New deal is icing on cake for Bradley
Glenavon 3 - Cliftonville 3
Eoin Bradley signed a new two-year contract, keeping him at Mourneview Park until May 2018, to seal the almost perfect day for Glenavon fans on Saturday.
Only the winning goal was missing after Bradley's second half double completed his hat-trick and earned the Lurgan Blues a point against Cliftonville, hauling them back from 3-1 down with 13 minutes left, to keep them firmly in the race for second place in the Danske Bank Premiership.
Manager Gary Hamilton said: "We're delighted to extend Skinner's (Bradley) deal by two years. Since he's come into the club he's done very well. He's a strong boy, he scores goals and there are very few defenders who like playing against him.
"He knows himself at times he can be frustrating; that's just the way he is but in most games he contributes something - he either sets up a chance or he scores a goal, like today he scored three and he also put a great ball into the box early on in the game. Hopefully he can keep going on, scoring goals and doing well for us."
Bradley admitted that once the second goal went in, the team were confident they would get an equaliser, at least.
"That's a couple of times this year we have been behind and came back to draw or win games. If you have a never-say-die attitude you never know where it takes you. We're disappointed not to take all three points but after being 3-1 down you'll always take a point," said Bradley.
"Cliftonville have four or five of the best forwards in the Irish League so they will always catch you on the break but we showed the quality to come back.
"I should have had a hat-trick last week (missing a late chance after scoring two against H&W Welders in the Irish Cup) but it was good to get one against a top team like Cliftonville."
A trademark header and two devastating left foot finishes were the end product to Bradley's goals, the perfect response to a James Knowles double and Jaimie McGovern's first ever career strike. The draw was Cliftonville's fourth in their last five games but enough to lift them into second in the table - albeit eight points behind Crusaders having played a game more - but manager Gerard Lyttle knows his team, which has conceded six goals in their last two games and have kept only one clean sheet in their last 11, must tighten up at the back.
"We'll never give up on the title until we are out of it, but I'm more worried about our defence at the minute. It's been the story of the last two or three games," said Lyttle.
"We fell asleep and allowed them to out-muscle us. We know what the big man (Bradley) can do, we discussed it before the match and for some reason we let him go into the channels and a simple pass through the middle let him in to score. So, not good enough and disappointed we threw away points."
The Reds have reinforced up front with Darren Murray introduced midway through the second half, after his move from Portadown, but he will have to wait to play a full match, as Lyttle explained.
"He has come in late on Friday but I didn't think it was right for him to start. He hasn't trained with the boys, he is suspended next week and we have an agreement not to play him against Portadown the following week," he added.
There was also a boost for Glenavon with the return from injury of Kevin Braniff and, with Ciaran Martyn and Dave Elbert also due back, the Lurgan Blues have every right to be confident they can improve on last year's third place finish.
After extending their unbeaten run to 10 games, assistant manager Paul Millar said: "We know we can take points off anyone and as long as we keep in the hunt you never know what will happen."
Glenavon keeper Jonny Tuffey has agreed a new three-year contract.
Lurgan Blues boss Gary Hamilton said: "I'm delighted that we have extended Johnny's deal with the club.
"He's been in outstanding form and he's been a big factor in our continued progress this season."
GLENAVON: Tuffey, Dillon, Kelly, Lindsay, Marshall, Hall, Kilmartin (Braniff, 71 mins), Sykes, Cooper (Hamilton, 90 mins), Kearns (McGrory, 87 mins), Bradley.
Cliftonville: Devlin, Cosgrove, Smyth, McGovern, Ives, Knowles, Catney, McMullan (Murray, 67 mins), Curran; J Donnelly, Garrett.
Man of the match: Eoin Bradley
Match rating: 8/10
Referee: Arnold Hunter (Maguiresbridge)