NIFL Premiership

Cliftonville 2–2 Glenavon 

CLIFTONVILLE let a two-goal lead slip in the final ten minutes as they were held to a 2-2 draw by Glenavon at Solitude on Saturday afternoon. 

Ronan Hale had given the Reds a first-half lead and a Joe Gormley strike with 20 minutes remaining appeared to have the hosts on course for all three points. 

The Lurgan Blues pulled a goal back through substitute Josh Doyle and an own goal from Jonny Addis with two minutes remaining saw them cling on for a deserved share of the spoils for their late endeavour.  

Odhran Casey was shown a red card in a frantic finish to proceedings, but the points were shared at the end of a frustrating afternoon for Paddy McLaughlin’s side. 

The Reds’ boss was less than impressed with his side's late collapse and felt there was a hint of complacency about their play. 

“It was definitely two points dropped and I’m very disappointed,” McLaughlin admitted. 

“I think in the first half we’d two or three great chances. In the second half, we’d two or three great chances and we’ve taken two out of the five or six that we’ve created. When you look back, until the 80th minute, I thought we were quite comfortable. 

“That’s probably what the downfall was: people got complacent, people got comfortable and then a couple of individual errors led to chaos for the last 10 minutes and that can happen. When you’ve got people comfortable and complacent then that is a recipe for disaster and that’s what happened in the last 10 minutes. 

“There was definitely a goal coming because we didn’t really put our foot on the ball and didn’t really have any game management at all, at any stage. It just seemed to be backing off and swiping at things and not landing on anything that was cleared out of our box. I said to our boys on the line that we were wobbling a wee bit and we needed somebody to manage the last five or 10 minutes, but it didn’t happen.”

McLaughlin made four changes from the midweek win over Newry City in the League Cup. Nathan Gartside, Luke Turner, Ryan Curran all started, and Sean Moore came back into the starting 11 following his three-game ban for a sending-off against Larne. 

The hosts settled into proceedings better and should have hit the front through a Luke Turner cut-back to Ronan Doherty, but the midfielder blasted his effort over the bar from inside the penalty area. 

Ryan Curran shot wide under pressure from Michael Glynn and a perfectly timed challenge from Conor Kerr inside the area stopped the attacker once again. 

Approaching the midway point in the half, visitors Glenavon forged their first attack when a Glynn cross was met by former Cliftonville youth product Conor Scannell whose header was tremendously pushed out by Nathan Gartside, but the offside flag was raised in the aftermath. 

It was a chance that the Lurgan Blues would come to rue as Cliftonville broke the deadlock at the other end. 

Ronan Hale controlled a terrific pass and curled a shot around the dive of Rory Brown and into the net for his 12th goal in all competitions this season. 

Glenavon missed the chance to restore parity before the half-hour mark when Conor Scannell’s cross was missed by Matt Fitzpatrick and Calum Birney steered a wonderful opportunity over the bar. 

Jonny Addis was inches away from doubling the Reds’ lead before the break when he met a Ronan Doherty free kick, but his looping header dropped wide of the post and it remained 1-0 at the break. 

Both sides went close after the break, Sean Moore flashed an effort over the bar from a short Doherty corner, while substitute Conor McCloskey saw his corner acrobatically punched to safety by Nathan Gartside. 

Ronan Hale saw a shot pushed to safety by Rory Brown and the resulting corner was glanced over by Jamie Robinson. 

With little under 20 minutes remaining, it looked as though Cliftonville had sealed all three points when they doubled their lead. 

Chris Gallagher played a marvellous through ball to Joe Gormley, and fresh from his two goals in midweek, Gormley charged towards goal and squeezed his shot beyond the reach of Rory Brown to net his 250th goal for the club. 

Joe Gormley celebrates scoring his 250th goal for Cliftonville

Joe Gormley celebrates scoring his 250th goal for Cliftonville

A grandstand finish was on the cards as Glenavon pulled a goal back with seven minutes remaining. 

Conor McCloskey picked out Glynn on the overlap and his low cross was flicked home by substitute Josh Doyle. 

McCloskey then swung a free kick past the post and the pressure paid off two minutes from time. 

Michael Glynn’s throw-in was half cut-out, but the on-loan Derry City player showed determination and robbed Chris Curran in possession before driving another cross that Gartside parried onto the head of Jonny Addis and it bobbled into the net to make it 2-2. 

The momentum was with Glenavon who sensed a winner on the cards and their pursuit was aided when substitute Odhran Casey hacked down Peter Campbell to stop a quick counterattack.  

Despite referee Ross Dunlop initially producing reaching for a yellow card, subsequent protests from the visitor’s bench then saw the whistler show the youngster a red card and they would play out the remainder with 10 men. 

In the end, Glenavon’s pursuit of a winner came to nothing, and they had to be content with a share of the spoils for their late efforts. 

CLIFTONVILLE: Gartside, Lowe, Addis, Robinson, Turner, Gallagher, Doherty, Rory Hale (Casey 72’), R Curran, Moore (Gormley 64’), Ronan Hale (C Curran 81’).  

GLENAVON: Brown, Kerr, Glynn, Birney, Fitzpatrick (Prendergast 75’), Campbell, Baird (Garrett 81’), Scannell (McCloskey 46’), Malone (Snoddy 41’), Ward, Bradley (Doyle 75’). 

REFEREE: Ross Dunlop