Glenavon Reserves 4   Linfield Swifts 3

Mourneview Park, Lurgan

Monday 21st August 2023

Glenavon Reserves defeated Linfield Swifts 4-3 to take all three points in its third U-20 Development League fixture of the season.

Linfield Swifts had beaten both Dungannon Swifts Reserves and Cliftonville Olympic 7-2 in its opening two games.

Jesse Turner (10 mins), Jamie Doran (28 mins), Andy Mooney (pen., 39 mins) and Jackson Nesbitt (67 mins) scored the goals for Gary McAlister’s team. Aodhan Doherty (44, 49 mins) and Matthew Gavan (88 mins) replied for the Swifts.

Glenavon Reserves’ starting eleven included first-team squad members Bobby Deane, Harry Norton, Jamie Doran, Andy Mooney and Jackson Nesbitt.

Glenavon dominated the first half.

Andy Mooney shot just wide in the opening minutes after a defender failed to clear and the ball broke into his path.

Jesse Turner, who missed last week’s game due to injury, gave the Reserves an early lead when he shot to the net from 6 yards after David Walsh had spilled Jackson Nesbitt’s right foot drive.

Mooney saw another effort saved and Jamie Doran, perhaps the best player on the pitch in the opening 45 minutes, beat the goalkeeper with a right foot shot only for a defender to kick the ball off the line.

In the 22nd minute Nesbitt played a neat one-two with Jesse Turner before chipping the ball over the goalkeeper and onto the crossbar from 25 yards.

Six minutes later the lively Doran combined with Nesbitt to create the second goal. When the former Bourneview striker’s shot was saved, the 19-year-old Newry teenager forced the ball over the line from close-range.

Glenavon Reserves’ third goal was scored by Andy Mooney from the penalty-spot after Linfield defender James Simpson had upended Jackson Nesbitt.

Jamie Doran shot over the crossbar as the home side continued to dominate possession.

Linfield Swifts pulled a goal back just before the break. Charlie Chapman broke on the left, dribbled the ball along the by-line and pulled it back for Aodhan Doherty to   shoot past Ben Purvis from 6 yards.

Doherty reduced the arrears still further at the start of the second half: Liam Burns chipped the ball into the penalty-area from a free-kick and the young striker blasted it behind Purvis with his right foot.

Linfield, much stronger during the second period, almost equalised when Chapman made a good connection with the ball inside the six-yard box only for Purvis to make a fine, blocking save.

Andy Mooney headed over from a corner-kick at the other end. Then Glenavon stretched its lead. Mooney, 35-40 yards out from goal, skilfully bicycle-kicked the ball into the path of Jackson Nesbitt. The Portadown man beat the last defender, took a touch and coolly slotted the ball past Walsh.

Chapman looked certain to score the Swifts’ third goal when he powered past Daniel Brown and beat Purvis with an accurate shot. However, Bobby Deane got his body between the ball and the goal, and the chance was gone.

Aodhan Doherty burst through the Glenavon defence, but Purvis made another good save.

Linfield Swifts made the score 4-3 in the 88th minute when substitute Matthew Gavan dribbled the ball past several defenders before shooting high into the corner of the net.

Glenavon Reserves’ boss Gary McAlister felt that the addition of the senior players made a significant difference to his team’s performance. “The lads who came in from the first-team squad played with real intensity. That raised the younger players’ level of performance.”

McAlister singled out left back Zach Woolsey and midfielder Cormac McNally for special praise. “I thought that the two lads were excellent. They competed hard and used the ball well throughout the game.”

The Reserves manager also mentioned goalkeeper Ben Purvis. “Ben made several excellent saves and was prepared to come out and catch or punch the ball when dangerous crosses came into our box. He, like Josh Gracey, has great potential.”

McAlister felt that tonight’s victory will give his lads a lot of confidence. “At this level, results are not the be all and end all. However, when the team is winning it creates a positive environment and encourages players to perform even better. This victory, against a top side, will give everyone a boost.”

GLENAVON: Purvis, Woolsey, Deane, D. Brown, Harvey, Norton, Doran, McNally, Mooney, Turner, Nesbitt, SUBS: McMaster for Woolsey (85 mins), Beckett (not used), Dillon (not used), Shiel for Mooney (85 mins), Hughes for Turner (70 mins).