Glenavon 0-0 Portadown

Danske Bank Premiership

Saturday 29th April 2023

A Glenavon team, almost unrecognisable from the side which had won seven and drawn two of its previous nine matches, produced an encouraging display to draw the final league fixture of the season 0-0 against a much more experienced Portadown eleven.

Although the fixture was a dead rubber, Gary Hamilton’s team – a mix of youth and experience – played on the front foot and created – and missed – the best scoring opportunities.

Yet the two most noteworthy moments of the 90 minutes concerned injuries to Glenavon players. Conor McCloskey left the pitch after just 25 minutes with what appeared to be a torn or badly strained hamstring. Teenage goalkeeper Marc Matthews followed him in the 69th minute after sustaining a bad shoulder or upper arm injury. Both players will almost certainly be unavailable for the UEFA Conference League Qualification Play-offs.

Glenavon controlled the first half for long periods. In the 13th minute Aaron Prendergast shot wildly over when well placed. Ten minutes later Peter Campbell latched onto a long, headed clearance by Andy Doyle, struck a clean half volley but recoiled in disappointment as Mastny moved sharply to his right to save.

At the other end Lee Chapman capitalised on an error by Andy Doyle, but Marc Matthews parried the shot.

Ports defender Barney McKeown prevented a certain goal when he nicked the ball off Cohen Henderson’s toe as the 16 year old Glenavon striker prepared to shoot. Then Mick O’Connor’s corner-kick struck the angle of post and crossbar. Henderson shot narrowly wide as the home side continued to dominate possession.

Portadown’s best scoring chance of the first half fell to Alan O’Sullivan in the 43rd minute. Mark Russell crossed from the left, but the former Warrenpoint Town frontman headed over from 8 yards.

Just before the interval veteran defender Andy Doyle, playing his final home game for Glenavon, made a fabulous clearing tackle as Paul McElroy threatened on the right side of the penalty area.

Early in the second period Portadown’s Stephen Teggart shot over when well placed.

Glenavon almost went ahead in the 53rd minute. Jamie Doran crossed from the right and the onrushing Aaron Prendergast appeared to catch the ball on his face rather than his head. Nonetheless the 19 year old’s effort slipped just wide of the near post.

In the 57th minute Glenavon introduced 15 year old striker Chris Atherton. Moments later the young prodigy was upended on the edge of the penalty area. Mick O’Connor took the resultant free kick. His well struck shot was pushed away by Mastny.

Atherton was involved again when he teed up Cohen Henderson, but the Lurgan man shot over from ten yards.

Midway through the second half Portadown had the ball in the Glenavon net. Substitute Benny Igiehon’s pounced on the ball after Teggart’s initial shot had been well saved by Matthews but his effort was ruled out for offside.

Minutes later the young Glenavon custodian was helped from the field clutching his shoulder. Experienced midfielder Mick O’Connor took the goalkeeper’s jersey.

The loss of Matthews seemed to lift the visitors. Substitute Reece Jordan shot over from a promising free kick situation and Igiehon twice headed wildly over when well placed.

Mark Russell almost scored when he shot wide at the back post after Igiehon had flicked a cross into his path.

At the other end substitute Matthew Snoddy found Henderson but his curling shot was well saved. Finally, Chris Atherton fired wide from a promising free kick situation.

As soon as the final whistle blew, Gary Hamilton went onto the pitch and congratulated each of his young guns for their contribution to a pleasing result.

GLENAVON: Matthews, Norton, Doyle, Lynch, Wallace (c), Kerr, O’Connor, McCloskey, Henderson, Campbell, Prendergast, SUBS: Snoddy for Matthews (69 mins), Doran for McCloskey (25 mins), Rogers (not used), Atherton for Campbell (57 mins), Harvey (not used), McNally (not used).

Yellow Cards: Doyle (79’)

PORTADOWN: Mastny, Upton, Wilson, Russell, McKeown, Chapman, Archer, Teggart, McCawl, McElroy, O’Sullivan, SUBS: Barr (not used), Balde (not used), Jordan (not used), Friel for Archer (41 mins), Igiehon for O’Sullivan (55 mins), McCullough (not used), Walker for Wilson (half time).

Yellow Cards: McKeown (53’), Igiehon (82’), Upton (90’)

REFEREE: Tim Marshall (Irvinestown).