Gary Hamilton celebrated signing a new two-year contract extension by sending Glenavon to the top of the Premiership table.
The Lurgan Blues sit two points clear of Portadown and their opponents on Saturday, Cliftonville, after seeing off the champions in a thriller of a game at Mourneview Park.
Either side could have come away with the three points but in the end Hamilton had AndyMcGrory to thank for sending them to the league’s summit.
“Gary deserves it,” said his assistant manager Paul Millar. “I believe that he is the best young manager in the league.
“The job Gary has done here has been amazing. We sat down at the end of season a year-and-a-half ago and we had about three players. He brought in his own people bit by bit with the target of improving year on year.
“He’s working with a group of players who dearly and desperately want to play for this club.
“If he hadn’t signed the contract I wouldn’t have been surprised if a couple of clubs down south would have been looking his services.”
Hamilton has also given the club’s young players their chance and full backs Rhys Marshall and James Singleton have taken theirs with both hands.
“Rhys reminds me of a young Mark Glendenning,” Millar added. “He would run through walls for you. He’s good in the air, he’s got two good feet and reads the game well.”
Of the game itself the former Glentoran boss felt that both sides had their chances to win it.
“It could have been 8-8. Both teams were excellent, there wasn’t a bad challenge in the match and both goalkeepers had good games. It was an excellent advert for the Irish League.”
And so it was with Glenavon having two chances inside the first five minutes. Cliftonville, though we’re resolute and prevented Mark Patton and Guy Bates from scoring.
Bates also headed over a Patton cross as the Lurgan Blues matched the champions in the first half.
At the other end Andy Coleman was the hero, denying Chris Curran, Liam Boyce and Joe Gormley with well anticipated blocks.
In the second half man of the match Rhys Marshall had an absolute stormer and put in three blocks in a row to deny Martin Donnelly twice and Ryan Catney.
The goal that put the Lurgan Blues at the summit of the table came on 69 minutes when a McKeown free kick was spilt by Conor Devlin into the path of McGrory, when tapped in from close range.
They could have had a second when Hamilton volleyed towards goal from Marshall’s cross, with Conor Devlin doing enough to tip it onto the crossbar. And in stoppage time they held on for dear life when Donnelly’s free kick sailed wide.
For Tommy Breslin the Reds’ spurned chances cost them dearly.
“If we had taken our one-on-one chances we would have been out of sight. Normally you would put your house on Joe putting those chances away but it just wasn’t his day today,” he said.
“We didn’t make the keeper do enough. Yes, he saved them but they were straight at him.
“For me, their goal wasn’t a free kick, Conor spills it and they score.
“We didn’t deserve to lose but sometimes that’s football. It wasn’t our day.
“Glenavon are good, they’re fit, they have a pattern of play and their goalkeeper was sound. They took the one chance that fell to them, but I’m more concerned about my own m team - if we had put our one-on-ones away it would have been a different story.”