Glenavon 3-2 Ballymena United
Danske Bank Premiership
Tuesday 11th April 2023
Match report by Calum Jones
Glenavon took a massive step towards securing seventh place with a 3-2 victory over Ballymena United at Mourneview Park on Easter Tuesday, extending their unbeaten run to seven games in the process.
Top scorer Matthew Fitzpatrick scored midway through the first half and then again early in the second period to give the Lurgan Blues a 2-0 lead.
Ballymena pulled a goal back through Mikey Place in the 53rd minute when he converted from the penalty spot after Aaron Rogers was penalised for handball.
Glenavon won a penalty of their own when Isaac Baird was upended by Dougie Wilson 20 minutes later, and sponsors’ man of the match Jack Malone emphatically converted to restore the two-goal advantage.
The visitors did grab a second goal when Craig Farquhar headed in a Ross Redman corner in stoppage time, but it was too little too late by that stage, and Glenavon held on for the vital win.
Ballymena’s Scot Whiteside defended well to thwart Peter Campbell on 6 minutes when the Glenavon winger looked to surge into the penalty area from the left flank.
The away side very nearly broke the deadlock six minutes later. Sean Ward’s mistake presented the ball to Sean Graham. He created space for a shot and sent in a left-footed effort which came back off the crossbar.
Kenny Kane sent a low shot towards goal in the 15th minute. It looked as though Glenavon goalkeeper Rory Brown got fingertips to the shot and tipped it away for a corner, but referee Christopher Morrison awarded a goal-kick instead.
Glenavon captain Fitzpatrick hit the target with a low shot in the 17th minute. The striker initially fed the ball to Jamie Doran, but when the young midfielder couldn’t get a shot away, the ball broke kindly for Fitzpatrick again. He was thwarted by United keeper Jordan Williamson, however.
Fitzpatrick was not to be denied three minutes later. Malone made space for himself to shoot from just outside the box. The midfielder’s low left-foot shot was saved by Williamson, who dived down to his right. Campbell was alert to latch onto the loose ball and he squared it first time to give Fitzpatrick the simple task of tapping into the net from inside the six-yard box to ensure his name was added to the scoresheet for a fifth consecutive game.
Campbell might have scored Glenavon’s second goal on 28 minutes. Matthew Snoddy found the winger with a cross from the right. Campbell produced a superb first touch with his left foot to bring the ball under control before hitting a shot with his right, but he sent his effort over the bar.
Ballymena were unfortunate not to level the score moments later when Kane saw his left-foot effort from outside the box cannon off Brown’s right-hand post.
Campbell then squandered a glorious opportunity at the other end in the 31st minute. He was sent in on goal by a brilliant through-ball from Doran. Glenavon’s number 10 mishit his shot, sending it high and wide when the goal was at his mercy.
Brown did well to snuff out danger just a minute later. The goalkeeper raced off his line and dived at the feet of Kane to palm the ball away after the Ballymena man had picked up an underhit backpass from Calum Birney.
Brown was called into action again on 36 minutes. Redman picked out Graham with a cross from the left and the subsequent header was on target, but the Glenavon goalkeeper dived down to his left to make a save.
Malone came agonisingly close to doubling Glenavon’s lead in first-half injury time when he struck the post with a brilliant effort from a free kick from all of 30 yards.
The impressive Baird beat a defender on the left before whipping a cross across the face of goal two minutes after the restart, but nobody could get on the end of it.
Glenavon did find a second goal in the 48th minute. Doran drove in a low cross from the right which Kym Nelson attempted to clear, but he only succeeded in skying the ball inside his own penalty area. Goalkeeper Williamson tried to punch clear, but he made a poor contact and the ball fell to the feet of Fitzpatrick. The striker took one touch to control before lashing into the net to notch his second goal of the evening and his 18th of the season.
The visitors were presented with the perfect opportunity to get back in the game four minutes later when referee Morrison pointed to the spot to award a penalty for handball against Rogers when he blocked a Kane shot from close range. It looked like Brown had saved Place’s shot when he dived down to his right and got a hand to the ball, but he couldn’t prevent it from crossing the line, and so the Braidmen’s deficit was halved.
The game saw a second penalty awarded in the 73rd minute, and this time it went to Glenavon. Baird tried to cut inside Wilson, and when the young midfielder ended up on the deck, referee Morrison decided that it warranted a penalty. Malone stepped up to take the spot kick and he confidently drilled it home to give Glenavon a two-goal cushion once again.
Although the Lurgan Blues were fairly comfortable for the remainder of the game, Ballymena did grab a consolation goal in the third minute of time added on. Captain Redman’s outswinging corner from the left was met by Farquhar and he powered his header into the far corner. That was to be almost the last action of the game, though, and so it finished 3-2 to Glenavon, a scoreline which matched the result of the encounter between the two sides at Mourneview Park back in October.
Elsewhere, eighth-placed Carrick Rangers beat Dungannon Swifts 2-0, meaning Glenavon remain five points clear of Stuart King’s side in the race for seventh, with the two sides due to meet in Carrickfergus in what could be a pivotal penultimate game of the season.
There is still one round of fixtures to go before that encounter, however, with Glenavon travelling to Newry on Saturday (15th April), while Carrick go to Portadown on the same day, and seventh place would be wrapped up for the Lurgan Blues if they were to win at the Newry Showgrounds and Carrick to lose at Shamrock Park. Even a Glenavon win and Carrick draw would mean seventh spot would be virtually sown up for Gary Hamilton’s men on account of their vastly superior goal difference over Rangers.
MATCH SPONSOR – Brownlow House and Help to Grow Services
BALL SPONSOR – Gordon Gough
MAN OF THE MATCH SPONSOR – Stevie Brown
Glenavon: 1. Rory Brown (GK), 4. Calum Birney, 7. Matthew Snoddy, 9. Matthew Fitzpatrick (C), 10. Peter Campbell, 16. Isaac Baird, 24. Jamie Doran, 25. Aaron Rogers, 28. Robert Garrett, 29. Jack Malone, 30. Sean Ward
Subs: 21. Aaron Prendergast (for 24. Jamie Doran, 76’), 8. Michael O’Connor (for 10. Peter Campbell, 76’), 34. Cohen Henderson (for 28. Robert Garrett, 87’); not used: 18. Marc Matthews (GK), 2. Conor Kerr, 6. Andrew Doyle, 17. Conor McCloskey
Goals: 9. Matthew Fitzpatrick (20’, 48’), 29. Jack Malone (74’, penalty)
Yellow cards: 25. Aaron Rogers (52’), 16. Isaac Baird (61’)
Ballymena United: 1. Jordan Williamson (GK), 2. Kym Nelson, 3. Ross Redman (C), 4. Douglas Wilson, 5. Scot Whiteside, 12. Kenneth Kane, 18. Jordan Gibson, 20. Robert McVarnock, 24. Sean Graham, 30. Michael Place, 35. Craig Farquhar
Subs: 17. Andrew McGrory (for 20. Robert McVarnock, 84’), 25. George Tipton (for 24. Sean Graham, 89’); not used: 27. Marcus Thompson (GK), 10. Ryan Waide, 16. Evan Tweed, 31. David Taylor, 32. Lewis Tennant
Goals: 30. Michael Place (53’, penalty), 35. Craig Farquhar (90+3’)
Yellow cards: 30. Michael Place (43’)
Referee: Christopher Morrison