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McCloskey relieved to ease Hamilton's woes

Glenavon 2 Crusaders 1

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Conor McCloskey

Conor McCloskey

Inpho/Stephen Hamilton

Conor McCloskey

Matchwinning goalscorer Conor McCloskey says the Glenavon players owed manager Gary Hamilton a victory on Saturday after successive drubbings from Linfield and Glentoran.

The 28-year-old came off the bench at Mourneview Park to end Crusaders' seven game winning streak with an 86th minute strike from the edge of the box.

In dreadful conditions, the visitors had taken the lead on 42 minutes through Paul Heatley's close range conversion from a Declan Caddell header.

But the Lurgan Blues showed character to carry the fight to the north Belfast team, Josh Daniels pounced on a defensive lapse to equalise on 67 minutes and McCloskey delivered the killer blow with an impressive left foot finish.

It was just the tonic Glenavon needed after shipping 12 goals in their previous two outings and McCloskey felt the players had to step up to take the pressure off Hamilton.

"We've had a rough couple of weeks and Gaz has taken the brunt of the stick", said the former Ballymena United forward.

"But us as players, we have to stand up and be counted. At the end of the day, what happens on the pitch comes down to us and we haven't been good enough.

"Our first goal summed up our season so far, in that we had a little bit of luck and Josh was able to poke it home, but we have been on the receiving end of that constantly throughout the season so it was nice for something to fall for us.

"Last year we finished third with the club's highest points tally since the Premiership began, we went into every game last year thinking we were going to win, we didn't fear anyone.

"This year, we've suffered a couple of heavy defeats and I think that knocked the boys' confidence, so it has been a strange year for everyone involved.

"Gaz has gone out and signed Coatesy (Colin Coates), I think he's trying to revert to the years he had Kyle Neill, Andy Kilmartin, Ciaran Martyn, experienced winners and hopefully the guys can drag us through this period and rebuild for next year.

"Everyone did exceptionally well on Saturday, it was good from a team perspective that everyone played well, you couldn't really fault anyone.

"It was one of those games that you just have to grit your teeth and get through, all we kept thinking about was getting three points.

"Sometimes this season we've maybe lacked that cutting edge but thankfully on Saturday that wasn't the case, we were strong at the back and we saw out the game.

"I just wanted to hit the target because I knew the wind would take it further. Gaz just said, if you get a chance, just take it and (coach) Kyle Neill told me he had a feeling I was going to score, that's why I went to celebrate with him."

Glenavon: Tuffey, Larmour, Doyle, Daniels, Moorhouse (Jenkins, 75 mins), Harmon (Burns, 68 mins), Clingan, Purkis, Singleton, Birney, Davidson (McCloskey, 82 mins). Unused subs: Taylor, Byrne, Beggs, Farren.

Crusaders: Doherty, Burns, Lowry, McGonigle, Caddell, Forsythe, O'Rourke, Owens, Brown, Thompson (Cushley, 73 mins), Heatley. Unused subs: O'Neill, Beverland, Ruddy, McGinley, McElroy, Dummigan.

Referee: Jamie Robinson (Portadown)

Man of the match: Calum Birney

Match rating: 6/10

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