Glenavon 0-1 Ballymena United

Sports Direct Premiership

Mourneview Park

Saturday 30th December 2023

Match report by Calum Jones

Glenavon’s final fixture of 2023 ended in a 1-0 defeat at the hands of 11th-placed Ballymena United on Saturday afternoon.

The match was decided by a brilliant solo goal by Fraser Taylor in the 36th minute. The young midfielder carried the ball from deep inside his own half all the way to the edge of the Glenavon penalty area before steering a low shot into the bottom corner of the net.

In what was an emotional victory for Ballymena, play was stopped in the 21st minute for a minute’s applause in memory of Lydia Ross, the 21-year-old United fan who tragically lost her life in a road accident on Thursday night. This was after a minute’s silence had been observed before kick-off in memory of Lydia and Jackie Murray, a lifelong Glenavon supporter, longtime volunteer member of the club’s backroom staff, and former Chairman of the Triangle Glenavon Supporters’ Club.

Donal Rocks was presented with a shooting opportunity for the visitors in the opening minute of the match. A clever passing move involving Taylor, Noah Stewart, Mikey Place and Jonny McMurray saw the latter released on the left flank. McMurray’s cross eventually found its way to Rocks on the 18-yard line. The fullback’s first-time shot with his right foot drifted wide of the far post.

Four minutes later at the other end, Jamie McDonagh’s corner caused problems in the Ballymena box, but Glenavon couldn’t manage to force the ball over the line.

It was captain Niall Quinn who delivered the corner for Glenavon in the 7th minute which found Calum Birney. The big centre-half hit the target with his header, but the ball was cleared off the line by a Ballymena defender.

Peter Campbell cut in from the right with 14 minutes on the clock, evading Steven McCullough and Lewis Tennant before shooting narrowly wide of the far post with his left foot.

United goalkeeper Sean O’Neill was called into action in the 19th minute when Stephen Teggart hit the target with a powerful shot from close to the penalty area. O’Neill got two strong hands to the ball to palm it away from his goal, then Rocks was able to make the clearance.

The only goal of the game was scored in the 36th minute, and it was a superb goal, one worthy of winning any game. Taylor ran onto a loose ball deep inside his own half and accelerated away from Isaac Baird, ghosted past an attempted challenge from Matthew Snoddy, then surged over the halfway line. As he approached the Glenavon box, Taylor was faced with Conor Kerr, but again the young midfielder effortlessly avoided the attempted intervention. Taylor proceeded into the ‘D’ before side-footing a low left-foot shot beyond the dive of Rory Brown and into the bottom corner to score what will surely go down as one of the goals of the season.

Stephen McDonnell made two changes at half-time, introducing Jack Malone and Aaron Prendergast in place of Conor Kerr and Jamie McDonagh, and reshuffled his line-up in an attempt to force a way back into the game.

Prendergast very nearly had a decisive impact just three minutes after the restart. The young striker’s low shot from a tight angle on the left went across the face of goal and narrowly wide of the far post after he’d been slipped in from a Quinn pass.

Campbell found Teggart in the box with a low cross from the right in the 53rd minute. Teggart’s subsequent shot was scuffed wide of the target.

Again, it was Campbell who crossed from the right on 63 minutes. This time he elevated the ball to find the head of Danny Wallace. The defender’s header looked to be destined for the bottom corner until O’Neill dived down to his right and got a hand to the ball.

Campbell was involved once more in the 70th minute when he turned inside the penalty area and attempted to get a shot away, but Ballymena captain Scot Whiteside defended well to get a block in.

Prendergast was denied in similar fashion three minutes later by Shea McAuley.

Brown had to be alert in the Glenavon goal on 75 minutes. Ballymena recycled a corner and a cross was sent into the box which went all the way through to the goalkeeper. Brown could easily have been deceived, but he did well to make the save.

Glenavon kept pushing for the elusive equaliser right to the death, and the Lurgan Blues did fashion a couple of decent chances in injury time, the first of which fell to Teggart. Malone’s cross from the left found its way to the midfielder, but he could only slice his shot well wide of the target.

Wallace burst forward in the dying moments and stood up a cross to the far post to find Birney. Glenavon’s number four met the ball on the edge of the six-yard box, but he couldn’t keep his header down, and so Ballymena held on for a second successive win.

Glenavon’s defeat, coupled with Loughgall’s win over Coleraine, means the Lurgan Blues slip to ninth place in the league table. The race for sixth place is really hotting up, however, with just three points separating Glenavon in ninth from Coleraine in sixth.

Attention turns to the Irish Cup next weekend. Glenavon travel to Breda Park to take on Championship side Knockbreda on Saturday (6th January). Please note the earlier kick-off time of 1:30pm.

MATCH SPONSOR – Bawnbua Foods

BALL SPONSOR – Timothy Kerr

MAN OF THE MATCH SPONSOR – Diamond Elite Chauffeur Services

Glenavon: 1. Rory Brown (GK), 2. Conor Kerr, 4. Calum Birney, 7. Matthew Snoddy, 10. Peter Campbell, 11. Niall Quinn (C), 16. Isaac Baird, 20. Stephen Teggart, 23. Daniel Wallace, 27. Jamie McDonagh, 30. Sean Ward

Subs: 8. Jack Malone (for 2. Conor Kerr, 46’), 21. Aaron Prendergast (for 27. Jamie McDonagh, 46’); not used: 31. Ben Purvis (GK), 34. Cohen Henderson, 38. Johnny McCullough, 49. Daniel Shiel, 53. Zach Woolsey

Goals: N/A

Yellow cards: 7. Matthew Snoddy (60’)

Ballymena United: 1. Sean O’Neill (GK), 4. Donal Rocks, 5. Scot Whiteside (C), 11. Steven McCullough, 16. Fraser Taylor, 21. Lewis Tennant, 27. Jonathan McMurray, 28. Dylan Boyle, 30. Michael Place, 32. Shea McAuley, 33. Noah Stewart

Subs: 10. Ryan Waide (for 33. Noah Stewart, 66’), 17. Andrew McGrory (for 30. Michael Place, 74’), 9. Cathair Friel (for 27. Jonathan McMurray, 83’); not used: 26. Samuel Johnston (GK), 15. Fiontan O’Boyle, 20. Thomas Murray, 23. David Taylor

Goals: 16. Fraser Taylor (36’)

Yellow cards: N/A

Referee: Declan Hassan