Result: Donegal Celtic 1-1 Glenavon

Kyle Neill’s 20th minute goal gave Glenavon a half time lead but despite creating numerous chances Gary Hamilton’s side couldn’t find a decisive second goal and Darren Murray’s equaliser earned Stephen Small’s Donegal Celtic a point.

Gary Hamilton Post-match Interview (Audio)

After Brendan Shannon’s early cross was well claimed by rookie DC keeper Gerard McVeigh Glenavon’s Davy O’Hare had to react well to palm away a long throw that was flicked on at the near post. In the 10th minute Tony Grant flicked the ball onto Hamilton who carried it into the box before shooting but McVeigh saved well with his legs.

Glenavon player-manager Gary Hamilton watches from the sideline after being forced off with a hamstring injury. Photo-William Cherry/Presseye

Minutes later it looked ominous as the Glenavon manager was seen stretching his hamstring and sure enough he only lasted for 23 minutes and had to admit defeat with Andrew Mitchell coming on to replace him. Before that though Kyle Neill had given the visitors a lead in the 20th minute thanks to a horrible mix-up in the DC defence.

Mark Turkington had put a hopeful cross into the box but a mis-kick by DC left back Johnny Harkness as he tried to clear it gifted the ball to Neill and the Glenavon winger was left with an open goal and he made no mistake from 20 yards.

Kyle Neill celebrates scoring against Donegal Celtic during Saturday's Carling Premiership game at Suffolk Park. Photo-William Cherry/Presseye

Liam Bradley was then booked for a foul but as DC regained possession a long clearance down the right saw Darren Murray evade Glenavon claims for offside and race clear and it took a great save with his legs by O’Hare to deny him an equaliser.

Hamilton then went off in the 23rd minute with young Mitchell taking his place. Brendan Shannon was then denied by another excellent save by McVeigh when the Glenavon fullback’s free kick took a deflection off the wall and was heading for the bottom corner when McVeigh dived full length to his right to fingertip it round the post.

Donegal Celtic's Gerard McVeigh makes a save from Brendan Shannon's free kick during Saturday's Carling Premiership game at Suffolk Park. Photo-William Cherry/Presseye

John Convery almost got his name on the score sheet in the 33rd minute when Niall Henderson’s corner was only cleared as far as Ciaran Doherty. He played it back to Henderson who crossed towards the back post. Tony Grant flicked it on and Convery rose with the DC keeper but the ball went out of play leaving both players in a heap. Convery was quickly back on his feet but the young keeper took a while to recover having taken a knock on the thigh leaving him with a dead leg. He did recover though as evidenced by his continued heroics in the second half.

After Kyle Neill was booked for a foul on Stephen McAlorum the former Glenavon player saw his diving header sail over the bar from the resulting right wing free kick and in stoppage time Mitchell showed good skills on the edge of the box as his turn and shot sailed not far over the bar.

The young striker started the second half in a similar vein as he ran with the ball only to lose possession just outside the DC box with Glenavon claiming he had been tripped. but Henderson regained possession and played it back to him and he drew another save from McVeigh with a left foot shot from the edge of the box which the keeper held comfortably.

In the 51st minute Brian McCaul was put clear but he dragged a shot across goal and wide when well placed on the right side of the DC box. Four minutes later DC took a short corner and Darren Murray went inches wide of the far post with a glancing header but the young striker was on hand just before the hour mark to draw the sides level. Harkness crossed from the left and McAlorum headed the ball down to the six yard area where Murray pounced to slam it home.

In the 63rd minute Bradley, who had been cautioned in the first half, scythed down Doherty just outside the DC box but got away with a foul and no second yellow and McCaul curled the free kick over the bar. Two minutes later Doherty played the ball across to Grant on the edge of teh DC box. He chested it down, turned his marker and forced his way into the box only to see McVeigh make a brilliant save, his touch deflecting the shot onto the top of the bar.

Glenavon continued to press for a winner and good play down the left gave Henderson a crossing opportunity. Mitchell got a toe to his low ball across the six yard area but it wasn’t enough to direct it into the gaping goal. The young striker went even closer minutes later when his great turn in the box and left foot shot across the goal glanced off the post far post. Hagan crossed it back in and Turkington powered in a header that McVeigh brilliantly pushed over the bar. As he met that cross it looked for all the world like Turk’s first ever Glenavon goal but alas the wait goes on.

Despite Glenavon pressing hard for the win they just couldn’t force the vital second goal. Two or three great saves by Gerard McVeigh ensured DC held on for a point.

Teams

DC: G. McVeigh, Keegan, Harkness, McAlorum, R Henderson, Bradley, D Murray, McAllister, P. McVeigh, McNamee, Burns. Subs not used: O’Hara, Gowdy, Muir, O’Connor, C Murray

Glenavon: O’Hare, Shannon, Jay Magee, Convery, Turkington, McCaul, Henderson Hagan 81), Doherty, Neill, Grant (C Lavery 81, Hamilton (Mitchell 23). Subs not used: Rooney, Cherry.

Referee: Mervyn Smyth

Click Here for our updates from the game.

Preview: Donegal Celtic v Glenavon

Glenavon travel to Donegal Celtic on Saturday with the hosts going through a difficult time off the field. Following the departure of manager Paddy Kelly and other officials last week, first team coach Sean Hawkins, who stepped in at short notice against Portadown last Friday, will be in charge again after steering the side to an Irish Cup replay win over Institute on Tuesday night.

Gary Hamilton moved midweek to strengthen a defence hit by injuries to all his first choice central defenders by signing the vastly experienced John Convery from Cliftonville and the former Celtic, Portadown and Newry City player will come straight into the starting line-up.

“John’s been a player that I’ve liked for a long time and I’ve had the pleasure of playing with him at Portadown,” Gary told the website on Friday afternoon. “He was a little unfortunate at Cliftonville in that Tommy Breslin operates on a system that, if you’re winning, you keep the shirt. He was in the side until he got suspended, lost his place and with Cliftonville going on a winning run, he just didn’t get back in again. John wants to play first team football and we reap the benefits of that.

“He’s a big strong centre half who wins his headers and will bring a lot of experience and leadership to the team. He’s a no nonsense centre half but he can also get the ball down and play too. Hopefully he will also provide a threat at set pieces which is the one area where I’ve been disappointed in and I feel we haven’t capitalised on the quality of deliveries that the likes of Niall Henderson, Kyle Neill and myself have been providing. I know it’s only Reserve team football but John has scored 14 goals in the last 7 games playing at centre half so hopefully he’ll bring a few goals to the table as well.”

Jay Magee has trained two nights this week so hopefully he has shaken off his foot injury but Mark Miskimmin is out with a hamstring strain. Gary himself along with Tony Grant and Brian McCaul all received treatment midweek for hamstring problems for which the Glenavon player-manager blamed the heavy pitch at Coleraine Showgrounds last week. “I’ve never had a hamstring problem in my entire career but myself and several of the players needed treatment on hamstring problems this week.”

Glenavon is the only team in the Carling Premiership without an away win this season but picking up three points at Suffolk Road will not be an easy task against a side 14 points above the Lurgan Blues. Gary will take some encouragement from DC’s relatively poor home form, having picked up just 11 of their 31 points at home, conceding 27 goals while only scoring 13.

“It’s a massive game tomorrow. I know I keep saying this but they’re all massive games for us at the minute. It doesn’t matter if you’re playing DC, Linfield or Glentoran, it’s all about points and the three points for winning are the same no matter who you’re playing. It’s a good opportunity tomorrow to go and express ourselves and try and get that win that we are crying out for. I’m quite happy with our play going forward but we have to stop giving teams silly goals at silly times. Hopefully John coming in will steady that up and the extra experience will help Jay. It’ll also let Kyle Neill get back to playing in his preferred position on the left which he hasn’t been able to do since he scored the two goals against Crusaders.”

Glenavon Squad

From: Grieve, Jay Magee, Neill, Shannon, Turkington, Convery, Grant, Hamilton, Mitchell, O’Hare, Cherry, Doherty, Hagan, Henderson, Lavery, McCaul, Rooney

Match Officials: M. Smyth, M. Boyd, D. O’Connor, S. Wallace