Linfield 2-3 Glenavon
Danske Bank Premiership
Windsor Park, Saturday January 20th 2018
Match Report by Philip Hawthorne
Photos by Alan Weir and Maynard Collins
Gary Hamilton started with a new front pairing of Andrew Mitchell and Stephen Murray for Saturday’s fourth versus third clash at Windsor Park and the combination certainly produced the goods. Murray, recently signed from Warrenpoint Town, put in a selfless performance and never gave the Linfield defence a moment’s respite. He was instrumental in Mitchell’s goal that put Glenavon ahead early in the second half after going behind in the third minute to a Kurtis Byrne volley. He also provided the assist for Marc Griffin’s goal that proved decisive in securing the well-deserved victory and was only denied a goal himself by a good save by Roy Carroll.
Glenavon kicked off and almost immediately created a half chance when Andy Hall’s quick throw in on the right was hooked on by Murray but neither Bobby Burns nor Andrew Mitchell could get a decisive touch as Josh Robinson nodded clear.
Sixty seconds later Rhys Marshall had to make a last ditch tackle to deny Kurtis Byrne a shooting chance when he was played in by Stephen Lowry but from the resulting corner, which Jonny Tuffey punched clear of the box, the Linfield striker drove a low shot through the crowded box with the unsighted Tuffey unable to do much about it.
The home side’s lead lasted only five minutes though as Simon Kelly rose to power a header past Carroll from a Burns corner. Linfield should have heeded the warning from a previous in-swinging corner by Burns that put the veteran keeper under pressure but he failed to deal with the second set piece and Kelly’s header flew past him into the back of the net. The NI keeper was left lying in the goal mouth and received treatment for several minutes after the goal but was able to continue, Linfield not naming a keeper on the subs bench.
The delay seemed to kill the early momentum and the first half failed to live up to the expectations generated by those early goals. Marshall made another tackle in the box to deny Robert Garrett a chance to shoot, Lowry headed over from a Millar cross and Marshall was denied in the other box when he had a turn and shot blocked after good build-up play by Mitchell and Mark Sykes.
Just before the half hour Caolan Marron took a nasty blow to the face when defending a Linfield corner and received lengthy treatment off the pitch for what turned out to be a broken nose. The young centre back bravely played on for the rest of the game and, along with the rest of the defence, put in a superb performance to restrict Linfield to very few goal-scoring opportunities.
Glenavon took the lead four minutes into the second period when a ball across the six yard line by Murray caused panic in the Linfield defence, Josh Robinson making a hash of clearing the danger and Mitchell pouncing on the loose ball to stab it home before Carroll could react. That was the big striker’s first goal against Linfield, the only side he hadn’t scored against, and his delight at putting Glenavon in front and ‘completing the set’ was clear as he raced over to celebrate in front of the Glenavon fans who had been superb in support throughout the game.
In the 63rd minute Marshall again broke up a Linfield attack with a great tackle and the ball broke to Sammy Clingan who played it forward to Mitchell. He laid it off to Sykes who strode forward and played a perfectly timed pass out to Murray on the right. The big striker hit a low shot that Carroll managed to divert round the post with his boot to deny Murray what would have been a well-deserved first goal for his new team.
Blues substitute Stephen Fallon carelessly gave the ball away to Marc Griffin in the 79th minute and he played in Sykes but the Linfield man was relieved when the Glenavon midfielder sent his shot over the bar from the edge of the box.
Two minutes later Murray kept the ball in play on the left touchline and, leaving Robinson in his wake, strode into the box and played the perfect ball across the area to tee up substitute Marc Griffin for a simple finish past Carroll.
With the 4th official indicating five minutes of stoppage time it could have been a nervy period for Glenavon had Tuffey not raced off his line in the 91st minute to bravely deny French striker Achille Campion a goal but, by the time sub Andrew Waterworth did find the net in the final minute of added time, it was too little, too late for the Champions, with Glenavon emerging worthy 3-2 winners.
Linfield: 1 Carroll, 4 Robinson, 5 Haughey, 6 Callacher, 8 Lowry, 12 Millar, 15 Byrne, 16 Clarke, 24 Garrett, 29 Campion, 39 Strain
Subs: 7 Waterworth for 39 Strain 53 mins, 10 Stewart for 15 Byrne 69 mins, 20 Fallon for 24 Garrett 69 mins
Unused Subs: 27 Mitchell, 31 Quinn
Cautions: Byrne 22, Garrett 50, Campion 70
Glenavon: 1 Tuffey, 8 Marshall, 4 Kelly, 15 Marron, 27 Singleton, 11 Hall, 14 Sykes, 16 Clingan, 3 Burns, 24 Murray, 9 Mitchell
Subs: 10 Griffin for 9 Mitchell 78 mins, 23 Cooper for Murray 86 mins, 17 McGrory for Burns 89 mins
Unused subs: Foley, Lindsay
Cautions: Mitchell 30
Referee: Tim Marshall