Glenavon 0-2 Cliftonville
Danske Bank Premiership
Mourneview Park, Saturday 19th March 2022
Match report by Calum Jones
Glenavon suffered a second 2-0 home defeat of the season to title-chasing Cliftonville on Saturday afternoon.
Paul O’Neill turned in the opening goal on 26 minutes following a Levi Ives throw-in from the left.
Joe Gormley grabbed the Reds’ second goal five minutes after the restart, and the visitors comfortably protected their lead for the remainder of the game to secure a precious victory.
In a game that was played in very blustery conditions, it was the Lurgan Blues who really threatened first through Peter Campbell in the 22nd minute. Matthew Fitzpatrick picked Campbell out with an excellent ball over the top and the winger controlled it on his chest before letting fly with a half-volley. The ball crashed off the underside of the crossbar and bounced down, but unfortunately for Campbell and the home support it landed on the wrong side of the goal-line.
Just four minutes later the visitors were in front. Ives delivered the long throw from the left towards the near post and O’Neill escaped the attention of Calum Birney before flicking a shot goalward which managed to beat Glenavon goalkeeper James Taylor and find the net.
O’Neill might have grabbed his and Cliftonville’s second goal on 38 minutes. Again, it was an Ives throw-in which created the chance, but the young striker could only manage to turn the ball over the bar at the back post.
Gormley had a quiet first half for the visitors by his standards, but the striker still managed to threaten twice in injury time at the end of the first period. First, he flashed a low shot narrowly wide of Taylor’s left-hand post in the first minute of time added on, while a minute later Birney did well to get a block in as Cliftonville’s number 19 struck a shot on the turn.
Glenavon’s Matthew Snoddy hit a decent effort on target two minutes after the break, but Cliftonville goalkeeper Luke McNicholas made a comfortable save.
Gormley doubled the away side’s lead five minutes into the second half. Jamie McDonagh sent over a deep cross from the right flank and Birney and Taylor appeared to impede one another as they both jumped for the same ball, leaving Gormley with the simple task of heading into an empty net.
Andy Hall hit the target with a well-struck shot from a free-kick in the 53rd minute, but again McNicholas made no mistake in the Cliftonville goal.
McDonagh nearly broke through on goal for the visitors two minutes later, but Danny Wallace made a brilliant last-gasp tackle to deny the winger.
There were strong appeals for a Glenavon penalty a minute before the hour mark when the ball appeared to strike the arm of centre-half Jonny Addis, but referee Tony Clarke was unmoved.
Cliftonville protected their lead relatively comfortably for much of the remainder of the game, but Glenavon did manage to fashion a couple of reasonably good chances in the closing minutes.
First of all, on 86 minutes, Birney was picked out with a cross from the right, but the defender couldn’t manage to direct his header on target.
A minute after that, Campbell whipped in a superb free-kick from deep and found Fitzpatrick. Glenavon’s top scorer put his effort over the bar when he may well have found the net on another day.
In the end, Cliftonville ran out deserved 2-0 winners, and they move up into second spot in the league table, four points behind leaders Linfield, but with a game in hand.
Glenavon still occupy that all-important seventh place in the race for a European play-off spot, one point clear of Ballymena United.
The Lurgan Blues are just three points behind sixth-placed Coleraine, with the two teams due to meet at the Showgrounds next Saturday (26th March) in the final round of fixtures before the split, but with the Bannsiders having a game in hand and a massive 15-goal advantage in terms of goal difference, it would take nothing short of a miracle now for Gary Hamilton’s men to overhaul Oran Kearney’s side and secure a place in the top half of the table.
MATCH SPONSOR – Triangle Glenavon Supporters Club
BALL SPONSOR – Tandragee Sewing Machines
MAN OF THE MATCH SPONSORS – Damian Hardwick and Ali Douglas
Glenavon: 18. James Taylor (GK), 4. Calum Birney, 5. Mark Haughey, 7. Andrew Waterworth, 10. Peter Campbell, 11. Andrew Hall, 14, Matthew Snoddy, 19. Matthew Fitzpatrick, 23. Daniel Wallace, 27. James Singleton (C), 28. Robert Garrett
Subs: 21. Jack O’Mahony (for 11. Andrew Hall, 62’), 26. Joshua Doyle (for 28. Robert Garrett, 65’); not used: 37. Liam Corr, 44. Harry Lynch, 46. Harry Norton, 52. Bobby Harvey, 59. Aaron Prendergast
Yellow cards: 19. Matthew Fitzpatrick (75’)
Cliftonville: 1. Luke McNicholas (GK), 3. Levi Ives, 7. Christopher Curran (C), 9. Ryan Curran, 10. Paul O’Neill, 11. Jamie McDonagh, 13. Kris Lowe, 15. Jonathan Addis, 19. Joseph Gormley, 24. Luke Turner, 25. Christopher Gallagher
Subs: 26. Colin Coates (for 24. Luke Turner, 46’), 17. Ronan Doherty (for 19. Joseph Gormley, 86’), 2. Conor McDermott (for 11. Jamie McDonagh, 90+3’); not used: 36. Ruadhan McKenna (GK), 6. Jamie Harney, 14. Aaron Donnelly, 32. Daniel Kearns
Goals: 10. Paul O’Neill (26’), 19. Joseph Gormley (50’)
Yellow cards: 7. Christopher Curran (57’), 10. Paul O’Neill (90+3’)
Referee: Tony Clarke