Turner 25, Marshall 42

Coleraine: Johns, Kane, Mullan, Harkin, Douglas, McCauley, Kee, Parkhill, Edgar (McConaghie 20), McGonigle (Allan 83), Bradley (McLaughlin 83). Subs: McCafferty, McLaughlin, McConaghie, Doherty (GK), Allan

Cautions: Bradley 51, Johns 84, Douglas 89

Referee: Raymond Hetherington.

Preview: Glenavon v Coleraine

The penultimate game before the split sees Glenavon welcome Coleraine to Mourneview Park for this Danske Bank Premiership fixture. The teams will meet again in a couple of weeks time in the Tennent’s Irish Cup semi-final, a double-header that both managers would probably have preferred to avoid. “I already spoke to Oran Kearney and it’s something that managers don’t want; you don’t want to be playing a team two times in two weeks. It’s not ideal but at the end of the day it’s the hand you’ve been dealt with and you have to get on with it. It’s the semi-final of the Irish Cup and you wouldn’t swop that for anything. Sometimes familiarity can be a bad thing in football and I’m just hoping we can perform in the two games that we play them,” Gary Hamilton explained.

Photo by Maynard Collins

“They’re both big games for Coleraine, for sure, because they have the potential of making 3rd place and maybe getting to Europe automatically so they’re massive games for them. They’re still big games for us but at this point the league game is as important for Coleraine as a cup game because of their league position. I’m sure they’ll be gunning for the win tomorrow and to catch Cliftonville and get into that 3rd spot.

“They’re on a great run of 12 wins in 13 games and Cliftonville haven’t been hitting the heights lately and that happened a couple of years back when we pipped them to third in the league.”

“We want to win as many games from now to the end of the season as possible and whatever team we put out on the pitch we expect them to put in a performance and get results. That’s the be all and end all of it.

“Obviously there will be a few players not play tomorrow as they could run the risk of suspension for the Irish Cup match, and a few have niggles, but whoever we put in we expect them to perform and get us results. There’s a big squad at Glenavon at the minute and most are fit and raring to go and I’m sure everyone of them feel that they should be in the team and the squad. If they feel like that, when they get their chance, they have to take it and prove why they should be in the team.”

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Post-Split Fixtures Announced

At tonight’s meeting of the Premier League Management Committee this season’s post split figures were approved in advance of the 32nd and 33rd games to allow for planning, PSNI liaison etc.

Glenavon’s fixtures will be as follows:

SAT 08 APRIL: Ballymena United (H)
SAT 15 APRIL: Coleraine (A) – Easter Saturday
TUE 18 APRIL: Linfield (A) – Easter Tuesday ko @7:45pm
SAT 22 APRIL: Cliftonville (A)
SAT 29 APRIL: Crusaders (A)