IRISH LEAGUE: Glenavon boost European hopes with 3-1 win at Milltown

Glenavon's Mark Sykes (centre) celebrates after scoring to make it 3-1

Glenavon's Mark Sykes (centre) celebrates after scoring to make it 3-1

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WARRENPOINT 1 GLENAVON 3

Glenavon picked up a valuable three points in their hunt for European football after a Declan O’Brien double and a Mark Sykes header, all assisted by Andy Hall, proved enough for the visitors to take the win.

Glenavon player-manager Gary Hamilton gave himself his first league start with Eoin Bradley and Joel Cooper suspended, Kevin Braniff ill and Daniel Kearns injured. However, it was Hamilton’s strike partner up front, Declan O’Brien who looked the most dangerous for the visitors.

O’Brien put the Lurgan Blues in front just before the midway mark in the first half but it was Warrenpoint who had the opening chance of the match after just 40 seconds.

Conor McDonald played the ball wide to right back Stephen Moan and Moan’s pull back found McDonald again but his shot from 12 yards was hit into the ground and straight at Jonny Tuffey.

The home side had to make do without regular keeper Jonny Parr, who was out with a leg injury, and his replacement, 17-year-old Stefan Graham making his debut, was nearly beaten after just five minutes.

Hamilton laid the ball into the path of Ciaran Martyn 30 yards out and the Glenavon captain let fly with a dipping volley that had Graham rooted to the spot but the ball clipped the top of the crossbar.

Warrenpoint almost took the lead on 18 minutes when Dermot McVeigh’s long free-kick was excellently controlled by Stephen Murray just inside the Glenavon area. Murray cut inside Conor Dillon and onto his right foot but, although his shot beat Tuffey, it came back off the inside of the left hand post before being cleared to safety.

The visitors took advantage of that escape just three minutes later with the opening goal. Andy Hall curled in a precision free-kick from the right wing and O’Brien got up unmarked inside a crowded penalty area to power his header past a helpless Graham.

O’Brien was left free again shortly afterwards but this time his header went over the bar and while Warrenpoint were having plenty of the ball, they failed to truly test Tuffey before the break.

It was that man O’Brien who doubled Glenavon’s advantage a minute before the hour and once again it was Hall who was the supplier. This time Hall whipped the ball in from the left hand side and ‘Fabio’ got up to direct his downward header past Graham and into the bottom left corner of the net.

It could have been three on 62 minutes when Hall’s corner from the right was met by the head of half-time substitute David Elebert but Stephen Murray was on hand to clear the ball off the line.

Warrenpoint’s best chance of the half up until that stage arrived with 15 minutes remaining when Mark Clarke’s diagonal ball put Johnny McMurray through on the right but the substitute dragged his shot across goal and wide.

However, just two minutes later they gave themselves a lifeline when Stephen Murray showed some nifty footwork on the edge of the box before laying the ball into the path of Liam Bagnall and the midfielder skipped past a tackle to slide home underneath Tuffey.

Warrenpoint Town: Graham, M Hughes, McVeigh, Dane, Moan, Bagnall, Clarke, McDonald (Donnelly 67), S Hughes (McMurray 67), M Murray, S Murray

Subs not used: Smith, McCabe, McCoy

Glenavon: Tuffey, Dillon, Lindsay (Elebert H-T), Kilmartin, Hall, Sykes, McGrory, O’Brien (Patton 88), Marshall, Hamilton (Kelly 82), Martyn

Subs not used: Marron, Burns

Referee: Mervyn Smyth (Dundonald)