Clingan hails Lurgan Blues' spirit
Glenavon 2-2 Coleraine
Sammy Clingan praised Glenavon's never-say-die attitude as the 10-man Lurgan Blues pushed runaway league leaders Coleraine all the way in a pulsating game at Mourneview Park.
Billed as one of the matches of the season it surpassed the hype - four goals, a myriad of exciting young talent on show, a sending off, controversy galore and at the end a share of the spoils and a bumper crowd that would have gladly settled in for more.
Among the exuberance of youth it was the wise old head on former Northern Ireland international Clingan's shoulders that earned Glenavon, who played for 75 minutes with a man down following James Singleton's dismissal for pulling down Ian Parkhill, that rescued a point.
It speaks volumes for Gary Hamilton's side that even with 10 men they were more than a match for a Coleraine outfit that remain unbeaten but the effects of three games in seven days began to take its toll.
Jamie McGonigle's classy finish gave them the lead in the eighth minute and when Singleton was dismissed by referee Raymond Crangle six minutes later, the game looked all up for the home side.
They were having none of it, the exceptional Bobby Burns moved in to left-back and top scorer Andrew Mitchell ploughed a tireless lone furrow in attack and with Josh Daniels and Mark Sykes buzzing around like wasps around a jam-jar, it was the latter who stung the Bannsiders.
He finished Andy Hall's good work with a flourish in the 25th minute but eight minutes after the restart Josh Carson's blasted home a cracker of his own to restore the Bannsiders' lead.
But the home side refused to lie down, and when Hall was flattened by Chris Johns with a quarter of an hour to go and Mr Crangle pointed to the spot, up stepped Clingan to show all his experience to find the rigging.
"The lads are grateful that we got a point in the end and obviously playing 75 minutes or so with 10 men it was a tough shift for us," he explained. "Coming back from 1-0 down and then 2-1 down it just shows that we have a never-say-die attitude in the dressing room."
It helps when you have players who have a joyous approach to the game, Sykes, Burns, Daniels, Rhys Marshall on one side and the likes of McGonigle, Carson and Ciaron Harkin on the other showing that there is talent to burn in local football at the minute.
Clingan feels that they could make the grade across the water and is surprised that clubs have not come calling.
"There's Rhys Marshall and James Singleton who have played a lot of games for Glenavon and I think they are up there with the best full-backs in the league, then you've got the likes of Mark Sykes and Bobby Burns. Josh Daniels was unbelievable today and his work-rate all season has been unbelievable but going forward today that was his best game and that will give him a real boost.
"I've seen the players who play across the water because obviously I was over there for most of my career and I have no doubt if those players went across, got full-time coaching that they would definitely get better and produce over there."
As for the managers it was a case of mixed emotions, Gary Hamilton delighted by the spirit his side showed when reduced to 10 men.
"We were poor for the first 10 or 15 minutes and there's no point in denying it, they were the better side, and when we went down to 10 men I'm sure most people in the ground were thinking 'oh Glenavon are going to get hammered' and rightly so because Coleraine have been on such a good run," he explained. "But you have wee feelings about your players sometimes whenever a situation like that arises and I said 'you know what, this could surprise us today' and it did."
As for opposite number Oran Kearney there was a relief and frustration.
"We have had three games in a week and we looked a little jaded because it has been the same group of players that's been playing but I think we could have boxed smarter in the last 20 minutes," he said.
"We all agree that there was probably a better way of managing that and try and see it out.
"The key thing is that we're out of it and you may say we've dropped two points but probably earlier on in the week if you'd said you'll get out of here with a draw, we'd have probably taken it.
"We're longing for that but we're only human and it has been a tough week and if you'd offered me seven points at the start of the week I'd probably have gladly taken it."
• Cork City secured their first league and Cup double with a dramatic 5-3 penalty shoot-out victory over Dundalk in yesterday's FAI Cup final.
The game finished 1-1 but veteran stopper Mark McNulty was the hero as his save from Michael Duffy proved decisive.
GLENAVON: Tuffey, Marshall, Singleton, Kelly (Lindsay, 79 mins), Doyle, Daniels, Sykes, Clingan, Mitchell (Griffin, 84 mins), Burns, Hall. Unused subs: O'Mahoney, Hamilton, McGrory.
Coleraine: Johns, Mullan, Traynor, Harkin, O'Donnell, Ogilby, McCauley, Parkhill, McGonigle, McCready (Whiteside, 71 mins), Carson. Unused subs: Douglas, Smith, Kee, McConaghie.
Man of the match: Josh Daniels
Match rating: 9/10
Referee: Raymond Crangle (Belfast)