Glenavon 1–3 Cliftonville
Cliftonville returned to winning ways with a hard-fought 3-1 win over Glenavon at Mourneview Park on Tuesday evening.
David Parkhouse netted his first goal for the club just before the quarter-hour mark and with a quarter of an hour remaining, Colin Coates headed home the second.
Glenavon ]sparked hopes of a late fightback when Matt Fitzpatrick flicked on Peter Campbell’s free kick in the 90th minute, but Ronan Hale restored his side’s two-goal lead and ended any fears of a third straight draw from a two-goal winning position.
Reds’ assistant manager Declan O’Hara was keen to credit his players for showing their character after a difficult couple of weeks.
“To be quite honest, our overall performance tonight was excellent from start to finish,” he reflected.
“Defensively we were solid. Yes, we conceded late on, but teams are going to get a chance. I think that was their first chance they had in the game. Credit to our boys, they’ve bounced back from a difficult couple of days and the last couple of results.
“We asked them in training last night and over the weekend to prepare for a tough battle coming down here as it’s a tough place to come to. Gary has his team set up unbelievably and we had to work hard for the three points tonight.”
Paddy McLaughlin made two changes to the side that started the 2-2 draw with Coleraine at the weekend.
One was enforced as Jonny Addis dropped out through suspension to be replaced by Colin Coates. On-loan Ballymena Unites striker David Parkhouse was also handed his first start role, with Jamie McDonagh dropping to the bench.
Glenavon had a few early half chances with Robbie Garrett twice trying his luck from distance.
At the second time of asking it came when Peter Campbell’s low ball was cleared behind for a corner and Jack Malone sent the set-piece towards Aaron Rogers who laid off for Garrett and the midfielder flashed an effort over.
The deadlock was broken with little under a quarter of an hour gone at Mourneview Park.
Levi Ives whipped a free-kick into the back post where Luke Turner nodded down and David Parkhouse hooked past Marc Matthews to give his side the lead.
Glenavon should have hit back after the half-hour mark when Nathan Gartside came to clear a Peter Campbell cross, but could only partially clear as far as Jack Malone who scuffed an effort and Aaron Prendergast scooped his effort past the post.
Matthew Snoddy glanced wide from an Aaron Rogers cross and before the half drew to a close, Peter Campbell sent in a low effort that evaded a touch from Fitzpatrick and it remained 1-0 at the break.
Cliftonville almost doubled their lead a few minutes after the restart but Rory Hale’s shot was deflected behind for a corner by Garrett.
At the other end, Conor Kerr whipped a free-kick into the back post where Nathan Gartside rose to collect and Matthew Fitzpatrick lifted an effort over from the edge of the box moments later.
A rapid counterattack from Parkhouse almost resulted in the visitors’ second in the 70th minute.
The striker galloped down the right channel and his cross-field switch fell to Sean Moore who rounded Marc Matthews, but his effort from a narrow angle was cleared on the line by Danny Wallace.
A speculative Ronan Hale half-volley from 25 yards then crashed off the crossbar with Matthews beaten.
With a quarter of an hour remaining, Paddy McLaughlin’s men ominously doubled their advantage.
Ronan Doherty’s corner went short and he whipped in a high cross from the right that Colin Coates powered home for his second goal of the season and first in the league.
A nervy lead in their previous two encounters, the Reds chased a third and thought they had it when Sean Moore slipped in Rory Hale to round Marc Matthews and slid into the empty net, but a late offside flag cut short the celebrations.
The Hale brothers then combined but Ronan’s effort was blocked down as Glenavon escaped further danger.
A grandstand finish was on the cards as Glenavon halved the deficit in the 90th minute. Peter Campbell’s free-kick was met by the head of Matt Fitzpatrick in the crowded area and his header found the net.
Any lingering Cliftonville nerves were extinguished as they restored their two-goal advantage two minutes into injury time.
Levi Ives's throw-in was flicked over the shoulder by Sean Moore and Joe Gormley raced onto the loose ball at the by-line and squared for Ronan Hale to fire in his 10th league goal of the season and 21st overall.
It wrapped up a 3-1 win and ensured that Cliftonville remain top of the table and registered their first win in three attempts.
GLENAVON: Matthews, Kerr, Ward, Wallace, Rogers, Snoddy (Hamilton 90+1’), Garrett, Malone, Campbell, Prendergast, Fitzpatrick.
CLIFTONVILLE: Gartside, Lowe, Coates, Turner, Ives, Gallagher, Doherty, Rory Hale (Casey 83’), Moore, Ronan Hale, Parkhouse (Gormley 77’).
REFEREE: Christopher Morrison