Larne 4-1 Glenavon

Sports Direct Premiership

Inver Park

Friday 8th December 2023

Match report by Calum Jones

Glenavon’s unbeaten run came to an end as they were resoundingly beaten 4-1 by champions Larne at Inver Park on Friday night.

Leroy Millar gave the hosts the lead in the ninth minute when he headed in from a Levi Ives corner.

Lee Bonis doubled the home side’s advantage on 54 minutes with a superbly taken goal, while Andy Ryan scored a third for Larne just two minutes later, tapping in at the back post following a Tomas Cosgrove cross.

Substitute Aaron Prendergast grabbed a consolation goal for the Lurgan Blues in the 87th minute, but Larne still weren’t finished, and they added a fourth when substitute Paul O’Neill converted on the rebound in the final minute of normal time.

Larne put Glenavon under pressure right from the off, winning a couple of corners in quick succession in the opening minutes of the game. From the second of those corners, Millar was found at the back-post area and nodded the ball back for Bonis. His subsequent header came back off the crossbar with just two minutes on the clock.

It was to be a corner kick from which the hosts grabbed the lead in the 9th minute. Ives swung it in from the right to find Millar at the near post this time. Rory Brown did manage to get a hand to the ball and tip it onto the post, but he couldn’t prevent it from crossing the line.

Larne dominated possession for the remainder of the first half without really threatening the Glenavon goal again, although Ives did have an opportunity on the half-hour mark when Millar found him with a cross from the left, but he could only volley over the crossbar.

Chances for Glenavon were at a premium. The visitors did win a free kick in a threatening position in a central area on 42 minutes, but Jack Malone wasted the opportunity, blazing his shot over the bar.

Glenavon made a much brighter start to the second half, putting Larne under some pressure and winning a couple of corners, but the home side responded with a quick-fire double to kill the game off.

The second goal arrived nine minutes after the restart, and it was a goal of real quality. Ryan laid a ball back to Mark Randall in the centre circle, and the midfielder lofted a long pass forward to find Bonis. The striker took his first touch with his head some 25 yards from goal, nodding the ball inside Conor Kerr. Bonis was quick enough to get to the ball again ahead of Kerr, nipping clear of the defender and advancing into the penalty area with his second touch. Brown came off his line to confront Bonis, but the Larne number 10 deftly lifted the ball over the goalkeeper and into the net to make it 2-0.

Ryan got in on the act for the Inver Reds two minutes later. Bonis returned the ball to Cosgrove, who had just taken a throw-in on the right. The former Larne captain swung in a cross with his left foot. Ryan had been left unattended at the back post, and he had the simple task of tapping in the third goal.

The home side were threatening to run riot at this point. Bonis flashed a shot wide from outside the box on 58 minutes, Kerr had to produce an excellent tackle to deny Ryan on 67, and former Glenavon player Micheal Glynn, only brought on as a substitute moments before, was allowed to carry the ball some distance before striking a low left-foot shot from outside the box in the 69th minute. Thankfully for Glenavon, the effort went wide of the far post.

The travelling support were finally given something to cheer about on 87 minutes when Prendergast got on the scoresheet. The substitute was picked out with a ball over the top from a quick Malone free kick. Prendergast brought the ball under control, cleverly cut inside Ryan Farquhar, and slotted into the bottom corner to pull a goal back for Glenavon.

Any hopes of a miraculous late comeback from the Lurgan Blues were eradicated in the 90th minute when O’Neill restored Larne’s three-goal advantage. Brown attempted to find Tiarnan Mulvenna in the left-back position, but instead he only succeeded in presenting the ball to Bonis. The Glenavon goalkeeper did manage to save Bonis’ subsequent well-struck shot, but he couldn’t prevent O’Neill from pouncing on the rebound, and the former Cliftonville and Glentoran striker slotted home to put the gloss on a Larne victory which sent them top of the table on Friday night.

It would be tempting to call this a bit of a reality check for Glenavon following their recent run of excellent form, but the truth is Larne are a top side, and reigning champions for good reason. Glenavon aren’t the first team to be soundly beaten at Inver Park this season, and they certainly won’t be the last.

The Lurgan Blues will have little time to lick their wounds, as they need to prepare for the visit of Linfield to Mourneview Park next weekend.

Larne may have moved above Linfield to take top spot on Friday, but David Healy’s side are just two points behind with two games in hand heading into their match against Dungannon Swifts on Saturday afternoon, so Stephen McDonnell will be well aware that his Glenavon team will face another stern test next Saturday (16th December). Kick-off will be at 3pm.

Larne: 1. Rohan Ferguson (GK), 4. Aaron Donnelly, 8. Mark Randall, 10. Lee Bonis, 14. Levi Ives, 18. Cian Bolger (C), 21. Leroy Millar, 23. Tomas Cosgrove, 24. Sean Graham, 29. Andrew Ryan, 99. Jaziel Orozco

Subs: 5. Craig Farquhar (for 14. Levi Ives, 46’), 22. Micheal Glynn (for 24. Sean Graham (63’), 7. Daniel Kearns (for 8. Mark Randall, 73’), 9. Paul O’Neill (for 29. Andrew Ryan, 73’); not used: 28. Aidan Dowling (GK), 6. Joseph Thomson, 16. Shea Gordon

Goals: 21. Leroy Millar (9’), 10. Lee Bonis (54’), 29. Andrew Ryan (56’), 9. Paul O’Neill (90’)

Yellow cards: N/A

Glenavon: 1. Rory Brown (GK), 2. Conor Kerr, 7. Matthew Snoddy, 8. Jack Malone, 11. Niall Quinn (C), 16. Isaac Baird, 20. Stephen Teggart, 22. Tiarnan Mulvenna, 28. Robert Garrett, 30. Sean Ward, 34. Cohen Henderson

Subs: 21. Aaron Prendergast (for 34. Cohen Henderson, 61’), 17. Conor McCloskey (for 20. Stephen Teggart, 61’), 27. Jamie McDonagh (for 11. Niall Quinn, 77’), 4. Calum Birney (for 28. Robert Garrett, 77’); not used: 31. Ben Purvis (GK), 19. Andrew Mooney, 38. Johnny McCullough

Goals: 21. Aaron Prendergast (87’)

Yellow cards: N/A

Referee: Raymond Crangle