Larne 6 Glenavon 1

Sports Direct Irish Premiership

Inver Park, Larne

Saturday 16th March 2024

Glenavon succumbed to a heavy defeat against Sports Direct Premiership title chaser, Larne.

The Invermen scored five goals between the 12th minute and 24th minute of the first half. It was a devastating display of clinical finishing. Lee Bonis (12, 15, 23, 78 mins) and Any Ryan (17, 24 mins) were the men on target for the home side. Len O’Sullivan (39 mins) replied for the visitors.

Bonis has now scored eleven times against Glenavon since August. O’Sullivan’s first half strike was the first goal conceded by Larne in the Premiership this year. The gap between the elite full-time clubs in the top six and the bottom six part-timers shows no sign of closing.

Larne made its plan of attack clear from the start. In the 9th minute former Ballymena United midfielder Leroy Millar released Bonis with a defence-splitting pass. Glenavon goalkeeper Mark Byrne upended the striker five yards outside the penalty-area. The referee, who might have produced a red card, opted for yellow and the visitors retained a full complement of eleven players.

The home side took the lead in the 12th minute. Sean Ward failed to make a clean headed connection with a long forward punt and the ball fell kindly for Bonis to beat Byrne with a deft chip from 18 yards.

The second duly followed. Millar found Ryan on the left with a well weighed pass and the striker crossed low for his partner, Lee Bonis, to shoot into the net from three yards.

Ninety seconds later it was 3-0. Tomas Cosgrove released Jaziel Orozco on the right. The Mexican crossed deep to the far post where Ryan was lurking. The Scot controlled the ball with his first touch and then shot into the far corner of the net.

Glenavon had a chance to reduce the arrears when Peter Campbell intercepted a kick out by Rohan Ferguson. Matthew Snoddy pounced on the loose ball but shot straight at the Larne goalkeeper.

In the 23rd minute Larne stretched its lead to four goals. Tomas Cosgrove launched a 70-yard ball into the opposition half. Bonis beat the offside trap and found himself with only Byrne to beat. The Newry man saved the centre forward’s initial effort, but the ball squirmed free and the former Portadown man scored from a few yards out.

Ninety seconds later the home side made the score 5-0. Another long punt was headed on by Bonis and Ryan found himself free with a clear run at goal. He confidently took the ball around Byrne and tapped it into the net.

In the 35th minute Lee Bonis almost found snatched his fourth, but he failed to control a poor back pass by Sean Ward.

In the 39th minute Glenavon found the net. James Doona and Len O’Sullivan dispossessed Cosgrove and O’Sullivan carried the ball into the penalty area before shooting past Ferguson with his left foot.

In the 42nd minute Larne was reduced to ten men when Sean Graham was given a second yellow card for a foul on Snoddy.

Glenavon made a number of changes at half time and produced a much improved second half display.

Nonetheless Larne almost scored again when Orozco let fly from 15 yards. Byrne got both hands to the ball to make a fine save.

In the 59th minute Darren Clarke had a gilt-edged chance to reduce the deficit, but he shot straight at Ferguson after Jack Malone’s forward pass had been headed into his path.

Six minutes later Jamie Doran hit the base of a post with a curling shot from 15 yards after Doona’s cross was deflected and landed at his feet.

Doran almost had a second opportunity when he touched but could not control a wayward pass by Ro-Shaun Williams.

Glenavon’s plight worsened with eighteen minutes left when Peter Campbell mistimed a tackle on Orozco and was given a straight red card.

Larne made the score 6-1 in the 78th minute. Tomas Cosgrove picked out Lee Bonis with another long pass in behind the Glenavon defence. The striker controlled the ball, took it wide of Byrne and calmly stroked it into the net.

A bitterly disappointing afternoon for the Lurgan men but a brilliant display of attacking football by the Sports Direct Premiership title favourites.

LARNE: Ferguson, Donnelly, Bolger, Williams, Graham, Millar, Cosgrove, Orozco, Gallagher, Bonis, Ryan, SUBS: McAdams (not used), Thomson (not used), Randall for Gallagher (83 mins), O’Neill for Bonis (83 mins), Ives for Millar (70 mins), Westendorf for Ryan (83 mins), Sloan for Orozco (75 mins).

Yellow Card: Graham (31’).

Red Card: Graham (42’).

GLENAVON: Byrne, Toure, Birney, Ward, O’Sullivan, Snoddy, Malone, Garrett, Lotefa, Campbell, Doona, SUBS: Deane (not used), Kerr for Lotefa (half-time), Hodgins for O’Sullivan (56 mins), McCloskey (not used), Wallace for Ward (half-time), Doran for Toure (24 mins), Clarke for Garrett (half-time).

Yellow Card: Byrne (9’).

Red Card: Campbell (72’).

REFEREE: Steven Gregg.