Bolton eye Sykes as Glenavon boss hails 'best young player' he's seen in Irish League
Ards 0 Glenavon 2
Bolton Wanderers watched from the stands at the Bangor Fuels Arena as Glenavon's teenage midfielder Mark Sykes produced another match-winning performance.
The English Championship club sent a scout to watch Glenavon take on Ards - and he couldn't fail to have been impressed by Sykes, who delivered an assist and a stunning solo goal in a 2-0 win.
Leicester City, Celtic and Blackburn Rovers have all been linked with the 20-year-old during this campaign and Glenavon manager Gary Hamilton is well aware that professional clubs are keeping a close eye on his star man.
"Mark was fantastic," he said. "We know a number of English clubs are looking at him and if he doesn't go across the water in January, I'm sure he will in the summer. He is the best young player I have seen in the Irish League since I returned home."
Sykes took advantage of a Dave Elebert error to supply Adam Foley with the crucial opener in the 78th minute, before scoring a sensational solo goal of his own shortly afterwards.
There were two red cards on the day, with Glenavon's Andrew Doyle sent off by referee Keith Kennedy in the first half, while Ards defender Johnny Taylor received his marching orders in between the two goals.
Hamilton added: "Mark Sykes obviously set a goal up and scored himself, but our whole team were fantastic today, not just Mark.
"Every player on the pitch was fantastic. We were the better team at 11v11, 11v10 and 10v10. We were well in control of the game, unlike the referee who lost control of things. That's the only reason the game played out how it did.
"Our players were a credit to themselves. I couldn't be prouder of them."
Hamilton himself was dismissed from the dugout in the first half, after he threw a chair in anger when Sykes was booked for simulation.
Hamilton said: "Yes, I threw the chair but I didn't hit anybody or hurt anybody. It's not the first time that referee has sent me off for something silly."
Ards manager Colin Nixon said: "It's a frustrating day for us.
"We had a man advantage for over half the game, but we actually played better when they had 11 men on the pitch.
"I told the boys at half-time to get on the ball and keep possession, which we didn't do.
"We didn't have a significant chance in the second half, which is very disappointing.
"Then we conceded two poor goals. The first goal was really poor and it killed us. As a group, we have to learn from these mistakes. That was a massive opportunity to take three points and it slipped past us."
Ards: Hogg, Glendinning (Byers, 52 mins), Taylor, Elebert, Ruddy, McMillen, Cherry, Tommons, McAllister (McArthur, 61 mins), Mitchell (McComb, 77 mins), McLellan. Unused subs: Hanley, Kelly,
Glenavon: Tuffey, Marshall, Marron, Doyle, Singleton, Burns (Jenkins, 90 mins) McGrory, Sykes, Daniels, Griffin (Foley, 60 mins), Mitchell (Norton, 78 mins). Unused subs: O'Mahoney, Patton.
Man of the match: Mark Sykes
Match rating: 7/10
Referee: Keith Kennedy (Lisburn)