Happy Hamilton nets first victory as Glenavon boss
Glenavon 3 Crusaders 2: Kyle Neill gifted best pal Gary Hamilton his first victory as player manager of Glenavon.
Neill scored twice as the Lurgan strugglers found a new lease of life to stun Crusaders in a rip roaring contest at Mourneview Park.
The win in horrific conditions lifts Glenavon from second bottom to ninth in the Carling Premiership and sets them up nicely for the Boxing Day showdown with title chasing and bitter Mid-UIster rivals Portadown.
Crusaders played their part in a rollercoaster ride but suffered when David Rainey was red carded nine minutes from time.
Neill, who has played alongside Hamilton at Portadown and Glentoran as well as last season when the former Northern Ireland hitman was on loan at Glenavon, broke the deadlock in the 15th minute.
It was the climax of a clever build-up which saw Diarmuid O’Carroll release Mark Miskimmin to tee up the chance.
Ciaran Doherty missed the low cross but the veteran Neill ghosted in at the back post to lash the ball home. David Magowan made a valiant attempt to keep the ball out but it struck him and ended up in the net.
Ciaran Gargan levelled on 24 minutes from a Stephen McBride cross but the home side stormed back.
And within three minutes Hamilton’s braves were 2-1 in front when O’Carroll nipped in front of keeper Sean O’Neill to get on the end of Niall Henderson’s cross.
And it was Neill again who had the fans on their feet.
This time he pounced when Mark Miskimmin slipped but regained his feet just in time to nudge the ball into his path and his deadly left foot did the rest.
And it took a brilliant save by O’Neill to deny the hard working Miskimmin the goal his performance deserved.
Crues were tossed a lifeline when referee Hugh Carville awarded them a controversial penalty. Jonny Magee was deemed to have fouled Jordan Owens and skipper Colin Coates blasted home from the spot.
In a tension-laden finish Rainey was sent off having picked up a second yellow card for a reckless tackle on young Doherty.
And the Crues went close to snatching a sensational draw in the dying moments only for veteran keeper Davy O’Hare to make a splendid save by blocking a shot from Coates with his legs.
Hamilton was naturally delighted to get the first win of his managerial career and declared: “It’s not about me. It’s about the team I have supported from a boy.
“They played well against Linfield on Saturday In fact I felt we deserved something from that game and they were excellent again tonight. Hopefully we can keep the momentum going.”
GLENAVON: O’Hare, Shannon, Turkington, Neill, Jay Magee, Jonny Magee, Henderson, Doherty, Hagan, Miskimmin, O’Carroll. Subs: Coleman, Lavery, Davidson, Finlay, McGonnell
CRUSADERS: O’Neill, McKeown, McBride, Magowan, Coates, Morrow, Gargan, Dalla, Watson, Rainey, Owens. Subs: Leeman, McCann,Caddell, McMaster, Snoddy.
Referee: Hugh Carvill (Belfast).