Glenavon Reserves 0   Cliftonville Olympic 7

Mourneview Park, Lurgan

Monday 14th August 2023

Glenavon Reserves suffered a heavy 7-0 defeat against Cliftonville Olympic in the clubs’ second Irish Premiership Development League fixture.

Shane Haughey (14 mins), Daire McMenamin (26 mins), David Alfred (56 mins),

Ryan Corrigan (73, 86 mins) and Kevin McGuinness (80, 83 mins) scored the Reds’ goals.

Nonetheless, despite conceding seven times, Glenavon goalkeeper Josh Gracey was arguably responsible for the most memorable moment of the evening when he made a truly outstanding penalty save. Cliftonville was awarded the spot kick in the sixth minute following a handball offence by Ashley Beckett. Daire McMenamin shot powerfully low to Gracey’s right. It looked a certain goal. However, the 6’ 4” custodian dived full length to make a firm connection with the ball and send it spinning upwards, against the underside of the crossbarand, eventually, to safety.

But Gracey’s memorable save was a rare moment of encouragement for the home side. Cliftonville was stronger, quicker and faster all over the pitch and, in the final third, absolutely ruthless.

Shane Haughey opened the scoring with a left foot cross shot from an acute angle which trundled into the net despite vain attempts by Gracey and a defender to clear the danger.

McMenamin added a second when he hit the target from 3-4 yards following good work on the left by David Alfred.

In between those efforts both Alfred and Jackson Reid tested Gracey with well-directed shots.

At the other end Glenavon created two reasonable first half chances. Daniel Shiel was involved in both. First, his header was brilliantly saved by Orann Donnelly after a good cross by Zach Woolsey. Second, he nodded the ball into the path of Jay McDowell who flicked it just wide of an upright with his forehead.

Glenavon made four substitutions at half-time, three of them attackers. Dylan Alexander, Mattie Hughes, Llwyd Jones and Charlie McShane replaced Daniel Brown, Kian Mulholland, Shiel and McDowell.

Despite the changes in personnel by the home side, Cliftonville continued to dominate.

Josh Gracey made a fine save from Shane Haughey’s free kick. However, David Alfred pounced on the loose ball and despatched it to the net from 6 yards.

Then Gracey moved sharply to deny the on-rushing Shea Kearney.

After 60 minutes, Cliftonville brought on substitutes Kevin McGuinness and Ryan Corrigan.

Right winger Scott Montgomery made a lung-bursting 50 yard run before crossing purposively for Corrigan to steer the ball past Gracey from 8 yards.

Another Reds substitute, Sean Neilan, ran at the centre of the Glenavon defence. When the ball broke into the path of McGuinness, he blasted it into the net.

Shea Kearney did the spadework for the sixth goal with another foraging dribble before he passed it to McGuinness who did the needful from 10 yards.

In the closing minutes Corrigan completed the rout with a potent finish from inside the penalty-area.

Glenavon’s only worthwhile effort in the second period was an excellent shot from distance by substitute Dylan Alexander which Donnelly stretched to palm away.

Afterwards, Glenavon Reserves’ coach, Chris Chambers, provided a frank assessment. “Cliftonvillewere sharper, quicker and more determined than us. They were also more aggressive and more committed in the tackle. We lost our individual battles all over the pitch, conceded too many chances early in the game and lost all confidence on the ball.”

“Despite all that, Gary McAlister and I believe that we have a good group of lads who have potential. A week ago, we gave a very positive display away to Glentoran. Unfortunately, we were missing some players tonight, such as Jesse Turner. That’s not an excuse. Learning to cope with injuries is part of it. But that is the context of what happened.”

Chambers praised Josh Gracey for his performance between the posts. “Josh is an exceptionally talented lad,” he added. “His save from the penalty and form in the game generally were at a high level. He is one of the top goalkeepers in the country and has a very bright future.”

GLENAVON: Gracey, Harvey, Woolsey, Beckett, Brown, Dillon, Mulholland, McNally, Shiel, McCullough, McDowell, SUBS: McMaster for McCullough (72 mins), Alexander for Shiel (half-time), Hughes for Brown (half-time), Jones for Mulholland (half-time) and McShane for McDowell (half-time).