Glenavon 3-2 Ballymena United
Danske Bank Premiership
Friday 28th October 2022
Match report by Calum Jones
Glenavon came out on top in a topsy-turvy encounter against Ballymena United on Friday night, with the Lurgan Blues eventually securing a 3-2 victory in a game that was played in front of the BBC cameras at Mourneview Park.
Ballymena grabbed the lead against the run of play when Jordan Gibson headed home a Ross Redman corner on 23 minutes, but Glenavon drew level five minutes into the second half as Matthew Fitzpatrick found the net with a header following a Jack Malone cross.
The home side took the lead eight minutes later, with captain Danny Wallace volleying in a Conor Scannell corner, but back came Ballymena just three minutes after that. Conor Keeley’s low shot was deflected into the net after Glenavon had failed to clear a Redman corner.
The hosts got their noses in front again on 67 minutes. Malone converted from the penalty spot after Fitzpatrick had been fouled by Kym Nelson.
Ballymena were then awarded a penalty in the 77th minute, as Sean Ward was adjudged to have fouled Davy McDaid, but Glenavon goalkeeper Rory Brown saved Ryan Waide’s spot-kick and Gary Hamilton’s side held on for the win.
The first real chance of the match fell the way of Fitzpatrick. He was picked out from a Conor Kerr cross on eight minutes, but the striker couldn’t keep his header underneath the crossbar.
Ballymena somehow managed to survive a frantic goalmouth scramble six minutes later when they blocked a series of Glenavon shots in quick succession.
Brown made an impressive save to thwart Gibson in the 23rd minute. The Ballymena player’s curling shot looked to be heading for the far corner, only for the Glenavon keeper to dive to his left and push it behind for a corner.
Brown was powerless to deny Gibson moments later, though. Redman picked him out from the resulting corner and Gibson was allowed a free header, which he duly planted in the far corner to open the scoring, very much against the run of play.
Fitzpatrick hit a low shot on target in the 32nd minute, but Ballymena goalkeeper Sean O’Neill was equal to the effort.
Eoin Bradley had a great chance to equalise for Glenavon three minutes later when Kerr pulled the ball back to him, but the striker sliced over the bar with his right foot from close to the penalty spot.
Scannell looked certain to score on 37 minutes after he’d been played in by Campbell. The young winger’s shot beat O’Neill, but Redman was there to clear the ball off the line.
Malone had a go from distance a minute before the break, and his shot wasn’t too far wide of O’Neill’s left-hand post.
Glenavon finally got on the scoresheet five minutes into the second half. Scannell took a corner short to Malone and the midfielder whipped over a cross from the left towards the back post, where Fitzpatrick met it and powered home a header to make it 1-1. There was some debate about whether or not a corner should have been awarded in the first place, however, as Campbell appeared to get the final touch before the ball went behind.
Scannell saw another effort cleared off the line four minutes after the equaliser. O’Neill saved Campbell’s initial shot before the rebound fell to Malone. He pulled it back for Scannell, who found the target with his shot, but this time it was Mikey Place who managed to head the ball clear.
He may have been denied a couple of goals in agonising circumstances, but Scannell did manage to register an assist as Glenavon went in front for the first time in the 58th minute. The winger swung in a corner from the left and Wallace did superbly well to get a boot to the ball ahead of Redman and turn it into the net on the volley from just outside the six-yard box.
The lead was to last just three minutes. Yet again it was a set piece which led to a goal, and once again it was Redman who delivered the corner for the Sky Blues. Brown attempted to punch the ball clear from amidst a mass of bodies, but it only went as far as Keeley, and he struck a low shot goalward from 12 yards. Nelson appeared to jump over the ball just before it struck Malone, who was stood guarding the post, and he was helpless as the ball deflected off his boot and into the net.
Glenavon had a shot cleared off the line for the third time in the 66th minute. Campbell’s shot from a narrow angle was saved by O’Neill, the ball then broke to Fitzpatrick, and he turned it on goal, but again a Ballymena defender was on hand to hook it away from right under the crossbar.
Glenavon did manage to grab the all-important third goal a minute later. Malone played a ball into the box from out on the left flank and Fitzpatrick did well to bring it under control. Just as Fitzpatrick was playing a pass to Scannell on the right side of the box, Nelson dived in and took the number 9 out with a reckless tackle from behind, leaving referee Ben McMaster with little choice but to point to the spot. Malone was given the responsibility of taking the penalty, and he made no mistake, calmly sending O’Neill the wrong way to give Glenavon a 3-2 lead.
Ten minutes after Glenavon’s penalty, Ballymena were awarded a spot-kick of their own. Ward got sucked in by McDaid and clumsily fouled the striker when attempting to dispossess him. Brown was to be the hero for Glenavon. The goalkeeper dived to his right and got two hands to Waide’s effort, saving the ball and pushing it well away from his goal in the process before Calum Birney was able to hook it clear.
Glenavon came close to putting the game to bed on 79 minutes. Substitute Conor McCloskey played a pass into the box and Malone stepped over the ball to allow it to find the feet of Fitzpatrick. The striker then slipped a pass through for Malone, whose subsequent shot cannoned off the crossbar. Fitzpatrick followed up and got his head to the rebound, only for the ball to be cleared off the line for a remarkable fourth time.
Despite there being six minutes of injury time played at the close of the match, Glenavon did manage to hold on fairly comfortably to secure another welcome three points, their second victory in a row following last weekend’s win against Carrick Rangers.
This result sees Glenavon move four points clear of Ballymena in the table. The Lurgan Blues currently occupy eighth place in the standings, and as of Friday night they were just one point behind the three teams who sit above them, although Carrick Rangers, Linfield and Coleraine all had at least one game in hand on Gary Hamilton’s men at that stage.
Next Saturday (5th November) sees Glenavon travel to Solitude to take on Cliftonville. Kick-off will be at 3pm.
MATCH SPONSOR – Gordon Irwin
BALL SPONSOR – Robert James Fine Clothing, Portadown
MAN OF THE MATCH SPONSOR – Neil Dillon
Glenavon: 1. Rory Brown, 2. Conor Kerr, 4. Calum Birney, 9. Matthew Fitzpatrick, 10. Peter Campbell, 16. Isaac Baird, 20. Conor Scannell, 23. Daniel Wallace (C), 29. Jack Malone, 30. Sean Ward, 80. Eoin Bradley
Subs: 17. Conor McCloskey (for 20. Conor Scannell, 69’), 7. Matthew Snoddy (for 80. Eoin Bradley, 76’), 6. Andrew Doyle (for 29. Jack Malone, 90+1’); not used: 3. Micheal Glynn, 21. Aaron Prendergast, 26. Joshua Doyle, 28. Robert Garrett
Goals: 9. Matthew Fitzpatrick (50’), 23. Daniel Wallace (58’), 29. Jack Malone (67’, penalty)
Yellow cards: 30. Sean Ward (77’), 23. Daniel Wallace (79’)
Ballymena United: 21. Sean O’Neill (GK), 2. Kym Nelson, 3. Ross Redman, 7. David McDaid, 8. Joshua Kelly (C), 10. Ryan Waide, 11. Steven McCullough, 12. Kenneth Kane, 18. Jordan Gibson, 22. Conor Keeley, 30. Michael Place
Subs: 14. Jack Henderson (for 3. Ross Redman, 74’), 5. Scot Whiteside (for 22. Conor Keeley, 90+1’), 6. Caolan Loughran (for 10. Ryan Waide, 90+1’); not used: 1. Jordan Williamson (GK), 16. Evan Tweed, 34. Nathan Clarke, 35. Craig Farquhar
Goals: 18. Jordan Gibson (23’), 22. Conor Keeley (61’)
Missed penalty: 10. Ryan Waide (78’)
Yellow cards: 2. Kym Nelson (67’), 22. Conor Keeley (84’)
Referee: Ben McMaster