Loughgall 2-2 Glenavon

Sports Direct Premiership

Lakeview Park

Friday 25th August 2023

Match report by Calum Jones

 Glenavon picked up their first point of the season on Friday night, coming from two goals down to draw 2-2 with newly promoted Loughgall at Lakeview Park.

Conor McCloskey was the hero for the Lurgan Blues, netting twice after being introduced as a substitute early in the second half.

In a game whose kick-off was delayed by 15 minutes due to an issue with the height of the crossbars, it was Tiernan Kelly who fired the home side in front when he converted from Pablo Andrade’s 17th-minute free kick.

The Villagers doubled their advantage on 32 minutes when former Glenavon midfielder Andrew Hoey headed in from Jay Boyd’s right-wing cross.

McCloskey halved the deficit for the Lurgan Blues a minute before the hour mark when he curled in a free kick from the left flank which caught out Loughgall goalkeeper Berraat Turker and found the net.

Six minutes later, McCloskey took full advantage when Loughgall couldn’t clear a Peter Campbell cross, converting from inside the six-yard box to complete his brace and draw Glenavon level.

It was the Lurgan Blues who looked the more threatening of the two sides in the opening exchanges. Isaac Baird latched onto a loose ball in the opening minute and got a shot away, but his effort from distance sailed harmlessly over the bar.

Aaron Prendergast had a pop at goal on 11 minutes from a free kick in a central area, but the young striker’s shot was tame, and Turker saved easily in the Loughgall goal.

It was somewhat against the run of play that the home side took the lead in the 17th minute. Andrade delivered an outswinging free kick from the right wing. The ball arrived at the feet of Kelly between the six-yard line and the penalty spot, and the midfielder impressively side-footed his first-time shot into the bottom corner, leaving Glenavon goalkeeper Rory Brown rooted to the spot. Some Glenavon supporters protested that Andrade had struck the free kick before referee Evan Boyce had blown his whistle, but no matter, the goal stood.

The Loughgall lead was doubled on 32 minutes. Again, the assist came from the right flank, this time from Boyd. His cross to the far post picked out the unmarked Hoey, and the diminutive midfielder headed home to make it 2-0 to the Villagers.

Glenavon coach Mark Ferguson was sent to the stands late in the first half for his protests about some of Boyce’s refereeing decisions, before the same fate befell assistant manager Paul McAreavey during the half-time break.

Gary Hamilton didn’t make any substitutions at half-time, but obviously still not happy with what he saw in the opening minutes of the second period, the Glenavon manager did make a double change just five minutes after the restart, introducing McCloskey and Jackson Nesbitt in place of Tiarnan Mulvenna and Conor Kerr. It was McCloskey who would go on to change the complexion of the game.

Whether he meant his first goal or not, only McCloskey himself will know. The Lurgan Blues won a free kick out on the left flank in the 59th minute. McCloskey whipped it in with his right foot towards the back post, and the flight of the ball deceived Turker, who could only get the faintest of fingertips on it to help it on its way into the net.

McCloskey grabbed his and Glenavon’s second goal on 65 minutes. When Baird slipped a ball into the left channel it was 50-50 on who was going to win it between Glenavon’s Campbell and Loughgall’s Andrade. The Glenavon winger outmuscled his opponent to emerge with the ball. Campbell’s subsequent cross took a deflection and was heading towards goal before Turker managed to palm it out. Prendergast followed up with a header which Turker was also able to save, but the goalkeeper was then powerless to prevent McCloskey from tapping in the equaliser.

The momentum was now with Glenavon, and Prendergast almost nipped in ahead of Turker three minutes later, but the goalkeeper did well to gather the ball.

Although Glenavon carried more threat overall in the closing stages of the match, it was actually Loughgall who came closest to finding a winner when substitute Benjamin Magee saw his curling shot from the left corner of the penalty area come back off the crossbar in the 73rd minute.

The Lurgan Blues might also have nicked it in the penultimate minute of normal time when Campbell sent an inviting cross to the back post, where Stephen Teggart was lurking, but former Glenavon favourite Mark Patton made a vital interception to clear the danger just minutes after coming off the bench. In the end, a draw was probably a fair result.

Glenavon’s first point of the season sees them move off the bottom of the table. That is now a position occupied by Ballymena United. The Braidmen, with five defeats from their opening five matches, are the visitors to Mourneview Park next Saturday (2nd September) for what is already looking like a vitally important game, even at this early stage of the season. Kick-off will be at 3pm.

Loughgall: 1. Berraat Turker (GK), 3. Jamie Rea, 4. Ben Murdock (C), 6. Tiernan Kelly, 7. Pablo Andrade, 8. Alan Teggart, 9. Nathaniel Ferris, 10. Andrew Hoey, 15. Luke Cartwright, 22. Jay Boyd, 23. Caolan Loughran

Subs: 12. Robbie Norton (for 10. Andrew Hoey, 62’), 21. Benjamin Magee (for 9. Nathaniel Ferris, 69’), 5. Oran Brogan (for 7. Pablo Andrade, 69’), 11. Caolan McAleer (for 22. Jay Boyd, 80’), 14. Mark Patton (for 3. Jamie Rea, 80’); not used:

Goals: 6. Tiernan Kelly (17’), 10. Andrew Hoey (32’)

Yellow cards: 8. Alan Teggart (36’), 22. Jay Boyd (45+1’), 6. Tiernan Kelly (50’)

Glenavon: 1. Rory Brown (GK), 2. Conor Kerr, 3. Aaron Rogers, 4. Calum Birney, 7. Matthew Snoddy, 10. Peter Campbell, 16. Isaac Baird, 20. Stephen Teggart, 21. Aaron Prendergast, 22. Tiarnan Mulvenna, 23. Daniel Wallace (C),

Subs: 17. Conor McCloskey (for 22. Tiarnan Mulvenna, 50’), 29. Jackson Nesbitt (for 2. Conor Kerr, 50’), 34. Cohen Henderson (for 21. Aaron Prendergast, 75’); not used: 8. Jack Malone, 14. Harry Norton, 15. Harry Lynch, 28. Robert Garrett

Goals: 17. Conor McCloskey (59’, 65’)

Yellow cards: 22. Tiarnan Mulvenna (45’), 17. Conor McCloskey (56’)

Referee: Evan Boyce