Belfast Telegraph

Sykes will team up with Whyte in NI's Oxford union


Exit door: Ben Doherty and Mark Sykes are leaving Glenavon
Exit door: Ben Doherty and Mark Sykes are leaving Glenavon

By Graham Luney

Mark Sykes is poised to link up with Gavin Whyte at Oxford United after the club agreed a transfer fee with Glenavon.

Sykes had looked destined for a move to Port Vale but Oxford tabled a better offer to the Lurgan Blues.

The move is subject to the 21-year-old midfielder agreeing terms with the League One outfit and passing a medical.

Northern Ireland international Whyte left Crusaders for the Kassam Stadium in July and now another of the Irish League's gifted young stars will have the chance to shine across the water. The 22-year-old has impressed at the English club and in September scored on his Northern Ireland debut against Israel.

The proposed deal for Under-21 ace Sykes includes add-ons for appearances and future international caps.

A Glenavon statement read: "We are delighted to announce that Glenavon FC and Oxford United have agreed terms for the transfer of Mark Sykes.

"The clubs reached an agreement after discussions yesterday which includes an improved offer over the previous Port Vale package and includes add-ons for appearances and future International caps.

"The deal is subject to Mark agreeing personal terms and passing a medical which should see him join his former NI Under 21 teammate Gavin Whyte at the League 1 club."

Glenavon will also wave farewell to Ben Doherty who was on loan from Derry City and will now join Coleraine, with Bannsiders midfielder Ciaron Harkin heading to the Brandywell as part of the deal..

Hamilton added: “We tried to keep Ben here but we couldn’t compete with the offer Coleraine made him.

“That’s football and you can’t fault a player for taking better wages. Ben came in here and was superb for us, he’s been a great lad to work with, he’s got a great attitude and I’ve no reason to doubt that he’ll do well for Coleraine and I want to thank him for what he’s done here and wish him all the best.”

The Lurgan Blues, who sit fourth in the Danske Bank Premiership, are at home to Warrenpoint Town this afternoon.

Town boss Stephen McDonnell has laid down a challenge for his players — to stay top of their mini league at the bottom end of the Premiership.

That means finding the form that saw the Milltown men storm from last place to ninth in the table after losing their opening six fixtures.

 Ahead of today’s difficult test, McDonnell has acknowledged that Town have to up the ante in the battle to avoid relegation after failing to win in the league in December.

Despite that they remain ahead of Dungannon Swifts, Newry City and Ards although, with Colin Nixon’s men winning at Stangmore Park on Saturday, only five points separate the bottom four.

Glentoran are also in the mix — they are just two points clear of Warrenpoint.

 “That win for Ards does tighten it up but the reality is we have to look after ourselves,” said McDonnell.

“We are top of the four team mini league and it’s up to us to stay there. We have tried to keep our squad fresh over Christmas and we’ll look forward to the Glenavon game because it gives us another opportunity to get points on the board even though we know it will be difficult match.

 “For the first time since we had that episode at the start of the season we are just a little bit indifferent at the moment.”

 In their 1-0 home defeat to Coleraine on Saturday, Town created chances but found visiting goalkeeper Chris Johns in excellent form. Even so the normally reliable Alan O’Sullivan will feel he should have netted a brace.

“It’s not like Sully. He’s gone off the boil the last two or three weeks and he knows that himself. We are just hoping he can get his form back,” added McDonnell.

“We had four or five clear cut chances and didn’t take any of them.

“If you don’t score goals you shouldn’t expect to get points especially when we conceded such a disappointing goal.

“If we aren’t taking our chances we can’t be gifting them a goal like that.

“We played poorly on Boxing Day in the 2-2 draw with Newry and I was wondering how our players would cope with that but they were confident and had a bit of swagger about them against Coleraine and it was disappointing not to take anything from it.

“We’ll dust ourselves down, prepare right and try to get a result against Glenavon.”

• Warrenpoint yesterday announced the signings of Lee Duffy, Jarad Thompson and Hernany Macedo Marques.

Brazilian centre-back Marques (31) has featured for teams in his homeland and League of Ireland side St Pat’s.

Lee Duffy is a striker who joins from Drogheda United while teenage goalkeeper Jarad Thompson comes in on loan from Chelsea Under-23s.

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