Belfast Telegraph

Handy Andy McGrory's spot on with £150k strike to guarantee Glenavon a European spot

Glenavon 3 - Portadown 2

By Ian Callender

When Andy McGrory stepped up to take the last-minute penalty that would guarantee Glenavon European football for a second successive season, he was reminded more than once how much it was worth.

But the 23-year-old held his nerve and showed the character of a veteran to blast the ball into the net and assure the Lurgan Blues of a top three finish for the first time since 2001.

If Kevin Braniff had not been substituted four minutes earlier, McGrory would have been able to watch someone else handle the pressure but his impressive finish underlined what this Glenavon side is all about and just why they have won their last seven games to go from sixth to third in just two weeks.

"On my way up a few of the boys were reminding me it was worth £150,000," said McGrory. "But when I placed the ball down I knew what I was going to do and thankfully it came off.

"If Kevin was on, I wouldn't have minded stepping aside because he has scored the last few, although I don't how Kevin became the regular penalty taker because I was on them before him!

"But it's a massive result. We're over the moon for the fans and the backroom staff. The fans have been magnificent all year and thankfully we can give them something back.

"Getting into Europe last year via the cup was only five games, but this has been over 38 games and the boys are absolutely over the moon."

McGrory's penalty, awarded when Eoin Bradley was bundled over by Ross Redman, sealed the perfect afternoon for the home fans who had witnessed another classic mid-Ulster derby.

It was the seventh time in the last eight games when at least five goals have been scored but it was only Glenavon's third victory - indeed it was only their third in the last 17 but, for the moment, they can't get out of the winning habit.

They were gifted the first two goals by Ports goalkeeper David Miskelly. After just six minutes he flapped at and missed a corner and 25 minutes later he miskicked a back pass from Mark McAllister, with Bradley bizarrely claiming the first and the grateful recipient of the second.

But 20 minutes from time, it all went wrong for Glenavon when James Singleton was sent off for a high tackle on Ken Oman and, inside 14 minutes, they had conceded the first to Peter McMahon and the equaliser to Gary Twigg.

Gary Hamilton admitted it was squeaky bum time and the player-boss brought himself on to help get the golden goal. It took less than five minutes and he then promptly substituted himself for defender David Elebert to see the job through.

"I've supported this team for a long time," said Hamilton, "and in the days of McBride, McCoy and Ferguson they were expected to win league titles. It was honour to watch those players. But this team, at the start of the season, were given no chance and everyone was looking at top six, fourth maximum. So to get us where we are it is a great achievement."

Glenavon: McGrath, Marshall, Kelly, Lindsay, Singleton, McGrory, Martyn, Kilmartin, Patton, Braniff, Bradley. Substitutions: Neill (Patton, 76 mins), Hamilton (Braniff, 86 mins), Elebert (Hamilton, 90 mins).

Portadown: Miskelly, Casement, O'Hara, Oman, Redman, Mackle, Garrett, Gault, McMahon, McAllister, Twigg. Substitutions: Murray (McAllister, 57 mins).

Man of the match: Andy McGrory.

Match rating: 9/10.

Referee: Raymond Crangle (Belfast).

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