Glenavon 2-1 Portadown
Danske Bank Premiership
Monday 26th December 2022
Match report by Calum Jones
It was Boxing Day derby delight for Glenavon at Mourneview Park on Monday afternoon thanks to Matthew Fitzpatrick, whose brace secured the Lurgan Blues a 2-1 victory over fierce rivals Portadown and the Mid Ulster bragging rights to go with it.
The Lurgan Blues somehow failed to score in a first half which they dominated, but Fitzpatrick broke the deadlock five minutes after the break when he drilled home after he had been teed up by strike partner Eoin Bradley.
Bottom side Portadown managed to haul themselves level on 68 minutes when Barney McKeown bundled the ball into the net following a Reece Jordan corner.
The home side responded eight minutes later, however, and it was that man Fitzpatrick who struck again, after good work from Peter Campbell on the left flank, to restore the lead and ultimately secure the three points.
Glenavon captain Danny Wallace had the first meaningful effort on goal in the seventh minute when he curled a shot on target with his right foot. Fitzpatrick also came close to getting a touch to the ball which might have diverted it past Ports goalkeeper Jethren Barr.
Three minutes after that, Fitzpatrick fired a shot over the bar, while on 13 minutes, Matthew Snoddy dragged a low shot wide from distance.
The impressive Campbell, who was named sponsors’ man of the match, was fouled just outside the penalty area in the 18th minute. Michael O’Connor took the resulting free-kick and flashed his shot narrowly over the top.
Fitzpatrick was presented with another half-chance on 28 minutes, but he couldn’t hit the target with his shot.
Four minutes later, Snoddy sent a threatening low cross into the penalty area, but he couldn’t pick out a teammate.
Despite their dominance, Glenavon failed to trouble the scoresheet in the first half, and it was actually Portadown who might have got their noses in front late in the opening half on not one but two occasions.
First, on 41 minutes, Joshua Archer curled a great cross to the far post from the right wing. Alberto Balde Almanzar was well positioned and really should have got his head to the ball, but he failed to do so.
Then, in first-half stoppage time, Jordan swung over a free-kick from the right to pick out Jordan Jenkins. The ex-Glenavon striker headed over the bar when he should have at least forced Rory Brown into action, and so it remained goalless at the break.
Glenavon finally got the goal their dominance deserved five minutes after the restart. Snoddy slipped a pass to Campbell on the left flank and the winger whipped over a first-time cross with his left foot to pick out Fitzpatrick at the back post. Fitzpatrick chested the ball down to the feet of Bradley, who held off Jordan, then flicked the ball back to Fitzpatrick just before McKeown could steal it. Glenavon’s number nine took one touch to set himself and then rifled a shot into the roof of the net with his right foot to send a packed Mourneview Park into raptures.
The Ports nearly hit back straight away when Jenkins hooked an overhead kick on target, but Brown was alert enough to make a save and deny the forward.
The game really opened up at this point. Portadown substitute Stephen Teggart entered the match on 61 minutes and fired wide just moments after coming on.
In the 63rd minute, Barr made a superb save to deny Fitzpatrick a second goal at the other end. Bradley released Fitzpatrick with a flicked header, and the striker’s shot was powerfully struck, but Barr dived to his right to get a hand to the ball and push it away to safety.
Barr’s opposite number Brown was then called into action a minute later. Jenkins got through and hit the target with a low shot. The Glenavon goalkeeper made a smart save with his right boot.
Portadown equalised on 68 minutes. Jordan curled in a corner from the right and captain Paddy McNally rose to challenge for the ball. McNally failed to make a clean contact with his header, but he caused confusion in the Glenavon defence, and when they failed to clear, McKeown took full advantage by bundling the ball over the line to make it 1-1.
Amazingly, given Glenavon’s dominance for most of the game, the Ports might have taken the lead two minutes after McKeown’s equaliser when the ball broke invitingly for former Glenavon forward Greg Moorhouse, but he mishit his shot and left Brown with an easy save in what was a real let-off for the home side.
With the game threatening to slip out of Glenavon’s grasp, the players deserve real credit for how they responded, and they were clearly determined to make sure they delivered the derby victory the supporters so desperately craved.
The winning goal arrived in the 76th minute. Wallace spread a ball out to Campbell on the left, and he cleverly jinked past Almanzar and drove into the box before squaring for Fitzpatrick. The striker controlled the ball with his right foot and steered it towards the far corner with his left. The shot may have taken a slight deflection off McKeown on the way through, but nobody in the blue half of Mid Ulster cared about that when the ball nestled in the corner of the net and the jubilant celebrations began.
The Lurgan Blues comfortably held on to their lead for the remainder of the match, and indeed Fitzpatrick might have got a hattrick with a goal of the season contender in the 81st minute when he flashed a first-time volley narrowly wide from distance after Bradley had won a header, but in the end the game finished 2-1.
Ballymena’s defeat at Coleraine and Carrick’s draw at Larne, on top of Glenavon’s victory, mean all three sides now sit on 23 points in the league standings, but the Lurgan Blues occupy seventh place ahead of United and Rangers by virtue of their superior goal difference. Portadown remain rooted to the bottom of the table on four points.
Glenavon return to action on Friday night (30th December) when they make the journey to the Newry Showgrounds to take on 10th-placed Newry City. Kick-off will be at 7:45pm.
MATCH SPONSOR – Avondale Foods
BALL SPONSOR – Ransconi Pet Products
MAN OF THE MATCH SPONSOR – Diamond Elite Chauffeur Services
Glenavon: 1. Rory Brown (GK), 2. Conor Kerr, 4. Calum Birney, 7. Matthew Snoddy, 8. Michael O’Connor, 9. Matthew Fitzpatrick, 10. Peter Campbell, 16. Isaac Baird, 23. Daniel Wallace (C), 30. Sean Ward, 80. Eoin Bradley
Subs: 17. Conor McCloskey (for 2. Conor Kerr, 74’), 29. Jack Malone (for 8. Michael O’Connor, 74’), 21. Aaron Prendergast (for 80. Eoin Bradley, 88’); not used: 6. Andrew Doyle, 20. Conor Scannell, 28. Robert Garrett, 33. Patrick Burns
Goals: 9. Matthew Fitzpatrick (50’, 76’)
Yellow cards: 16. Isaac Baird (4’), 2. Conor Kerr (45+1’), 4. Calum Birney (72’)
Portadown: 1. Jethren Barr (GK), 5. Lee Upton, 7. Alberto Balde Almanzar, 11. Mark Russell, 12. Barney McKeown, 16. Gregory Moorhouse, 18. Patrick McNally (C), 19. Joshua Archer, 25. Reece Jordan, 30. Jordan Jenkins, 34. Gledis Cakaj
Subs: 20. Stephen Teggart (for 34. Gledis Cakaj, 61’), 10. Billy Stedman (for 11. Mark Russell, 61’); not used: 33. Ronan Burns (GK), 4. Howard Beverland, 27. Jonah Mitchell, 28. Jack Ovens, 29. Jake Willis
Goals: 12. Barney McKeown (68’)
Yellow cards: 18. Patrick McNally (26’), 12. Barney McKeown (89’)
Referee: Shane Andrews