Glenavon 1 Crusaders 3

Sports Direct Irish Premiership

Mourneview Park, Lurgan

Saturday 23rd December 2023

Glenavon suffered a second home defeat in eight days against a workmanlike Crusaders team.

Jarlath O’Rourke (45+2 mins), Paul Heatley (65 mins) and Jordan Owens (90+3 mins) were on target for the visitors. Jack Malone (74 mins) scored the home side’s goal.

Stephen McDonnell was forced to select without suspended duo Matthew Snoddy and Robbie Garrett. He brought in Tiernan Mulvenna and Sean Ward. Danny Wallace replaced Conor Kerr in the middle of the back-four.

Jude Winchester, who was forced to retire early due to injury, registered the game’s first shot with an effort which Rory Brown saved easily.

Soon afterwards Glenavon almost went ahead when Calum Birney got on the end of Niall Quinn’s cross. The central defender’s shot from close range struck a defender and was cleared.

Crusaders should have taken the lead in the 25th minute when Josh Robinson somehow shot wide at the far post after Adam Lecky had created the opportunity with a cross from the left.

Robbie Weir, influential in the Crues’ midfield, made a penetrating run but directed a left foot shot wide of a post.

Glenavon, which gained a foothold in the match during the closing stages of the first half, was unfortunate not to go ahead when Tiernan Mulvenna crossed from the right. Aaron Prendergast got a touch, but the ball reached Calum Birney whose shot from close range struck a defender on the line. Jack Malone pounced on the loose ball but shot over from 20 yards.

Crusaders edged in front seconds before half time. Weir found Ross Clarke on the right and the winger delivered a sumptuous cross to the far post where full back Jarlath O’Rourke was waiting to shoot past Brown with his left foot.

The visitors consolidated their lead in the 65th minute. Clarke was again the architect. The balding number 25 broke on the right and crossed for Paul Heatley to score with a side foot scuffed shot from 10 yards.

Glenavon made changes in an effort to mount a recovery and was rewarded in the 74th minute when Jonathan Tuffey misjudged Jack Malone’s free kick from the edge of the penalty area and allowed the ball to slip through his fingers into the net. 

Minutes later Malone hit another free kick from a similar position. Although his initial effort was blocked the midfielder forced Tuffey to move sharply to his right to save the follow-up attempt.

Crusaders clinched the three points in injury time when Clarke crossed from the right and substitute Jordan Owens outmuscled Rory Brown to head to the net.

Glenavon might have pulled a goal back when Cohen Henderson shot wide from 15 yards after Jack Malone had found him in the penalty area.

Overall a below-par performance and disappointing result for Stephen McDonnell’s team.

GLENAVON: Brown, Mulvenna, Quinn, Wallace, Birney, Ward, Baird, McCloskey, Prendergast, Campbell, Malone. SUBS: Purvis (not used), Kerr for Ward (61 mins), Teggart for Prendergast (67 mins), McDonagh for McCloskey (81 mins), Henderson for Mulvenna (81 mins), McCullough (not used), Shiel (not used).

Yellow Cards: Campbell (63’).

CRUSADERS: Tuffey, Weir, O’Rourke, Larmour, Robinson, Forsythe, Winchester, Anderson, Lecky, Heatley, Clarke, SUBS: Williamson (not used), Teelan (not used), M. Kennedy (not used), Owens for Lecky (87 mins), Smith for Winchester (15 mins), Maguire (not used), James (not used).

Yellow Cards: Heatley (57’), Larmour (79’).

REFEREE: Keith Kennedy.