Glentoran Seconds 4 Glenavon Reserves 3

Ashfield Boys’ High School, Belfast

Monday 7th August 2023

Glenavon Reserves were beaten 4-3 by Glentoran Seconds in the opening Premiership Development League fixture.

The young Blues, now managed by former Academy Director Gary McAlister, led 3-1 early in the second half but conceded after 62 minutes and eventually succumbed to two late goals.

Jesse Turner (39 mins), Daniel Shiel (41 mins) and Jay McDowell (52 mins) were the men on target for Glenavon.

Casey Smyth, son of former Glenavon and Glentoran central-defender Gary Smyth, plundered a hat-trick (30, 62, 82 mins). Jordan Jenkins (87 mins) scored the winner.

New signing Johnny McCullough hobbled off after 20 minutes with an ankle knock. Turner also had to be withdrawn during the second half after he suffered shoulder and back injuries in separate incidents.

The game started slowly. There was no hint of the goal-fest that was to come. Jenkins and Turner both saw accurate attempts saved.

Glentoran took the lead when Casey Smyth shot to the net from 8 yards after the ball broke, somewhat fortuitously, into his path.

Calum Birney, who played for 56 minutes, headed Harry O’Neill’s centre over the crossbar.

Glenavon equalised when Jay McDowell pierced the Glentoran defence with a brilliant through pass and Turner beat the goalkeeper with a fine right foot shot.

Almost straight from the restart Ben Purvis saved brilliantly from Jenkins’ close-range effort. Jude Johnston steered the rebound wide of an upright with the goal gaping.

The visitors went in front just before the break when Daniel Shiel blasted the ball into the net from Cormac McNally’s corner-kick.

Daniel Dillon tested the Glentoran goalkeeper with an accurate shot early in the second half. Then Glenavon stretched its lead. Jesse Turner delivered a beautifully weighted pass and Jay McDowell side-footed the ball into the net from 12 yards.

Jordan Jenkins should have reduced the arrears when he found space behind the visitors’ defence. However, Purvis saved well.

Glentoran scored its second when Casey Smyth challenged Purvis in the air after a looping cross from the left threatened to go straight into the net. The Glenavon goalkeeper appeared to make a save but the referee ruled that the ball had crossed the goal-line.

The home side gradually took control of the contest. When Daniel Dillon lost the ball in midfield, Tom McElholm picked out Casey Smyth in space inside the penalty area and the striker completed his hat-trick with a left foot effort.

Dillon almost made amends two minutes later when he latched onto Cormac McNally’s excellent through ball and let fly from 15 yards. However, the homegoalkeeper made a fine save.

Jordan Jenkins, the most experienced attacking player on view, scored Glentoran’s fourth goal when he blasted a speculative right foot shot to the net from more than 20 yards.

Afterwards Gary McAlister, though disappointed, praised his team for its effort and commitment. “We played wellduring parts of the match,” he said. “We were very good during the ten minutes either side of half time. But to beat a strong side like Glentoran it needs more than that. We probably didn’t hold onto our two goal lead for long enough. Our heads dropped after they equalised. Overall, though, the players worked hard, and everyone gave their best.”

Whilst McAlister enjoyed the moments of quality which his team produced, he accepted that improvements are needed. Our first goal was a top-drawer pass and an excellent finish. The same could be said about the third. Players like Jay McDowell and Jesse Turner have a lot of potential. But there is more to winning matches than technical ability. We need to be stronger physically. Glentoran bullied us a bit in the closing stages. That’s something we need to work on.”

GLENAVON: Ben Purvis, Bobby Harvey, Zach Woolsey, Cormac McNally, Calum Birney, Jay McDowell, Daniel Brown, Jonathan McCullough, Daniel Dillon, Dan Shiel, Jesse Turner, SUBS: Harry O’Neill for Jonathan McCulllough (21 mins), Ashley Beckett for Calum Birney (56 mins) and Dylan Alexander for Jesse Turner (61 mins).