Belfast Telegraph

Tigerish Tony Grant fires Glenavon to Premiership summit

By Gordon Hanna

Glenavon 3 Donegal Celtic 1: Jubilant boss Marty Quinn was loud and generous in his praise and appreciation of the loyalty shown by two goal star Tony Grant, whose deadly strikes fired Glenavon to the top of the Carling Premiership.

Grant netted in each half against a battling Celtic side to ease Quinn’s rejuvenated Mourneview outfit two points clear of Glentoran.

It is the first time in 16 years that Glenavon have won their opening three league games and suddenly they are out right leaders of the Carling Premiership.

In fact, Darren McNamee’s superb finish was the first goal the Lurgan Blues had conceded this season.

But while home fans cheered Quinn revealed: “We could have lost Tony. I always wanted to keep him but in the summer I knew other clubs were interested.

“Fortunately Tony has a great love for this club and showed the allegiance I want from all my players. He even took a pay cut so naturally I’m delighted.

“With Tony, what you see is what you get. He never stops working and brings other players into the game. Young Mark Miskimmin is already learning from him.”

Grant lifted the club’s official Man-of-the-Match award but, despite all his hard work and of course his two goal blast, my top man vote goes to Willo McDonagh.

The Dubliner was also outstanding in his new found role in the heart of defence, steady as a rock alongside Jay Magee and dangerous at set pieces. He headed Paul McVeigh’s cracking free kick off the line at a crucial time and at the other end thumped a back post header off Celtic’s woodwork.

However while the score line looks convincing enough, it doesn’t really reflect the closeness of the clash.

It was only in the dying moments of the four minutes referee David Malcolm added on at the end that Trevor Molloy put the icing on the cake when he calmly slotted home the third.

It was the perfect climax to what was probably the most exciting move of a finely balanced match to which Celtic made a huge contribution.

Former DC player Brendan Shannon began the move, finding Molloy down the right. He exchanged passes with sub James Costello before rifling the ball past keeper Sean McGreevey.

It was a game full of incident with Glenavon striking the woodwork four times and having a Miskimmin goal disallowed.

Grant broke the deadlock in the 17th minute after latching on to a flick from strike partner Miskimmin and made it 2-1 just short of the hour after Darren McNamee had kept the visitors right in the game with a majestic goal 15 minutes before half-time.

Glenavon held the initiative after the break but couldn’t find the third goal they so desperately wanted to put the game out of reach.

Celtic refused to lie down and made Quinn’s men sweat before that last gasp Molloy strike.

Sub Aidan McVeigh should, in fact, have levelled shortly before it but from close range his header from namesake Paul’s cross came back off the crossbar.

And earlier it took a magnificent flying save by Andrew Plummer to keep out a wonderful volley from Paul McVeigh.

Celtic boss Marty Tabb said: “I’m disappointed. We’re coming out of this game with heavy hearts. I felt we were in charge in the first half and they probably scored against the run of play.

“It was a good game for the spectators, plenty of goalmouth incidents.

“We played our part in a good game but on the day Glenavon were just about the better team.

“We showed character to come back after falling behind and we had chances with one being cleared off the line.

“And Aidan McVeigh maybe should have done better with his late header which came back off the bar. That would have levelled things at 2-2 and maybe they would not have nicked that very late third goal.

“But I’m not pointing fingers because these lads gave their all. Aidan has not had much pitch time but he will play his part as the season goes on.”

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