Glenavon 2 Linfield 2
David Jeffrey has been quick to dismiss the theory that the withdrawal of twin threats Peter Thompson and Mark McAllister was done for any reason other than they were a spent force.
The Blues boss was reacting to suggestions it was a move to conserve energy ahead of tonight’s Setanta Sports Cup tie in Dundalk — and after rival boss Marty Quinn claimed it was a bonus and an incentive for his team to storm back from what looked like an impossible position.
Quinn’s men were trailing by two goals and for all intents and purposes, were a beaten docket.
A fourth minute own goal by Mark Turkington and a second, a cracking shot by McAllister just short of the half hour, had the champions sitting pretty and reigning supreme.
And they really should have been out of sight with the hosts dead and buried before the half-time whistle.
Thompson, however, missed a sitter from 12 yards and Robert Garrett’s effort, albeit from a tight angle, hit a post.
Thompson also saw a rocket shot smash against the crossbar before he was taken off.
From the moment Thompson and sidekick McAllister departed the scene things began to change rather dramatically.
They left in the 73rd minute with Nathan Hanley and Paul Munster taking over and within four minutes a hitherto pathetic home side was back in the big picture.
Substitute Ryan Harpur side footed home at the back post and just two minutes later Willo McDonagh rose highest to power home Gary Hamilton’s cross from the left following a short corner taken by Harpur.
The Linfield legions couldn’t believe their eyes and many began streaming from the stand.
But Jeffrey was adamant and quickly shot down any notion that he maybe made the changes with the Setanta match in mind.
In fact Jeffrey insisted: “That never even entered my head. They were taken off simply because they had nothing more to give.
“Peter is recovering from a virus and had a painkilling injection just to let him play while Mark was tiring coming back from a hamstring injury.”
A mightily relieved Quinn said: “When we saw Thompson and McAllister going off it was a bonus.
“With their threat gone we went three at the back with Gary Hamilton pushing forward from a central midfield position.
“When we pulled one back there was only one team in it and we duly got the equaliser. We were brave enough to maintain the shape and go for the jugular. Had we pulled it off it would have been a fantastic three points.”
And they might well have done had referee Colin Burns or his assistant been alert enough to see Diarmuid O’Connor’s jersey tugged in the box or noticed Noel Bailie handling inside the area.
Reflecting on what went before when goalkeeper Andrew Plummer and defender Mark Turkington got into a tangle in trying to deal with a long clearance from Alan Blayney, Quinn fumed: “Plummer should have taken out his own player and the Linfield attacker. Both should have been lying in a heap.
“Instead Turkington headed the ball over his own keeper’s head.”
And Quinn admitted: “We didn’t improve any after that and for 60 minutes we were second best.
“We were lucky not have come in at half-time four or five down. Had it been 4-0 it would not have been an injustice.”
Now the Blues have seen their lead at the top of the table cut yet again with Crusaders fast closing in.
The Crues piled on the pressure by snatching a last gasp victory over Portadown at Shamrock Park to close the gap in the title race to just six points.
Hardly surprising then that the Linfield legions are becoming a little restless.
Last week the final whistle was greeted with a chorus of boos.
On Saturday the faithful were heading for the exit gates as Glenavon dramatically turned the tables.