Glenavon 2 Crusaders 1
Glenavon left it late to make it three wins in a row as they strive to attain manager Marty Quinn’s target of a place in the Carling Premiership’s top six.
In a game pulsating at times and oozing tasty challenges, controversy and excitement they snatched victory with mere seconds remaining when sub James Costello produced a marvellous strike.
But sadly the high tempo and thoroughly enjoyable contest was tarnished somewhat in the end with players and staff eyeballing each other in a touchline confrontation.
What happens next is anyone’s guess although referee Hugh Carvill has signalled his intention to report back to IFA disciplinary chiefs citing in particular Crues coach Jeff Spiers and Glenavon’s midfielder Kyle Neill, who is alleged to have had a finger poked in his eye.
But after the dust settled it was the Mourneview lads who were in jubilant mood leaving rivals Crusaders down in the mouth after so nearly salvaging a point in a spirited performance.
For the second week in a row Stephen Baxter’s side were reduced to 10 men when David Gibson was sent off yet went ahead through a wonderful strike from Stuart Dallas who beat Andy Plummer low to his left.
But Glenavon levelled with Gary Hamilton’s sixth goal in five starts then sensationally grabbed the clincher through that sublime Costello effort from Adrian Harper’s by-line cross.
Harper’s tenaciousness was rewarded when he whipped over the perfect ball for Costello, nicknamed Elvis, to smash past Chris Keenan.
Little wonder then that the home side were cock-a-hoop, saluting the fans who by this stage were rocking in the stands.
Naturally Marty Quinn and his lads were ecstatic but could still afford some sympathy for the opposition since they have suffered in the same way on more than one occasion this season.
Always a feisty affair, tensions heightened even more from the moment last man Gibson walked for impeding Neill.
That lit the fuse and, for the remainder of the game, no quarter was asked or given, no prisoners taken at times.
Chris Morrow, Aidan Watson and Colin Coates were booked, the Northern Ireland star maybe a little lucky to have survived a lunging tackle on Hamilton.
Not surprisingly Crues boss Baxter refused to point an accusing finger and instead insisted: “When you have given a performance like we’ve given, playing the majority of the game with 10 men and conceding a sloppy goal and finally losing in the last 10 seconds, it is disappointing.
“I’m very proud of the 10 warriors out there who played the shirts off their backs. I didn’t have a clear view of the sending off incident but some of my players have told me the referee admitted to them he wasn’t sure whether to send David off.
“He might have got it wrong but then let the referee answer that. From what I did see I didn’t even think it was a foul.”
But Baxter issued a warning his players would be well advised to take on board.
He said: “You cannot play games at Irish League level with 10 men against 11 every week. Even though my lads gave an amazing account of themselves, it doesn’t work.”
Baxter preferred not to comment on the after match incident but rival boss Marty Quinn said: “I don’t think any punches were thrown and no-one got hurt.”
Quinn, however, was happy to share his thoughts on a win which sees his side leapfrog Coleraine into seventh place in the Carling Premiership League table.
He said: “It’s three big points and no more than we deserved. Let’s not forget we have been hit with goals in the 93rd and 94th minutes on occasions.
“So it’s nice to have bounced back to keep our bit of a run going. That’s 10 out of a possible 12 points from our last four games which is vitally important to our aspiration to be in the top six this season.
“Crusaders proved last week when they beat Linfield that going down to 10 men isn’t the end of the world. The lad was unlucky but he was the last man, took the player out and unfortunately had to go.
“At the same time we stuck to our task and had belief. We made positive substitutions and thank goodness they worked out.
“James Costello came off the bench and scored the winner. What more could you ask?
“Ours was a workmanlike performance and a well deserved win.”