Glenavon 12 Loughgall

Sports Direct Premiership

Mourneview Park

Saturday 23rd March 2024

Match report by Calum Jones

Glenavon lost ground in the race for seventh spot and a European play-off place with a 2-1 defeat at home to Loughgall on Saturday afternoon.

The in-form Nathaniel Ferris opened the scoring for the Villagers from the penalty spot in the 28th minute after Conor Kerr had upended Caolan McAleer.

The away side doubled their lead five minutes before the break when former Glenavon midfielder Robbie Norton’s free kick from deep evaded everybody and found the far corner of the net.

When an error by Loughgall goalkeeper Berraat Turker gifted Glenavon captain Niall Quinn a goal on the hour mark it sparked hopes of a Lurgan Blues fightback, but this didn’tcome to fruition, and in the end Loughgall held on comfortably for a precious victory.

It was Loughgall who made the better start to the game, and they manufactured a shooting opportunity in the 13th minute for Jamie Rea. The defender blazed his effort over the bar from the left corner of the penalty area.

A minute later at the other end of the pitch, the lively Jamie Doran pulled the ball back from the right to find Jack Malone at the edge of the box, but the midfielder’s subsequent shot was blocked.

There was a let-off for Glenavon on 17 minutes when Rea picked out Alberto Balde at the far post with an excellent cross from the left flank. Balde didn’t connect properly with his header at all, leaving Gareth Deane to gather the ball.

Doran threatened from the right again in the 22nd minute, driving in a low cross. Turker failed to hold the ball at the first attempt, but he did manage to gather at the second, just as Lido Lotefa was primed to pounce.

Lotefa did manage to get a shot on target four minutes later when the ball broke for him after Darren Clarke had embarked on a positive run to the edge of the Loughgall box. Lotefastruck a curling effort with his right foot. Turker dived to his left to make a routine save.

The away side were awarded a penalty kick in the 27th minute. McAleer had just carried the ball into the Glenavon box from the left when Kerr attempted to tackle him. McAleer ended up sprawled on the turf. Kerr immediately indicated that he had made contact with the ball, but referee Ian McNabb disagreedand pointed to the spot. Ferris stepped up and thumped the ball home to score his 14th league goal of the season, moving him to just one behind teammate Benji Magee’s tally.

The blustery conditions nearly came into play a couple of minutes after the opening goal when McAleer took a corner for Loughgall from the left and the ball almost curled directly into the net.

The away side did grab a second goal in the 40th minute. Norton swung over a free kick from close to the left touchline. The midfielder was clearly attempting to pick out a teammate, and indeed, another ex-Glenavon player, Andrew Hoey, almost did get his head to the ball. But in the end, it evaded everybody, including goalkeeper Deane, and nestled in the far corner.

Loughgall might even have added a third goal before the half-time whistle sounded. McAleer cut in from the left and hit a low shot with his right foot. This initial effort was blocked by Calum Birney, but the ball made its way back to McAleer. His follow-up effort was a first-time strike with his left foot which brushed the side-netting as it went inches wide of Deane’s right-hand post.

As the players left the field for the half-time break, it was clear that Glenavon’s performance level would have to dramatically improve in the second period if there was to be any hope of the Lurgan Blues getting anything from the game.

There was a response from Stephen McDonnell’s men in the opening stages of the second half, although it was Loughgall who were first to threaten after the break when Ferris closed down Deane at the edge of his box and slid in ahead of the goalkeeper to get his boot to the ball with 58 minutes on the clock. The striker attempted to direct it goalward, but the ball rolled wide of the right post.

Glenavon got back into the game two minutes later. Caolan Loughran played a pacy back-pass to his goalkeeper. Turker attempted to clear the ball first time with his left foot but miskicked it horribly. Quinn was on Turker in a flash and dispossessed the goalkeeper before rolling the ball into an empty net with his right foot to halve the deficit.

Loughran was involved again in the 64th minute, this time at the other end of the pitch. A corner from the right was played short to McAleer and he sent over a looping cross to the back post. When Glenavon failed to clear the ball, it found its way to Loughran, and the big defender hit a shot with his right foot. He didn’t connect properly with the strike, although it still trickled just inches wide of the far post, with Deane leftrooted to the spot.

Glenavon enjoyed a decent spell of pressure midway through the second half, but they just couldn’t carve out clear goalscoring opportunities.

Deane was called into action on 72 minutes when McAleer mishit a cross from the left which nearly dropped beneath the crossbar. The Glenavon goalkeeper did well to palm the ball away.

Malone did find the target with a low left-foot shot in the 79th minute, but the effort lacked any venom, and Turker made an easy save.

Loughgall twice came close to adding to their lead in the closing stages. Jordan Gibson’s header from a corner on 83 minutes had Deane beaten and was heading for the net, only for Kerr to clear it off the line.

Four minutes later, substitute Conor McCloskey was caught on the ball just inside his own half. Loughgall substitute Oran Brogan put a tackle in on McCloskey and managed to release Ferris in the process. The Loughgall captain headed directly towards goal. As Birney backed off into his own penalty area, Ferris did a stepover with his left foot to create half a yard for him to shoot with his right. The effort was struck with power. Luckily for Glenavon, it cannoned off Deane’s left-hand post and away to safety.

When fourth official Tony Gregg indicated that there would be five minutes of time added on, that gave Glenavon supporters a faint glimmer of hope that an equaliser might arrive. However, the closest the Lurgan Blues came to finding a second goal was when substitute David Toure picked out Birney with a ball into the box from deep on the right. The big centre-half hit the target with his header, but it was a simple save for Turker.

Saturday’s defeat means that Glenavon now trail Loughgall by five points in the race for seventh spot. The Villagers are up into seventh above Carrick Rangers, although Stuart King’s side do have a game in hand. In fact, Carrick still have the remotest of chances of sneaking ahead of Coleraine into the top six. The Gers would, however, need to beat Linfield by at least five goals in their game in hand on Easter Tuesday to move above Coleraine on goal difference.

Glenavon remain ninth in the table. But with the five post-split games to come, there is still plenty to play for in terms of chasing seventh place and that European play-off spot.

MATCH SPONSOR – City of Armagh GSC and Michael Dickson

BALL SPONSOR – Gordon Gough


Glenavon: 44. Gareth Deane (GK), 2. Conor Kerr, 4. Calum Birney, 7. Matthew Snoddy, 8. Jack Malone, 11. Niall Quinn (C), 23. Daniel Wallace, 24. Jamie Doran, 25. Darren Clarke,28. Robert Garrett, 99. Lido Lotefa

Subs: 17. Conor McCloskey (for 25. Darren Clarke, 55’), 21. Aaron Prendergast (for 99. Lido Lotefa, 55’), 5. David Toure (for 7. Matthew Snoddy, 66’), 20. Stephen Teggart (for 24. Jamie Doran, 76’), 9. Gavin Hodgins (for 23. Daniel Wallace, 76’); not used: 13. Mark Byrne (GK), 30. Sean Ward

Goals: 11. Niall Quinn (60’)

Yellow cards: 7. Matthew Snoddy (39’), 2. Conor Kerr (90+2’)

Loughgall: 1. Berraat Turker (GK), 3. Jamie Rea, 7. Pablo Andrade, 9. Nathaniel Ferris (C), 10. Andrew Hoey, 11. Caolan McAleer, 12. Robbie Norton, 13. Jordan Gibson, 15. Luke Cartwright, 18. Alberto Balde Almanzar, 23. Caolan Loughran

Subs: 39. Ryan Waide (for 18. Alberto Balde Almanzar, 35’), 8. Alan Teggart (for 10. Andrew Hoey, 79’), 5. Oran Brogan (for 12. Robbie Norton, 87’), 4. Ben Murdock (for 11. Caolan McAleer, 87’); not used: 20. Daniel Devine (GK), 26. Ben Harvey, 37. Leon Boyd

Goals: 9. Nathaniel Ferris (28’ (penalty)), 12. Robbie Norton (40’)

Yellow cards: N/A