Carrick Rangers 2–2 Glenavon
Danske Bank Premiership
Loughshore Leisure Arena, Saturday 15th January 2022
Match report by Calum Jones
Glenavon scored twice in injury time at Taylors Avenue on Saturday to grab a dramatic 2-2 draw with Carrick Rangers.
Ben Tilney put the home side ahead on 33 minutes when he fired a low shot into the bottom corner with his left foot following a Rangers counterattack.
Glenavon put the hosts under pressure for most of the second half to no avail, and when Tilney turned provider to set up Jordan Gibson for the second Carrick goal in the 79th minute, it looked like the three points had been wrapped up for the Amber Army.
Seemingly out of nowhere, Glenavon dramatically grabbed the unlikeliest of points with two stoppage-time goals, as Matthew Snoddy slotted home under Carrick goalkeeper Neil Shields on 90+2 before Matthew Fitzpatrick’s glancing header found the bottom corner on 90+4.
Glenavon carried most of the early threat in the match, with Conor McCloskey trying to make things happen from the left flank. Goalkeeper Shields did well to get down and gather a low McCloskey cross on three minutes, while 10 minutes later the winger crossed again from the left. This time he found Andy Hall at the far post. He cut inside and tried to play in Andy Waterworth with a pass, but he put too much on it and Shields was able to comfortably gather.
The closest Glenavon came to scoring in the first half was when Fitzpatrick’s low shot from the right side of the penalty area struck the base of the near post.
Against the run of play, it was the home side who went ahead in the 33rd minute. They attacked at pace, with Gibson slipping the ball out to Tilney on the left. The former Larne player raced clear of the Glenavon defence and into the penalty area before striking a low left-foot shot which beat the dive of James Taylor and nestled into the far bottom corner.
On 37 minutes Carrick broke following a Glenavon corner and Kyle Cherry played in Gibson, but his tame shot was saved by Taylor.
Glenavon tried to hit back four minutes later when Michael O’Connor slipped a short free-kick to Andrew Doyle. The former Carrick defender’s shot was well struck, but Shields was able to dive to his left and make the save.
On 42 minutes Carrick captain David Cushley saw his shot deflected and it fell to Kurtis Forsythe in a threatening position, but again Taylor was equal to the subsequent effort.
Glenavon’s last attack of the opening period saw Mark Haughey pick Waterworth out with a cross from the right. The striker’s header was on target, but it was a routine save for Shields.
For most of the second half the game followed a similar pattern to that of the opening 45 minutes, with Glenavon well on top in terms of possession, but struggling to really threaten the Carrick goal, before the hosts hit the Lurgan Blues on the counterattack and scored what looked sure to be the goal that sealed all three points.
Fitzpatrick had a good opportunity to level the scores in the 48th minute when Snoddy picked him out with a cross following an O’Connor corner, but Glenavon’s top scorer headed the ball over the bar.
Fitzpatrick and O’Connor were both involved again on 64 minutes. Fitzpatrick won a free-kick in a dangerous position when he drew a foul from Jim Ervin, and O’Connor will have been licking his lips as he lined up to have a shot at the Carrick goal from the direct free-kick, but it was to be a disappointing effort which floated harmlessly over the crossbar.
Substitute Josh Doyle missed a gilt-edged chance to draw Glenavon level in the 70th minute. McCloskey took a throw-in and the ball fell favourably to Doyle in the Carrick box, but he sent his low shot wide of the right-hand post when he really should have made the net bulge.
Carrick landed what looked to be a devastating counterpunch on 79 minutes as they doubled their lead. O’Connor took a corner from the left and Carrick keeper Shields managed to get a strong fist to the ball and punch it well clear of his penalty area. Ervin then did well to win the ball from young Glenavon substitute Conor Scannell, who subsequently hauled the veteran defender to the floor. Credit must go to referee Ross Dunlop for playing an advantage and allowing Carrick’s attack to continue, with Tilney picking the ball up close to the halfway line and carrying it all the way into the Glenavon box. In a reversal of the opening goal, this time Tilney was the provider for Gibson, as he squared the ball to the number 24, who calmly side-footed into the bottom corner, leaving Taylor with no chance.
As the game entered stoppage time, Carrick looked to be coasting to victory. Even when Snoddy pulled one back for Glenavon on 90+2 minutes everyone in the ground assumed it would only be a consolation goal. Danny Wallace launched a high ball forward into the Carrick half more in hope than in expectation, but captain James Singleton rose superbly and headed the ball down into the path of Snoddy in the Rangers box. The industrious midfielder took a touch with his right foot to bring the ball under control before slotting it under the onrushing Shields and into the net with his left boot.
However, there was to be a sting in the tail for the hosts, as Glenavon grabbed the most unexpected of points when they scored again with virtually the last touch of the ball. Set-piece deliveries from the Lurgan Blues had been largely disappointing during the match, but O’Connor curled over a great cross from a free-kick wide on the left when it really mattered. Fitzpatrick met the ball, and he expertly steered a glancing header inside the far post to notch his ninth league goal of the season and secure the draw for Glenavon that nobody could have seen coming just five minutes earlier.
Glenavon manager Gary Hamilton will be hoping that his side’s late fightback at Taylors Avenue will help them carry some momentum into next Saturday’s (22nd January) Premiership encounter away to reigning champions Linfield. Kick-off at Windsor Park will be at 3pm.
Carrick Rangers: 38. Neil Shields (GK), 2. Kurtis Forsythe, 5. James Ervin, 6. Steven Gordon, 7. David Cushley (C), 10. Daniel Kelly, 20. Kyle Cherry, 23. Reece Glendinning, 24. Jordan Gibson, 39. Ben Tilney, 42. Lloyd Anderson
Subs: 12. Ewan Kelly (for 10. Daniel Kelly, 46’), 28. Jack Chambers (for 7. David Cushley, 67’), 4. Mark Surgenor (for 42. Lloyd Anderson, 72’), 14. Ronan Kalla (for 20. Kyle Cherry, 84’); not used: 1. Matthew Skeet (GK), 25. Bailey Hoy, 27. Conor Quinn
Goals: 39. Ben Tilney (33’), 24. Jordan Gibson (79’)
Yellow cards: 6. Steven Gordon (64’), 14. Ronan Kalla (86’)
Glenavon: 18. James Taylor (GK), 5. Mark Haughey, 6. Andrew Doyle, 7. Andrew Waterworth, 8. Michael O’Connor, 11. Andrew Hall, 14. Matthew Snoddy, 17. Conor McCloskey, 19. Matthew Fitzpatrick, 23. Daniel Wallace, 27. James Singleton (C)
Subs: 20. Conor Scannell (for 11. Andrew Hall, 58’), 26. Joshua Doyle (for 7. Andrew Waterworth, 69’), 21. Jack O’Mahony (for 6. Andrew Doyle, 79’); not used: 2. Mark Stafford, 4. Calum Birney, 25. Ross Hunter, 30. Sean Ward
Goals: 14. Matthew Snoddy (90+2’), 19. Matthew Fitzpatrick (90+4’)
Yellow cards: 11. Andrew Hall (25’), 27. James Singleton (30’), 26. Joshua Doyle (86’)
Referee: Ross Dunlop
Photo: Andrew McCarroll/ Pacemaker Press