Europa League Play Off Final: Ballymena 2 Glenavon 1

Glenavon suffered an agonising defeat to Ballymena in Friday evening’s Europa League Play Off Final with former player Kevin Braniff grabbing the winner 10 minutes from time.

With the playing surface at the Showgrounds subject to much debate over the course of the season the game started slowly with both sides struggling to make an opening. Joel Cooper had the game’s first real chance on 15 minutes when he latched onto a Martyn through ball but from a tight angle squeezed his shot past the far post. Cooper again went close shortly after as he cleverly cut inside the home defence forcing Glendinning into a smart save down to his near post.

Ballymena as yet were to test Tuffey in the Glenavon goal who was comfortably dealing with the threat from set pieces. They did go close however when Owens headed a Kane free kick past the post but with Sykes well placed on the line to clear any danger. Shortly before the break Glenavon had the game’s best chance, Gray cleverly turned his man after Moorhouse had flicked a header into his path. His powerful effort was well saved by the outstretched leg of Glendinning with Ciaran Martyn unable to capitalise from the rebound shooting straight at a relieved Glendinning.

Eight minutes into the second half Ballymena took the lead, McMurray got in behind the Glenavon back line and fed an inviting ball across the face of goal to Friel who from 6 yards fired into the roof of the net. Minutes later it was almost two, McMurray this time with the chance however he fired wide when well placed.

Andy Hall replaced Sykes on 56 minutes and he made a telling impact as his corner was headed back across goal by Singleton towards Rhys Marshall, whose unstoppable volley from 10 yards levelled the game up at 1-1.

Hall was unlucky not to put Glenavon into the lead when his dipping free kick from distance came crashing back off the bar with Glendinning beaten, Marshall then saw his header come off the top of the bar from the rebound.

With Glenavon pushing for a winner Ballymena introduced Kevin Braniff to the action. Within minutes he took the game away from his former side. Picking the ball up 25 yards from goal his shot took a wicked deflection off Singleton and crashed in off the cross bar to put Ballymena into a 2-1 lead with just under 10 minutes to play.

Glenavon pushed hard for a second equaliser bringing on Jordan Jenkins who a month earlier scored a brace in a 2-0 victory over the same opposition. Glenavon had one last chance late in the game when Gray broke free from his man but his shot lacked any real power to test Glendinning.

A disappointing end to the season for Glenavon who for the first time in four seasons have no European football to look towards in the summer months.

Team: Tuffey ©, Canning (Kilmartin 73 mins), Doyle, Lindsay, Singleton, Marshall, Sykes (Hall 56 mins), Martyn, Cooper, Gray, Moorhouse (Jenkins 81 mins).

Unused Subs: Neill and McGrory

Europa League Play Off Semi Final: Cliftonville 3 Glenavon 5

Glenavon sealed a place in Friday’s NIFL Europa League Play off Final with Ballymena after a thrilling 5-3 victory at Solitude last night. Glenavon took an early lead with Rhys Marshall rising highest to head home from a Joel Cooper corner just as the well supported applause for the late Tony Scappaticci was about to take place in the 3rd minute. The lead did not last for long however with Jude Winchester picking up the loose ball and firing an unstoppable shot past Tuffey from 25 yards two minutes later.

Rhys Marshall heads Glenavon into an early lead. Pic: Maynard Collins

The home side then went in front after 27 minutes with Chris Curran beating Andrew Doyle and slotting home past the onrushing Tuffey. Glenavon fought back not for the first time in the game and got back on level terms, Simon Kelly heading back across goal from another Cooper corner with Greg Moorhouse nipping in ahead of Burke in the Cliftonville goal to head home on 34 minutes.

Greg Moorhouse nips in to make it 2-2. Pic: Maynard Collins

Having got back on levels terms Glenavon went behind two minutes later however, Marty Donnelly picking out namesake Jay with a great delivery from the left and the striker made no mistake from close range as he planted his header into the bottom right hand corner to give the home side a 3-2 lead.

Buoyed on however by a passionate and boisterous away support, Glenavon piled on the early second half pressure, Cliftonville scrambling the ball away from the lively James Gray just as he seemed destined to score, Burke also pushing a Marshall header over from close range for a corner.

Glenavon levelled the game up on 49 minutes from the resulting corner with James Singleton planting his header past Burke in the home goal, game on again. The momentum was now once again with the away side, Cooper twice going close with efforts while Gray who along with Moorhouse were stretching the home defence saw his effort beaten away by Burke.

Gray did not have to wait long however for his deserved goal, as he stooped to head home from another Kelly header from yet another Cooper set piece on 70 minutes to send the away support into raptures, surely this was now Glenavon’s game.

With the away support in fine voice after Gray’s goal, Sykes was brought down just inside the Cliftonville penalty area on 73 minutes giving Referee Tim Marshall no option but to point to the spot. Andy McGrory stepped up sending Burke the wrong away to put Glenavon 5-3 ahead and into Friday’s Europa League decider.

Andy McGrory celebrates his penalty. Pic: Maynard Collins

Tuffey (C), McGrory, Kelly, Doyle, Singleton, Sykes (Hall 84 mins), Kilmartin, Marshall, Cooper (Neill 90 mins), Gray (Marron 90mins), Moorhouse

Subs not used: Martyn, Jenkins

Paul Millar thanks the fantastic support. Pic: Maynard Collins

Result: Crusaders 6-1 Glenavon

Six changes to the starting line-up for Glenavon as Kyle Neill, named as Captain for today, starts would could be his last league match for the Lurgan Blues.

Photo by Maynard Collins

James Taylor, Kris Lindsay, Joel Cooper, Caolan Marron, Greg Moorhouse and Robbie Norton are in from the start.

06: 1-0 Gavin Whyte runs onto Gavin Whyte’s flick-on and angles a shot into the bottom corner giving James Taylor no chance.

27: 2-0 Whyte turns provider as he cuts a ball back from the bye-line and Paul Heatley tucks the ball away at the near post.

38: 3-0 Heatley showed a great touch to instantly control a long, high punt down the middle and steers the ball beyond a stranded Taylor

44: 4-0 Carvill grabs his second of the game, again a great touch allowed him to control a ball into the box by Owens and lift it over Taylor.

58: 4-1 What a strike by Robbie Norton! From 30 yards his strike into the top corner gave Sean O’Neill no chance.

Photo by Maynard Collins

78: 5-1 Jordan Owens gets on the scoresheet with a curler from the edge of the box. In the build-up Caolan Marron picked up a bad knock just after Gary Hamilton had used his final two subsitutes. The young defender has had to go off leaving Glenavon to finish the game with ten men.

90+4: 6-1 Crues sub Matthew Snoddy taps in from six yards after Taylor palms a low cross into his path.

Seconds after Andy Hall headed over the Crues bar from a Joel Cooper cross Michael Carvill latched onto a flick-on by Gavin Whyte and angled a low shot across Taylor into the bottom corner.

Jordan Owens squandered several chances to extend the Crues lead and Paul Heatley was only inches wide with a low 25th minute  shot as Andrew Mitchell cut out a cross-field pass from Jenkins and raced forward before slipping in Heatley.

Two minutes later Heatley made no mistake when he nipped in at the near post to tuck away a cut-back from the bye-line by Whyte.

Heatley grabbed his second in the 38th minute and Carvill joined the double party a minute before half-time.

As news filtered in from Solitude that Linfield had come back to take a 2-1 lead, Robbie Norton picked up the ball 30 yards out and unleashed a superb drive into the top corner that left O’Neill grasping thin air.

Crusaders: O’Neill (c), Burns, Beverland, McClean, Carvill, Caddell, Mitchell, Forsythe, Whyte,Heatley, Owens. Subs: Cushley, Dougherty (GK), Snoddy, Keane, Suarez

Glenavon: Taylor, McGrory, Lindsay, Marron, Neill (c), Hall, Kilmartin, Norton, Cooper,Moorhouse, Jenkins. Subs: Marshall, Young, Canning, Singleton, Gray

Referee: Andrew Davey

 

Result: Cliftonville 1-3 Glenavon

Five changes to the starting line-up from Tuesday night’s defeat at Windsor Park: Jordan Jenkins and Guy Bates get the nod up front as Gary Hamilton searches for a solution to Glenavon’s lack of goals; Kyle Neill, Simon Kelly and Chris Turner also start with Greg Moorhouse, Caolan Marron, James Gray dropping to the bench. Joel Cooper and Aaron Canning are out after picking up knocks against Linfield.

Just one change to the Reds team that lost 4-1 to Ballymena on Tuesday, Aaron Donnelly replacing Martin Donnelly.

28: 0-1 Andy Hall scores with a header from Singleton’s cross

60: 0-2 Hall capitalises on a bad mistake by Reds keeper Burke

65: 1-2 Marty Donnelly scores direct from a 20 yard free kick.

83: 1-3 Andy McGrory volleys in after his free kick rebounds back to him off the wall

Andy Hall rises to meet James Singleton’s cross to make it 1-0 to Glenavon. Photo by Maynard Collins

Photo by Maynard Collins

Three minutes after Stephen Garrett broke clear and drew a good save from Johnny Tuffey, Andy Hall’s downwards header from James Singleton’s cross bounced up off the synthetic surface and over the outstretched arms of keeper Peter Burke to give Glenavon a 28th minute lead.

Five minutes later and Jonny Tuffey was called into action to make a superb tip-over save to deny Stephen Garrett’s well-struck shot from the left side of the box. The Glenavon keeper had to make another good save to keep out a low drive from Levi Ives in the 36th minute.

It was almost 2-0 in the 39th minute. Turner won the ball 35 yards out and played a great pass into Bates on the left of the Reds box. His low shot was saved by Burke but the rebound went to Jenkins and his shot from 12 yards was cleared off the line by Jamie McGovern.

Jordan Jenkins challeneges for a high ball. Photo by Maynard Collins

In first half stoppage time it looked like Bates had been bundled over two yards out as he looked favourite to tap in from a low Jenkins’ cross but the referee ignored his claims for a penalty.

It was 2-0 to the Lurgan Blues on the hour mark when a terrible mistake by Burke saw Hall nip in to grab his second of the match. The Reds keeper had come out of his area to clear a through ball  but he miskicked horribly and Hall kept his head to slot the ball into the empty net from the right corner of the box.

Andy Hall slots in goal number 2. Photo by Maynard Collins

Marty Donnelly pulled a goal back from a free kick just outside the area just five minutes later. Donnelly then rattled the bar from a back post volley off a cross by Ives in the 69th minute.

A goal by Andy McGrory seven minutes from time sealed the win for Glenavon after his free kick came back to him off the wall and he volleyed his follow-up shot beyond the reach of Burke.

Cliftonville: Burke, McGovern (c), Ives, Bonner, Curran, Garrett, Cosgrove, A Donnelly (M Donnelly 46), Finnegan (Lavery 61), Nelson, J Donnelly (Reynolds 73). Subs: Dunne, M Donnelly, Seydak, Lavery, Reynolds.

Glenavon: Tuffey (c), Neill, Kelly (Marron 46), Kilmartin, Hall, Doyle, McGrory, Turner (Norton 46), Singleton, Bates, Jenkins (Moorhouse 78) Subs: Marron, Moorhouse, Norton, Gray, Renato

Referee: Lee Tavinder

Result: Linfield 3-0 Glenavon

Gary Hamilton makes six changes to the team that started Saturday’s 1-1 draw at Coleraine. With Rhys Marshall starting his two-game suspension, Aaron Canning comes back but starts in midfield with Andy McGrory at left back in the defence along with Caolan Marron and Andrew Doyle. They join left back James Singleton who scored the equaliser against the Bannsiders. Joel Cooper and Andrew Hall provide the width and Greg Moorhouse starts up front in place of Jordan Jenkins who drops to the bench.

Highlights and Managers’ reactions from BBC Sport NI

Photos by Maynard Collins.

28: 1-0 Burns scores from the penalty spot

33: 2-0 Haughey rises to power Quinn’s cross beyond Tuffey

44: 3-0 Smyth races on to Waterworth’s flick and fires the hosts into a 3-0 halftime lead.

Glenavon were more than holding their own until the 28th minute when Singleton’s attempted back pass went straight to Andy Waterworth and Jonny Tuffey was adjudged to have fouled the striker as he came out to cut down the angle. Aaron Burns took the spot kick and put the home side ahead in the 28th minute.

Two minutes earlier Glenavon were asking for a penalty as Paul Smyth was all over the back of Singleton as he tried to get to a ball to the far post following a corner.

Five minutes later former Glenavon defender Mark Haughey doubled the lead with a bullet header after Niall Quinn crossed to the front post after his previous corner had only been cleared back to him.

Paul Smyth made it 3-0 in the 44th minute with an assured finish as he ran onto a flick-on by Waterworth from a free kikck out by Roy Carroll.

There were no further goals in the second half but Tuffey made a great save with his boot to deny Waterworth a goal in the 64th minute and James Gray did have a header cleared off the line by Clarke from McGrory’s corner. Doyle came to Glenavon’s rescue late on when he also cleared off the line after Tuffey half-stopped Waterworth’s close range effort. Tuffey then beat away Casement’s swerving follow-up shot.

Linfield: Carroll, Haughey (Stafford 51), Callacher, Casement, Quinn, Lowry, Burns (Millar 69), Clarke, Mulgrew (c) (Ward 46), Smyth, Waterworth. Subs: Stafford, Millar, Ward, Gaynor, Strain

Glenavon: Tuffey (c), Canning, Marron, Doyle, Singleton, Hall (Norton 46), Kilmartin Patton 66), McGrory, Cooper, Gray, Moorhouse (Jenkins 66). Subs: Patton, Bates, Jenkins, Norton, Renato

Referee: Steven Taylor