Glenavon 1-0 Dungannon Swifts
Sports Direct Premiership
Saturday 4th November 2023
Match report by Calum Jones
Glenavon made it back-to-back Premiership victories for the first time this season with a hard-fought 1-0 win over bottom side Dungannon Swifts at Mourneview Park on Saturday afternoon.
Aaron Prendergast scored the only goal of the game in the 34th minute when he slotted home after Caolan Marron had headed the ball against his own crossbar.
The Lurgan Blues withstood second-half pressure from the Swifts to secure Stephen McDonnell’s first home league victory since taking charge in September.
The game started quietly, with both sides offering little in terms of attacking threat in the opening quarter of an hour, although Matthew Lusty did come close to getting on the end of a low cross from the right flank for the visitors in the third minute.
At the other end in the 19th minute, Isaac Baird drove a dangerous ball across the six-yard box after Conor McCloskey had slipped him in on the left side of the Swifts penalty area, but nobody could connect with it.
Dungannon came within a whisker of grabbing the lead three minutes later. Lusty played a pass into the feet of Joe Moore just outside the Glenavon penalty area. The midfielder cleverly created space for himself with his first touch before striking a shot with his left foot from inside the ‘D’. The quality of Moore’s shot was such that Glenavon goalkeeper Rory Brown could only stand and watch as the ball cannoned off his right-hand post.
The visitors threatened again on 32 minutes when Lusty cut in from the left and fired a low right-foot shot towards the far corner. Brown dived down to his left to make the save.
There’s no denying that it was against the run of play when Glenavon grabbed the lead two minutes after that Lusty effort. Matthew Snoddy played a pass out to McCloskey on the right flank, and the winger subsequently whipped over a dangerous cross. Marron was facing his own goal when he attempted to intercept the ball, but the former Glenavon defender could only manage to head it against the crossbar. The ball rebounded for Prendergast close to the penalty spot, and the young striker coolly slotted into the bottom corner with a first-time right-foot shot to break the deadlock.
Having got their noses in front, the momentum was with Glenavon in the closing stages of the first half, and the home side went in search of a second goal. Jack Malone teed McCloskey up for a shot from the left corner of the box in the 38th minute, but the curling effort lacked venom, and Swifts goalkeeper Conor Mitchell was able to make an easy save.
Moments later, Glenavon had appeals for a penalty waved away by referee Steven Gregg when captain Niall Quinn went down in the box. Many of the Mourneview faithful were convinced that Gregg should have pointed to the spot.
Danny Wallace was presented with a decent chance in the final minute of the opening period after a free kick had been delivered into the box from deep, but the defender mishit with his left foot when he really should have at least tested Mitchell, and so it remained 1-0 at the break.
The second half of the game wasn’t much of a spectacle, and if truth be told, it was Dungannon who looked the more likely to get an equaliser as opposed to Glenavon doubling their lead.
Moore cut in from the right in the 54th minute for the Swifts and shot with his left foot, but he dragged the ball wide of the near post.
The visitors’ best opportunity to draw themselves level fell the way of substitute Niall Owens on 65 minutes. Thomas Galvin had only been on the pitch a matter of minutes himself when he attempted to square the ball to Lusty from the right side of the penalty area. Conor Kerr managed to get a boot to the ball and deflect that pass. However, it broke invitingly for Owens, who had arrived late in the box. The young midfielder had the goal at his mercy and looked certain to score, but he side-footed narrowly wide of the post. It was a real let-off for Glenavon.
The away side had another opportunity to equalise when Glenavon substitute Cohen Henderson was penalised for handball just inches outside his own penalty area in the 79th minute. The impressive Leo Alves stepped up to strike the free kick. The Glenavon wall did its job, though, deflecting the ball behind for a corner.
Glenavon had to see out six minutes of additional time at the end of the game, but see it out they did, securing another vital win in the process.
This victory may not have been as convincing or as impressive as the win over Carrick Rangers the previous week, but McDonnell will be pleased by the character and determination shown by his players to dig in and grind out a positive result.
Glenavon moved up into ninth place in the league standings with this win, leapfrogging Ballymena United, and it is the Braidmen who will be the Lurgan Blues’ opponents next Saturday (11th November). Kick-off at the Ballymena Showgrounds will be at 3pm.
McDonnell’s men are in cup action before then, however, as they travel to Limavady United for a BetMcLean League Cup last-sixteen tie on Tuesday night (7th November). Kick-off at the Limavady Showgrounds will be at 7:45pm.
MATCH SPONSOR – Ex Directors
BALL SPONSOR – Ian Malcomson
MAN OF THE MATCH SPONSOR – Brownlow Castle
Glenavon: 1. Rory Brown (GK), 2. Conor Kerr, 3. Aaron Rogers, 7. Matthew Snoddy, 8. Jack Malone, 11. Niall Quinn (C), 16. Isaac Baird, 17. Conor McCloskey, 21. Aaron Prendergast, 23. Daniel Wallace, 28. Robert Garrett
Subs: 34. Cohen Henderson (for 21. Aaron Prendergast, 67’), 29. Jackson Nesbitt (for 17. Conor McCloskey, 73’), 20. Stephen Teggart (for 28. Robert Garrett, 73’), 49. Daniel Shiel (for 8. Jack Malone, 90+2’); not used: 31. Ben Purvis (GK), 51. Matthew Hughes, 53. Zach Woolsey
Goals: 21. Aaron Prendergast (34’)
Yellow cards: 7. Matthew Snoddy (74’), 3. Aaron Rogers (90+3’)
Dungannon Swifts: 18. Conor Mitchell (GK), 2. Ethan McGee (C), 4. Dean Curry, 5. Caolan Marron, 8. James Knowles, 9. Ethan Devine, 10. Kealan Dillon, 14. Adam Glenny, 16. Joseph Moore, 20. Matthew Lusty, 23. Ladislau Leonel Ucha Alves
Subs: 7. Niall Owens (for 10. Kealan Dillon, 46’), 50. Thomas Galvin (for 9. Ethan Devine, 60’), 12. Steven Scott (for 8. James Knowles, 60’), 3. Jack Scott (for 16. Joseph Moore, 74’), 30. Ryan Harpur (for 14. Adam Glenny, 74’); not used: 1. Declan Dunne (GK), 24. Andrew Whiteside
Yellow cards: 10. Kealan Dillon (26’), 7. Niall Owens (53’), 16. Joseph Moore (71’), 30. Ryan Harpur (88’)
Referee: Steven Gregg