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.
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.
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.
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