Belfast Telegraph

Gray day for Glenavon as Ports to take all the points

danske bank premier

By Jim Gracey

Controversy engulfed Glenavon last night unveiled a new goalscoring hope in 24 year old former Northern Ireland underage player James Gray, from Southport.

And the son of former 1990s Northern Ireland striker Philip 'Tippy' Gray will need to start firing immediately as experienced goal ace Kevin Braniff was placed on the transfer list at his own request.

Glenavon are going to need goals to start climbing the Danske Bank Premier table after accepting they will lose the point gained from their dramatic 2-2 Boxing Day draw at Portadown for playing defender David Elebert when he should have been suspended.

The Mourneview club are reluctantly taking the punishment, including a £350 fine, on the chin after being told the Irish FA has no record of any pre-match request from them for clarification of Elebert's status, the mainstay of Glenavon's defence in the case being that they sought and were given IFA clearance to field the player.

Rivals Portadown will be the biggest beneficiaries of their opponents’ misfortune, standing to be awarded a 3-0 win and three points that will be invaluable to their survival fight at the bottom of the table.

Confusion over Elebert’s (below) suspension arose when he was handed a one-game ban for five bookings, three in reserve games.

Glenavon believed the ban had been served by the player missing a reserve game and stated a call to the IFA for clarification backed up their belief.

But a club source revealed: “The IFA are telling us there is no official record of any call from us on the issue.

“There is nothing in writing, and that being the case, it comes down to one person’s word against another and we are not prepared to pursue the matter on that basis.

“We will take the punishment and review our future dealings with the IFA department involved.”

In an ideal football world, clarification of suspensions should not be needed.

With ineligibility problems constantly blighting the local game and Portadown only getting back the points they lost in a similar recent case, surely the time has come to overhaul the current muddled system.

The episode could prove more costly to Glenavon in the long term, were a point to deny them a place in a European play-off, or even a lucrative place in the top six when the league splits for the end of season shakedown.

From kicking off the season as impressive Irish Cup holders and rated as potential title contenders, Glenavon’s form has been erratic, mainly through a lack of goals from their misfiring strike force.

But manager Gary Hamilton has taken steps to address the issue with the capture of promising young Gray from Southport.

A former Middlesbrough youth player, he began his career with Darlington in the 2011/12 season.

Born in England, he qualified to represent Northern Ireland at U16, U17, U19 and U21 levels through dad Philip who won 26 NI caps, mostly with Luton, between 1992 and 2001.

Eoin Bradley and Glenavon yesterday poured cold water on the speculation the striker was leaving the club but one man who could be for the exit door is Braniff after he requested a transfer.

The club will listen to offers for the striker and Hamilton said: “Kevin’s 34 in March and he wants to play regularly.

“I was in that place when I was at Glentoran so I understand he wants to make the most of the years he has left playing football.

“He’s frustrated and asked to move on.”

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