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Friday night football and a big crowd enjoyed a thrilling game between the hosts and the current league leaders as Glenavon striker Guy Bates prepared to bid farewell before heading to start his new life in Australia.
Glenn Ferguson will rue the missed chances, most of them falling to David Cushley, as his team suffered their first defeat of the season and, at least until Saturday, Gary Hamilton’s Glenavon side can enjoy the fact that they moved up to third, just two points behind the early season pace setters.
Kris Lindsay glanced in the opening goal in the 5th minute from a wicked in-swinging Kyle Neill corner. David Cushley almost replied immediately when he drove a shot from just outside the box that Alan Blaney beat away to safety.
Andy McGrory then tried his luck with a dipping volley from the left corner of the box but Dwayne Nelson dealt with it comfortably.
In the 26th minute Cushley showed great skill to flick the ball over Rhys Marshall’s head but he couldn’t direct his shot on target, Blaney happy to see it drift wide of his left hand post. Three minutes later the little United forward latched on to a long ball but was penalised for colliding with the Glenavon keeper just inside the box.
Glenavon debutant Ciaran Caldwell played Blaney into trouble when he attempted to head the ball back from near the centre circle but the Glenavon keeper did well to rush out of his area and make a great block tackle to deny Cushley another shooting chance.
On the stroke of half time Cushley showed great skill to control a through ball, beat Rhys Marshall and draw Blaney out but unfortunately for the Sky Blues, he dragged his shot wide with the goal gaping.
Ten minutes into the second half Caldwell put over a great cross which McGrory played back in from beyond the far post but Ciaran Martyn put his header well wide.
Just after the hour mark United briefly thought they had equalised when it appear Davy Munster had headed in from a Neal Gawley free kick but the big defender was penalised and cautioned for deliberate hand ball.
Rhys Marshall made it 2-0 to the Lurgan Blues in the 5th minute when he headed in from another Neill corner after his initial effort had been headed off the line. Ballymena will point to the fact that it should never have been a corner in the first place, Gareth McKeown clearly slicing his shot out of play without any contact from a Sky Blue player.
Sixty seconds later Eoin Bradley had a great chance to make it 3-0 after Johnny Taylor failed to cut out a through ball but the former Coleraine man, after drawing Nelson out, curled his shot narrowly wide.
Referee Raymond Hetherington sent off Glenavon’s Shane McCabe and Ballymena skipper Allan Jenkins for an off-the-ball incident in the 68th minute as Kris Lindsay and Darren Boyce were ‘tangling’ on the ground after they had challenged each other for an aerial ball.
With 15 minutes of normal time left on the clock Guy Bates came on to a standing ovation from the large Glenavon support in the Geddis stand as he replaced Bradley.
There were 7 minutes remaining when the visitors had claims for a handball in the box by Lindsay waved away by the ref, Mark Surgenor picking up a yellow card for his protests.
Two minutes later Cushley finally got the goal he deserved when he beat Blaney from the edge of the box after a fortunate break of the ball had favoured Matthew Tipton who crossed for his team mate and this time Cushley didn’t try to blast it but went for a measured chip.
Gavin Taggart then tried his luck with a 25 yard shot that Mr Hetherington adjudged had been touched over the bar by Blaney but he then awarded a free kick out from the resulting corner. In the final minute of the 90 Martyn fired a volley just wide from Bates’ cross but in the four minutes of added time, as United went three at the back and pushed forward for an equaliser, Boyce went mighty close with a header that he glanced inches wide from a dangerous cross to the far post by the marauding Taylor.
Glenavon FC is sad to confirm that tonight’s Danske Bank Premiership game against Ballymena United will be Guy Bates’ last for the club for the foreseeable future. Due to a change in the big man’s personal circumstances he will be leaving on Sunday for Australia to join his family business out there.
Speaking to the website this morning, Gary Hamilton told us “We’re very sad to be losing Guy as he has played a major part in our advancement to where we now are and in winning the Irish Cup for the first time in 17 years. His contribution to the progress we have made has been tremendous and we will miss him, there’s no doubt about that. Football is important but in the end Guy has had to make this difficult decision and I understand that completely. He has assured me that, should he ever return to Ireland, he will give us first refusal on his services.”
Last Saturday it was a visit to the Champions, on Friday its a visit from the current league leaders Ballymena United, kick off 7:45pm. The free-scoring Sky Blues will have the extra incentive of not only going for the three points to possibly extend their lead at the top of the Danske Bank Premiership table, but Glenn Ferguson and his players will be out to erase the memory of their Irish Cup Final defeat at the hands of Glenavon back on May 3rd. On the other hand, a win for the home side would move the Lurgan Blues to within just two points of the leaders.
With a number of injury problems for Gary Hamilton’s squad the game could see debuts for Ciaran Caldwell and latest signing Tony McNamee.
Conor Dillon is out for a few weeks with the heel injury he sustained at Solitude last week, Mark Patton is still working his way back to fitness from a back problem he picked up in pre-season but James Singleton could make his return from a thigh problem.
Head to Head Last Season
|Sat||03/05/14||Ballymena United||1 – 2||Glenavon||Irish Cup||More info|
|Sat||22/03/14||Ballymena United||2 – 1||Glenavon||League||More info|
|Sat||14/12/13||Glenavon||0 – 0||Ballymena United||League||More info|
|Sat||10/08/13||Ballymena United||3 – 6||Glenavon||League||More info|
We’d like to express our gratitude to tonight’s sponsors.
|Match Sponsor||Ball Sponsor||Man of the Match Sponsor|
|Mechanics Institute||Gordon Gough||Glenavon Ladies|
Referee: Raymond Hetherington. Assistant 1: Adrian Sobieski. Assistant 2: Mark O’Brien. 4th Official: Keith Kennedy.
Tony McNamee, a 21 year old midfielder, was signed this week on an amateur contract from Derry City where he had been mainly a reserve team player although he has made 6 first team appearances. His international clearance has come through today (Thursday) and, because of injuries, there is a possibility that he could figure in our panel for tomorrow night’s game.
Glenavon Reserves take on Cliftonville Olympic at Mourneview Park tonight. Kick off is 7:45 pm and admission is free.
Result: Glenavon Reserves 3-3 Cliftonville Olympic
Jamie Smith, Stuart Mallon and Cole Maginnes were the Glenavon scorers.