Cliftonville 42 Glenavon

Sports Direct Premiership


Saturday 17th February 2024

Match report by Calum Jones

Despite a superb first-half showing, Glenavon were ultimately beaten 4-2 by title-chasing Cliftonville at Solitude on Saturday afternoon.

The Lurgan Blues were excellent in the opening 45 minutes, and they deservedly went ahead close to the half-hour markthrough James Doona.

Glenavon really should have been further in front by half-time, and they were left to rue their missed opportunities when Cliftonville turned the game on its head by scoring two goals in the space of three minutes at the beginning of the second half through Rory Hale and Sam Ashford.

When substitute Matthew Snoddy drove home an equaliser in the 72nd minute it looked as though the visitors wouldn’t leave empty-handed.

However, Cliftonville responded to Snoddy’s goal by making a substitution of their own, introducing their record goalscorerJoe Gormley in place of Stephen Mallon. Gormley subsequently scored twice to win the game for the Reds, first from the penalty spot on 79 minutes after David Toure had brought down Ronan Hale, then again in injury time when he coolly dinked the ball over Gareth Deane to seal the victory.

Glenavon were nearly rewarded for their positive start to the game with a goal on 11 minutes when the impressive Jack Malone saw his curling shot from the edge of the box come off the top of the crossbar.

Moments later, Peter Campbell’s low shot with the outside of his left boot went wide of David Odumosu’s left-hand post, before Jamie Doran headed wide of the same post following a Doona free kick from the left.

Malone had another pop at goal in the 17th minute. This time his shot was sliced wide of the target, as Glenavon’s dominance continued.

Campbell’s shot was well-struck a minute later from 20 yards out, but Odumosu was equal to it.

The Lurgan Blues deservedly went ahead in the 28th minute. Len O’Sullivan fed a pass into the feet of Campbell on the left corner of the Cliftonville penalty area, and Glenavon’s number 10 played a first-time cushioned pass into the path of Doona. The winger took one touch to create space for himself before striking a low right-foot shot from just outside the box which beat the dive of Odumosu and nestled in the near bottom corner.

Doona and Campbell combined again just two minutes after the opening goal. On this occasion it was Doona providing for Campbell, playing the ball into him on the left-side of the penalty area. Campbell found the target with his shot from a tight angle, but Odumosu dived down to his right to make the save.

Doona whipped a dangerous ball across the face of goal in the 35th minute. It was difficult to tell if it was an attempt at a shot or a cross. Either way, Aaron Prendergast was unable to get on the end of it.

Jamie Doran might have doubled Glenavon’s lead in the final minute of normal time at the end of the first half when he struck a low shot at the back post following a cross from the left. After Odumosu saved low down, the ball rebounded for Doran, only for him to be crowded out by Cliftonville defenders.

Glenavon were almost made to pay for failing to add to their lead when Ashford got in on goal in first-half stoppage timeafter a ball had been played in behind the defence. Deane came off his line and did well to save at the feet of the forward.

Unfortunately for the Lurgan Blues, the Ashford chance at the end of the first half was an omen of things to come, as the hosts equalised six minutes after the restart through captain Rory Hale. It was Ashford who evaded the attentions of Niall Quinn and drove to the byline on the left flank before diggingout a cross. Hale produced a looping header which dropped inside the far post to bring the home side level.

Just three minutes later, Cliftonville turned the game on its head by grabbing the lead. Rory Hale sprayed a pass out wide to his brother Ronan on the left. The forward jinked inside Toure before sliding a perfectly weighted pass into the penalty area to find the run of Ashford, who deftly clipped his left-foot shot over the advancing Deane and into the far corner.

Glenavon were clearly shaken by the turnaround, and there was a real danger that the game would be taken away from them at this stage. Stephen Mallon nearly broke through on the right in the 56th minute. Left-back O’Sullivan did well to get back and make the tackle to snuff out the danger.

Ronan Hale had a great chance to add to Cliftonville’s lead on 65 minutes when he ran clear, only to slice his shot wide of goal.

Glenavon dug deep and managed to haul themselves back into the game with an equaliser in the 72nd minute. Doona took a free kick from a threatening position on the left, driving the ball in low and bouncing it right in front of Odumosu. The goalkeeper did well to make the stop, but he could only palm the ball out to Glenavon substitute Gavin Hodgins. The young striker’s low shot was blocked by Luke Kenny before deflecting onto the base of the post. When the ball cannoned out to Snoddy, he drilled his low shot into the net to make it 2-2.

Just moments after Snoddy’s equaliser, Cliftonville manager Jim Magilton sent on Gormley, and it was the Reds’ all-time leading goalscorer who would prove to be the matchwinner.

The hosts were awarded a penalty kick in the 78th minute. Rory Hale drove a low cross in from the right. Conor Kerr tried to cut the ball out, but he could only deflect it towards the edge of his own penalty area. Ronan Hale burst across from the left and nipped ahead of Toure to pinch the ball. When the young right-back stuck a leg out and caught Hale, it was inevitable that referee Tony Clarke was going to point to the spot. Despite only being on the pitch a matter of minutes, it was Gormley who was entrusted with taking the penalty. The striker sent his shot down the middle, and Deane nearly managed to save it with his feet, but the ball squirmed beneath him and into the net.

Glenavon’s search for a second equaliser in the dying minutes of the game proved to be in vain, and Gormley sealed the three points which sent Cliftonville above Linfield and into second place in the first minute of injury time. Jonny Addis took a quick free kick from deep inside his own half, catching the Glenavon defence out with a ball over the top to release Gormley. The ace marksman was calmness personified as he waited for Deane to go to ground before dinking it over the goalkeeper and into the far corner, making the final score Cliftonville 4-2 Glenavon.

Stephen McDonnell will be delighted with his side’s first-half performance at Solitude, but equally disheartened by what he described as a second-half capitulation’ during his post-match interview with Glenavon Media.

The challenging fixtures continue for the Lurgan Blues next Saturday (24th February), when they travel to Seaview to take on fifth-placed Crusaders. Kick-off will be at 3pm.

Cliftonville: 23. David Odumosu (GK), 4. Jonathan Addis, 8. Rory Hale (C), 10. Stephen Mallon, 16. Shea Gordon, 17. Ronan Doherty, 18. Patrick Burns, 20. Samuel Ashford, 25. Ronan Hale, 26. Shea Kearney, 33. Eric Christopher Yoro

Subs: 5. Luke Kenny (for 33. Eric Christopher Yoro, 46’), 7. Christopher Curran (for 16. Shea Gordon, 65’), 19. Joseph Gormley (for 10. Stephen Mallon, 73’), 2. Conor AindriuPepper (for 8. Rory Hale, 86’); not used: 40. Orann Donnelly (GK), 15. Reece Jordan, 37. Ryan Corrigan

Goals: 8. Rory Hale (51’), 20. Samuel Ashford (54’), 19. Joseph Gormley (79’ (penalty), 90+1’)

Yellow cards: 5. Luke Kenny (72’), 26. Shea Kearney (74’), 20. Samuel Ashford (87’)

Glenavon: 44. Gareth Deane (GK), 5. David Toure, 6. Mark Haughey (C), 8. Jack Malone, 10. Peter Campbell, 11. Niall Quinn, 21. Aaron Prendergast, 24. Jamie Doran, 28. Robert Garrett, 32. Len O’Sullivan, 39. James Doona

Subs: 2. Conor Kerr (for 6. Mark Haughey, 46’), 7. Matthew Snoddy (for 28. Robert Garrett, 59’), 9. Gavin Hodgins (for 24. Aaron Prendergast, 59’), 16. Isaac Baird (for 24. Jamie Doran, 59’), 25. Darren Clarke (for 39. James Doona, 73’);not used: 13. Mark Byrne (GK), 20. Stephen Teggart

Goals: 39. James Doona (28’), 7. Matthew Snoddy (72’)

Yellow cards: 10. Peter Campbell (37’)

Referee: Tony Clarke