Mark Haughey hits winner to put Linfield on top
Linfield 2 Glenavon 1: The result was all that mattered as Linfield returned to the top of the Danske Bank Premiership with a scrappy victory over Glenavon at a rain-lashed Windsor Park.
It wasn't pretty, but with just eight matches remaining, Blues manager David Jeffrey will care little about how his side clock up the points so long as they can maintain their place at the summit.
Trailing to Tiarnan Mulvenna's 27th minute penalty, Linfield hit back through Philip Lowry before the interval and amid sustained Glenavon pressure, they were grateful to former Mourneview favourite Mark Haughey for plundering the 73rd minute winner which lifts the Blues two points clear of Cliftonville.
Following an impeccably observed minute's silence in memory of former Linfield goalkeeper Alex Russell, who passed away yesterday, it was the club's current No.1, Johnny Tuffey, who was first to prove his worth with an early one-handed save to keep David Rainey at bay.
At the other end, Andy Waterworth looked set to break the deadlock following a neat exchange with Lowry and though his deflected shot got the better of goalkeeper James McGrath, Rhys Marshall cleared off the line.
Glenavon took the lead when, amid seemingly little danger, Ciaran Martyn's poorly-executed overhead kick was blocked by a Lowry's arm, leaving referee Arnold Hunter with no option but to point to the penalty spot, Mulvenna slotting home.
Glenavon should have doubled their advantage six minutes before the interval when Kris Lindsay sent Andy McGrory through on goal, but after taking a touch to compose himself inside the area, he flashed his right-footed across the face of goal and harmlessly out of danger.
It was a pivotal moment because, almost immediately Linfield were level.
Ivan Sproule's looping left-wing delivery fell invitingly for Lowry and with more than one Glenavon defender struggling to keep steady in a mudbath of a goalmouth, he atoned for his earlier misdemeanour with an angled drive beyond McGrath.
The 'keeper was quick off his line to deny Lowry a couple of minutes later and also got just enough of a touch on the ball to turn a Jamie Mulgrew effort over the top during something of a home onslaught at the end of the first-half.
Mulvenna came close to putting Glenavon back in front when he capitalised on hesitancy from Haughey before drawing a point-blank save out of Tuffey.
Mulvenna threatened again with a 20-yard drive that drifted over the top before the Blues almost pulled ahead in comical circumstances when Marshall's backpass evaded his keeper before trickling through a sticky goalmouth and inches wide of the post.
A heavy touch from Rainey denied Glenavon another scoring opportunity and just as with McGrory's wasted attempt in the first-half, Linfield capitalised by finding the net almost immediately when Niall Quinn's free-kick caused havoc in the middle and with seemingly everyone throwing a leg in the direction of the ball, it was Haughey who got the telling touch to poke it over the line.
The closing exchanges might have been more comfortable for the Blues had anyone been able to turn Matthew Tipton's teasing cross home or if Lowry had directed a cheeky dinked effort the right side of the post.
The final whistle produced a roar of delight from Jeffrey on the sidelines, but referee Hunter took exception to an exchange of words with Marshall and flashed a post-match red card in the direction of the youngster.
LINFIELD: Tuffey, Gault, Haughey, Waterworth, Lowry, BJ Burns, Ward, Mulgrew, McAllister, Sproule, Quinn. Subs: Carvill, Tipton (for McAllister, 67 mins), Reece Glendinning, R Clarke, Deane.
GLENAVON: McGrath, Neill, Murphy, Lindsay, Rainey, McGrory, Marshall, McCabe, Martyn, Singleton, Mulvenna. Subs: Hamilton (for Mulvenna, 77 mins), Bates, Kilmartin, Patton (for Neill, 77 mins), McKeown (for Murphy, 73 mins).
Referee: Arnold Hunter (Maguiresbridge).