Glenavon 2-1 Crusaders
Danske Bank Premiership
Mourneview Park, Saturday 8th February 2020
Match Report by Calum Jones
Photos by Alan Weir and Maynard Collins
Substitute Conor McCloskey scored the winning goal four minutes from time as Glenavon ended a run of three straight defeats with a 2-1 victory over title-chasing Crusaders at Mourneview Park on Saturday.
Paul Heatley gave the Crues the lead three minutes before the break when he tapped Declan Caddell’s knock-down over the line.
Josh Daniels drew Glenavon level on 67 minutes when he got on the end of a long ball forward from goalkeeper Jonny Tuffey and turned it past Gerard Doherty in the Crusaders goal.
McCloskey entered the field of play in the 82nd minute when he was brought on to replace Dylan Davidson, and he scored the winning goal just four minutes later with a beauty of a left-footed shot from 20 yards out which beat the dive of Doherty and nestled in the bottom corner.
Glenavon knew that their level of performance would have to pick up drastically on Saturday if they were going to have any hope of getting a result against a Crusaders side who are firmly in the title race, and pick up it did, particularly defensively. The centre-back pairing of Andrew Doyle and Calum Birney kept talismanic Crues striker Jordan Owens quiet, while full-backs Aaron Harmon and Daniel Larmour did impressive man-marking jobs on Heatley and the lively Jamie McGonigle.
At the other end of the pitch, Danny Purkis had another good game for the Lurgan Blues, and he might have opened the scoring after just three minutes. Crusaders centre-back Rodney Brown understandably struggled to deal with a ball over the top from Sammy Clingan in the very windy conditions and Purkis took advantage to nod the ball clear of Brown and advance into the penalty area. Doherty did superbly well to get off his line, narrow the angle and make the one-on-one save.
McGonigle had the ball in the Glenavon net on 19 minutes only for the linesman to raise his flag and rule it out for offside, while moments later Purkis forced Doherty into another save. This time the Crues keeper had to dive down to his right to keep the ball out.
Purkis was involved again on 26 minutes when he whipped a dangerous ball in from the right which went across the face of goal, but strike partner Greg Moorhouse couldn’t get on the end of it.
Moorhouse really should have scored a minute later when another excellent cross was whipped in from the right, this time from Daniels. The striker was closer to the ball on this occasion and he will be disappointed that he failed to get a touch on it to guide it into the net.
It was Crusaders who broke the deadlock in the 42nd minute. Jordan Forsythe launched a long throw down the right flank to find the feet of McGonigle. The former Coleraine man twisted and turned to evade the challenge of Doyle before curling a cross in with his left foot to find Caddell at the far post. The midfielder nodded the ball down and across goal and Heatley was on hand to tap it over the line and make it 1-0 to the away side. There was a suspicion of offside, but the linesman kept his flag down and the goal stood, a correct decision as the video replay later showed.
Glenavon had a big appeal for a penalty turned down five minutes into the second half when Larmour appeared to be shoved over in the box. Referee Jamie Robinson was uninterested in the appeal, however, and waved play on.
Caddell probably should have doubled Crusaders’ lead on 56 minutes when the impressive McGonigle again found him at the back post, this time with a cross from the left wing. The midfielder got his boot to the ball but failed to direct his effort on target.
Glenavon’s equaliser in the 67th minute certainly wasn’t the prettiest of goals. Tuffey launched a long free-kick downfield into the Crusaders penalty area and their defence failed to read the flight of the ball in the blustery conditions, allowing it to bounce, and Daniels managed to get his right boot to the ball and direct it past Doherty and in off the left-hand post.
McGonigle caused more problems for Glenavon on 70 minutes when he dribbled to the byline and pulled a low cross back which nearly found Heatley. The forward couldn’t read the cross, though, and failed to get on the end of it.
On 79 minutes it looked like Daniels was through on goal only for Crusaders left-back Jarlath O’Rourke to produce a brilliant last-gasp sliding tackle to deny the Glenavon winger a one-on-one opportunity against Doherty.
Five minutes from time Sammy Clingan swung over a free-kick from the left which found James Singleton, but he could only direct his header wide of the far post when he really should have at least forced Doherty to make a save.
No matter, as Glenavon only had to wait another minute for their second goal. McCloskey had only been on the pitch four minutes when he latched onto a loose ball after O’Rourke had failed to clear Larmour’s long ball forward. The Glenavon substitute played a one-two of headers with Purkis before using his head again to bring the ball under control and set himself for a shot. What a shot it was too, a half-volley on his weaker left foot from 20 yards out which flew past Doherty, who was at full stretch diving to his left, and took one bounce before finding the far corner.
The Lurgan Blues saw out the remaining minutes of the game fairly comfortably as Crusaders failed to fashion a clear equalising chance.
Unfortunately Glenavon will be denied the chance to build on this excellent performance next weekend. They were due to take on Coleraine, but that game has been postponed due to the Bannsiders’ participation in the League Cup Final, meaning Gary Hamilton’s side’s next game will be at home to Glentoran on Saturday 22nd February. Kick-off is at 3pm.
Glenavon: 1. Jonny Tuffey (GK) (C), 2. Daniel Larmour, 6. Andrew Doyle, 7. Josh Daniels, 12. Greg Moorhouse, 15. Aaron Harmon, 16. Sammy Clingan, 19. Danny Purkis, 27. James Singleton, 32. Calum Birney, 34. Dylan Davidson
Subs: 3. Paddy Burns (for 15. Aaron Harmon, 68’), 30. Jordan Jenkins (for 12. Greg Moorhouse, 75’), 20. Conor McCloskey (for 34. Dylan Davidson, 82’); not used: 10. Conan Byrne, 18. James Taylor (GK), 23. Kyle Beggs, 37. Cathal Farren
Goals: 7. Josh Daniels (67’), 20. Conor McCloskey (86’)
Yellow Cards: 27. James Singleton (40’), 34. Dylan Davidson (80’)
Crusaders: 30. Gerard Doherty (GK), 2. Billy-Joe Burns, 7. Philip Lowry, 9. Jamie McGonigle, 12. Declan Caddell, 14. Jordan Forsythe, 15. Jarlath O’Rourke, 18. Jordan Owens (C), 20. Rodney Brown, 21. Gary Thompson, 22. Paul Heatley
Subs: 11. David Cushley (for 21. Gary Thompson, 73’); not used: 1. Sean O’Neill, 4. Howard Beverland, 17. Michael Ruddy, 24. Reece McGinley, 29. Paul McElroy, 33. Cameron Dummigan
Goals: 13. Paul Heatley (42’)
Yellow Cards: 21. Gary Thompson (40’), 12. Declan Caddell (51’), 2. Billy-Joe Burns (84’)
Referee: Jamie Robinson