It was the proverbial game of two halves at Solitude with two first half goals ultimately costing Glenavon dearly against Cliftonville.
Goals from Aaron Donnelly and Ryan Curran put the Reds two goals up inside the first half hour of the game.
Peter Campbell did pull a goal back early in the second half but despite a better display in the second period the visitors couldn’t do enough to earn a share of the spoils at Solitude.
There were two changes to the team which defeated Portadown on Tuesday. Colin Coates dropped out due to concussion, while Conan Byrne took a place on the bench. In came James Singleton and Andy Hall.
Once again Glenavon had to put out a makeshift back four with Campbell playing at left back, Sean Ward and Singleton at centre halves and Aaron Harmon at right back. Conor McCloskey was on the left wing and Hall on the right.
Glenavon had an early chance on three minutes when a corner was swung in by Campbell. It was cleared out but came back out to McCloskey, who crossed and found Greg Moorhouse who shot over from three yards out.
At the other end a dangerous cross by Daire O’Connor evaded two Cliftonville attackers before Daniel Kearns had a curling shot tipped onto the crossbar by Craig Hyland.
Cliftonville went in front on 12 minutes through Aaron Donnelly with a cross-come-shot which floated into the top corner past Hyland.
Robbie Garrett had a chance to level the scores but he pulled his shot wide from the edge of the box, while at the other end it could have been 2-0 when Chris Curran’s cross was met by Ryan Curran who was just six yards out. His header hit the crossbar and came back to Paul O’Neill, who headed over.
Cliftonville did double their lead on 26 minutes. Rory Hale hit a rasping shot from distance which was parried by Hyland. He tried to chase it up, but as he backtracked O’Neill put it back across goal for Ryan Curran to head home from close range.
And they could have had a third just after the half hour mark when Jamie Harney’s header was cleared off the line by Garrett.
Conor McCloskey was unlucky not to get Glenavon back into the game with a free kick from 35 yards out. It was a great effort but unfortunately for Feburary’s football writers’ player of the month, it hit the bar and went over.
Just before the break Hyland had to use his legs to block Ryan Curran’s shot, before Rory Hale fired over.
Gary Hamilton made two changes at half time with Danny Purkis and Calvin Douglas, who was playing out of position at right back, come on for Moorhouse and Hall.
They made a bright start and got back into the game on 54 minutes thanks to Campbell’s header. McCloskey cut in and had a shot blocked but eventually the ball came out of the air and off the head of the left winger at the back post.
Cliftonville could have re-established their two goal lead when O’Connor put the ball across the Glenavon goal but it evaded two of the Reds’ forwards.
The impressive Douglas nearly set up an equaliser for Matthew Snoddy with his cross, but the latter’s header couldn’t find the net – but it did force a fine diving save out of McCarey, while Danny Purkis’ angled effort was denied by Kris Lowe.
Glenavon will be hoping to bounce back from their defeat on Tuesday night in the first of a double header against Glentoran, with the game at Mourneview Park kicking off at 7.45pm.
Unfortunately, due to NIFL’s COVID-19 protocol, our club photographer was unable to attend this game and take photos pitchside so, as a result, we are unable to bring you any pictures from the match.
Cliftonville: McCarey, Harney, C. Curran, O’Connor, R. Curran, Donnelly, Bagnall, Hale, Lowe, Kearns, O’Neill. Subs Dunne, McCrudden, Foster, Doherty (Kearns 75), Casey, Teggart, Coffey (O’Connor 85).
GOALS: Donnelly 12, R Curran 26.
BOOKINGS: Hale 60
Glenavon: Hyland, Campbell, Hall, Moorhouse, Snoddy, Harmon, McCloskey, Singleton, Garrett, Ward, McCaffrey. Subs: Byrne (McCaffrey 90), Purkis (Moorhouse 46), Fitzpatrick, Norton, Douglas (Hall 46), J. Doyle, O. Taylor
GOALS: Campbell 54
REFEREE: Raymond Crangle