Glenavon 0 Glentoran 0

Sports Direct Irish Premiership

Mourneview Park, Lurgan

Tuesday 5th March 2024

Glenavon, handicapped by a number of absences due to suspension and injuries, produced an encouraging performance to hold the Clearer Water Irish Cup semi-finalist, Glentoran, to a scoreless draw.

Indeed, despite being on the backfoot for long periods, the home side almost snatched an 88th minute winner when substitute Darren Clarke shot over the crossbar when he was well placed to shoot past Aaron McCarey.

Glentoran had the ball in the net three times during an entertaining match. Its first disallowed goal was “scored” after just 45 seconds when David Fisher headed Paddy McClean’s cross past Gavin Byrne. A raised flag by the assistant referee disappointed the travelling fans.

During the early stages the Belfast Glens created and squandered a succession of openings. Daire O’Connor went closest with a fine right foot shot which Byrne dived full length to save. The Glenavon keeper moved smartly to also palm away Fisher’s follow-up attempt. Fuad Sule had a shot saved and Seanan Clucas’ near post header forced Byrne to block the ball with his feet. Charlie Lindsay shot just wide when standing only eight yards out.

By the mid-point of the first half Glenavon had gained a foothold on proceedings. Niall Quinn released James Doona on the left with a brilliant long pass. Doona found Len O’Sullivan. When the left back crossed Matthew Snoddy made a firm connection with his head. However, Aaron McCarey managed to get a hand to the ball and divert it over the crossbar.

At the other end Paddy McClean shot wide and Bobby Burns was only denied a clear strike on goal when Calum Birney made a brilliant defensive tackle.

Lindsay wasted Glentoran’s best opportunity of the first half when he collected a pass from Sule, skilfully flicked the ball over a defender’s head but volleyed over the crossbar when he had a clear sight of goal.

Niall Quinn, one of Glenavon’s most consistent performers this season, twice attempted to beat McCarey from distance. On the first occasion his shot was well saved. On the second it hit a defender and was cleared for a corner.

Glenavon left the field at the break pleased with its recovery after a slow start. Glentoran was disappointed that a combination of poor finishing and good goalkeeping prevented it taking the lead.

The home side was the better team for the opening fifteen minutes of the second period. Quinn’s cross was headed goalward by Matthew Snoddy but McCarey made a save. Then Jack Malone let fly from distance. His well struck shot narrowly cleared the crossbar.

In the 59th minute Mark Byrne was forced to dive to his left to save Fisher’s shot. When possession was regained, Shay McCartan bundled the cross into the net. However, referee Steven Gregg ruled that the ball had crossed the by-line before Junior pulled it back for the Newry man. “Goal” disallowed.

Midway through the half, Glentoran forced six corner kicks in as many minutes. David Fisher went closest when he turned sharply and unloaded a shot from inside the penalty area. This time Byrne was well placed to save.

During the final twenty minutes both teams struggled to create clear-cut openings. Bobby Burns’ attempted bicycle kick from close-range was easily saved. Junior’s shot from 16 yards went over the crossbar.

At the other end, with two minutes to go, Glenavon squandered its best scoring opportunity. Robbie Garrett took a free kick quickly. When Darren Clarke received the ball on the edge of the penalty area, he skilfully eluded James Singleton but, with only McCarey to beat, drilled his shot over the crossbar.

Glenavon will be delighted with its defensive display – both Sean Ward and Calum Birney were outstanding – but disappointed at its failure to extend Aaron McCarey in the visitors’ goal.

GLENAVON: Byrne, Toure, Birney, Ward, O’Sullivan, Snoddy, Malone, Quinn, Lotefa, Doran, Doona, SUBS: Gracey (not used), Kerr for Doona (86 mins), McCloskey Doran (77 mins), Wallace for Birney (77 mins), Clarke for Malone (73 mins), Garrett for Lotefa (77 mins), Shiel (not used).

Yellow Cards: Malone (30’), Snoddy (70’), Birney (72’).

GLENTORAN: McCarey, Burns, O’Connor, Singleton, Sule, Clucas, Fisher, Lindsay, McClean, Russell, Uzokwe, SUBS: Webber (not used), McCartan for Lindsay (53 mins), Murphy (not used), Kelly (not used), Wightman (not used), McGinn for O’Connor (68 mins), Feeney for Junior (83 mins).

Yellow Cards: McCartan (85’), Clucas (90+2’).

REFEREE: Steven Gregg.