Mark Farren starts his first game for Glenavon after his move from Derry City and Kyle Neill replaces Mark Turkington at left back.
Mark Haughey put the home side ahead in the 14th minute with his second goal of the season when he headed Gary Hamilton’s free kick back across the goal, the ball just creeping inside the far post.
Paul Heatley just failed to get his head to Gary McCutcheon’s whipped cross on 21 minutes. Guy Bates challenged with Sean O’Neill for a dropping ball on the edge of the Crues area and the keeper’s punch dropped to Farren but his shot was blocked by Josh Robinson.
McCutcheon drilled the 32nd minute equaliser through a forest of legs after the Glenavon defence failed to deal with Gareth McKeown’s long throw.
The visitors were only on level terms for three minutes when Bates did superbly to cut the ball back from the bye-line and Ciaran Martyn was on hand to force it home from 3 yards.
Lindsay’s header from another Hamilton corner was cleared off the line by Aiden Watson in the 39th minute.
As Glenavon struggled to clear a Crusaders corner Andy Coleman’s decision to punch a ball from under his bar proved disastrous when Heatley picked it up on the edge of the box and fired a low shot past the unsighted Glenavon keeper to make it 2-2 four minutes before the interval.
Kris Lindsay went off at half time to be replaced by Marc Brown who slotted in at right back with Eddie McCallion moving to centre back.
Crusaders had two great chances to go in front inside the first five minutes of the second half. Heatley hit the post with the goal at his mercy when he volleyed a clearance from Haughey. Jordan Owens miss was even worse when he scuffed a shot wide from inside the box as he ran onto McKeown’s free kick. Matthew Snoddy then saw his half volley dip onto the top of the crossbar.
It was then Glenavon’s turn to force a series of chances; Hamilton went on a run to the edge of the area before playing a one-two with Martyn, O’Neill making an excellent save to keep out the player-manager’s shot. The Crues keeper then denied Farren a debut goal after Hamilton played him in and only a goal line clearance by Colin Coates kept Martyn from restoring the Glenavon lead.
It was against the run of play that Declan Caddell put the visitors in front for the first time in the game when he headed in at the back post from McKeown’s deep cross in the 65th minute of an enthralling game.
Five minutes later Bates was denied when O’Neill diverted his close range shot over the bar after he was played in by Martyn. Andy Kilmartin then had a 25 yard shot parried safely away from danger by the excellent O’Neill.
With ten minutes remaining Martyn put a shot narrowly wide from 20 yards and Crues substitute David Rainey hit the bar from just outside the box.
Praise must go to Referee Davy Malcolm who kept his cards in his pocket and allowed the game to flow which certainly helped to produce a superb advert for the local game.
Glenavon: Coleman, Neill, Haughey, Lindsay (c) (Brown 46), McCallion, Hamilton, Kilmartin, Martyn, Henderson, Bates, Farren (Bennett 90). Subs not used: Hagan, Turkington, Corrigan
Crusaders: O’Neill, McKeown, McClean, Coates (c), Robinson, Snoddy, Watson, Caddelll, Heatley, McCutcheon, Owens. Subs: Rainey, Leeman, Mitchell, Morrow, Drummond
As always, Glenavon FC is very grateful to our sponsors today for their generous support.
- Match Sponsor: Club President Gordon Irwin
- Ball Sponsor: Carla Lockhart, Mayor of Craigavon
- Man of the Match Sponsor: Ian Wylie