Belfast Telegraph

Cliftonville and Glenavon are left to rue wasted chances in Sky stalemate

Cliftonville 1-1 Glenavon

First blood: Andrew Doyle opens the scoring for Glenavon
First blood: Andrew Doyle opens the scoring for Glenavon

By Conor McLaughlin

Two goals in four minutes ensured Cliftonville and Glenavon shared the spoils at Solitude last night.

Defender Andrew Doyle put the Lurgan Blues ahead with a fine individual effort before Jay Donnelly made the most of some visiting generosity to level.

Both teams saw chances to secure all three points go to waste, with Marc Griffin and Mark Sykes threatening for the visitors after Rory Donnelly had seen a golden opportunity repelled by a superb Jonny Tuffey save.

With their respective Friday night fixtures having yielded no fewer than 16 goals, it was with a sense of heightened expectation that the Sky Sports cameras were slotted into position at Solitude.

The stats didn't necessarily back up that excitement, however, with the Reds having not conceded a Premiership goal at home in 582 minutes and the visitors opting to rest midfield maestro Sammy Clingan, although the fact that 41 meetings had passed since the teams last contested a scoreless draw did suggest there would be plenty to keep spectators intrigued.

With Clingan's knees not risked on the 3G surface and creative influence Andy Hall also out of the reckoning, Glenavon made two changes from the side held by Warrenpoint Town.

In came Jack O'Mahony and Joel Cooper - the Linfield-bound ace who infuriated Lurgan Blues fans with what they interpreted as a provocative celebration in that game.

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The Reds, who were sunk 6-4 in a barmy battle with Ballinamallard United last time out, also made two amendments, with Stephen Garrett and Conor McDonald handed starts as Rory Donnelly and Jude Winchester took up residence among the substitutes.

Cliftonville had the better of the first half and, after Jay Donnelly had been unable to take advantage of Tuffey's miskick, Garrett saw a low drive saved before being thwarted by Doyle.

Garry Breen's timely touch prevented Stephen Murray from connecting with a teasing Cooper delivery before home keeper Brian Neeson got a fingertip touch to Sykes' free-kick.

Defender Jamie Harney tried an overhead kick that Tuffey was grateful to save before the second half kicked off with Joe Gormley lashing wildly wide.

Glenavon grew into the contest and were rewarded when Doyle opened the scoring in style.

The Reds failed to fully clear a corner and the former Carrick Rangers man seized possession before buying himself space and stroking beyond Neeson.

Cliftonville hit back almost instantly, however, when Jay Donnelly bullied his way past Caolan Marron and punished Tuffey's hesitancy with a first-time finish.

Tuffey made up for that on 68 minutes when his sensational one-handed stop denied substitute Rory Donnelly.

Substitutions diluted the hosts' rhythm and, though with the Lurgan Blues looking most likely to win it, home fans felt a winner was on its way when Rory Donnelly tumbled in the area after a race with Tuffey, but referee Raymond Crangle correctly asserted that the striker had dived and cautioned him accordingly.

Thereafter, the best openings came Glenavon's way but, with neither Griffin nor Sykes able to make the most of openings, Hamilton's men were forced to settle for just a point.

CLIFTONVILLE: Neeson, Ives, Breen, Harney, Curran, Garrett, Gormley, J Donnelly, Lavery, Cosgrove, McDonald. Subs: Dunne, McGovern, Winchester (J Donnelly, 76 mins), Grimes, R Donnelly (Lavery, 66 mins).

GLENAVON: Tuffey, Burns, Doyle, Marshall, Mitchell, Sykes, Marron, O'Mahony, Cooper, Murray, Singleton. Subs: Griffin (Mitchell, 72 mins), Norton, Lindsay, McCavitt (O'Mahony, 52 mins), Jenkins.

REFEREE: Raymond Crangle (Belfast)


MAN OF THE MATCH: Andrew Doyle

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