What a game this was between two sides giving their all to win a football match. There was a lot at stake but neither side ever looked like settling for a point. Even after Eoin Bradley competed his hat trick to level the scores at 3-3 Glenavon pushed for a winner and almost got caught by a quick Reds counterattack, Simon Kelly as the sole defender making a last ditch tackle to force Jay Donnelly wide.
James Knowles could have won it for the Reds with an 86th minute free kick that was destined for the top corner but for a superb save by Jonny Tuffey, diving to his right to push it two handed round the post.
Kelly had the first chance of the game in the second minute but he headed wide at the far post from a cross by Joel Cooper. Daniel Kearns then fired just over the bar from 18 yards.
Tuffey got out well to block a shot from Stephen Garrett but moments later James Knowles raced onto a pass by Chris Curran and fired past Tuffey. The ball had broken to the visitors after Jamie McGovern had blocked Andy Hall’s shot at the other end.
Bradley equalised in the 32nd minute with a bullet header from a pinpoint cross by Hall
Six minutes later and the visitors were in front again as fortune favoured Jamie McGovern as his 20 yard shot deflected off Kelly and took it away from Tuffey to give the Reds defender his first ever goal in senior football.
Three minutes before the break Reds keeper Conor Devlin did well to deny Kearns after a great ball over the top by Hall. Hall followed up only to see his shot rebound off Devlin’s chest and as the ball fell to him again his low drive was cleared off the line. The Glenavon winger then brought down Garrett as he broke onto a pass out of defence by Jay Donnelly, the ex-Bangor wide man relieved that Referee Arnold Hunter only produced a yellow card.
Six minutes into the second half and the visitors doubled their lead. Again there was an element of good luck for the Reds when Stephen Garrett’s persistence was rewarded as his cross flicked off Kelly and went straight to the feet of Knowles who fired from 12 yards and scored via another deflection, this time off Kris Lindsay.
Glenavon pulled a goal back in the 78th minute in a passage of play that epitomised everything that’s good about Bradley. As Glenavon swept up the field he got on the end of Hall’s pass into the right side of the box and used his strength to get past Ryan Catney before firing into the roof of the net from a tight angle.
It was all square three minutes later as Kelly passed the ball out to Joel Cooper and he raced past Curran’s challenge before playing a through ball to Bradley and he completed his hat trick by lashing a left foot shot past Devlin from the left corner of the box to send the home fans into raptures.
Glenavon: Tuffey, Dillon, Lindsay (c), Kelly, Marshall, Hall, Kilmartin, Sykes, Cooper, Kearns, Bradley. Subs: Patton, McGrory (Kearns 87), O’Brien, Braniff (Kilmartin 71), Hamilton (Cooper 90+5)
Cautions: Hall 43, Kilmartin 66
Cliftonville: Devlin, Cosgrove, Smith, McGovern, Ives, McMullan, Garrett, Catney, Knowles, Curran, J Donnelly Subs: M Donnelly, Murray (McMullan 67), Brennan, George, McNicholl
Cautions: McMullan 54, McGovern 89
Referee: Arnold Hunter