THE never-say-die attitude that got Glenavon out of so many holes last season came to the rescue once again on Saturday.
Trailing 2-1 with two minutes to go, Kris Lindsay equalised from close range before, deep into stoppage time, Greg Moorhouse, plucked from the obscurity of the Leinster League, popped up with a winner that had been unimaginable just five minutes earlier.
Jay Donnelly’s brace, which sandwiched Joel Cooper’s first-half leveller, almost gave Cliftonville the three points in an incident-packed game at Mourneview Park.
The Reds also had Jason McGuinness sent off for picking up two yellow cards, described as a “soft” dismissal by manager Gerard Lyttle, while Glenavon had two decent penalty claims dismissed.
Glenavon’s assistant manager, Paul Millar, said, “Considering the first two games, where we have been poor in the first 45 minutes, I thought we were really good in the first half.
“We scored in stoppage time and dominated the second half but against the run of play Cliftonville scored.
“We could have been forgiven for saying ‘It’s just one of those days’, but we scored in the 88th and 92nd minute.”
He added, “We kept going and going and I think it’s down to the winning mentality Gary [Hamilton] has instilled in the boys.
“It reminds me of the old Linfield teams of the past that just kept going and going and that’s what we do.”
The Reds took an 18th-minute lead when Ryan Catney headed an Andy McGrory clearance into the box. Donnelly was on hand to apply the finish.
Glenavon had two penalty claims waved away by referee Andrew Davey. Their new hero Moorhouse went down when challenged by Chris Ramsey, before Tomas Cosgrove appeared to collide with Joel Cooper.
“I thought Cliftonville scored against the run of play and I thought we should have had a penalty. The first one yes, the second one no,” Millar added.
“Anybody who knows football will tell you that if a striker is through on goal and about to pull the trigger that they aren’t going to dive.”
Just as Davey was about to blow for half-time the hosts pulled level. Cooper’s ball forward found Moorhouse, the striker’s shot was deflected back to Cooper and he nicked the ball past Jason Mooney to restore parity.
Moorhouse was collecting a lot of free-kicks and this led to Cliftonville being reduced to 10 men when captain McGuinness received his marching orders for two yellow cards on 59 minutes.
The decision disappointed manager Lyttle: “I don’t think the decisions went our way. I’m not going to stand here and hammer officials but I just don’t think we got the rub of the green.
“I really don’t agree with the sending off. The referee will argue that he’s led with his elbows. He’s a centre-half, common sense will say he’s going to try and win the ball.
“The linesman’s given a decision but he’s told me the referee makes the final decision. I’m confused by that one.”
And as Glenavon looked to take advantage of their extra man, Jude Winchester found Donnelly, who went around Lindsay before slotting home to double his tally for the day.
With two minutes to go Glenavon equalised when Mooney somehow dropped a Doyle cross with substitute Lindsay getting the final touch.
In the 92nd minute the hosts grabbed the win with Moorhouse turning in a deep Mark Sykes cross.
“It’s a bitter pill to swallow,” Lyttle added.
“We’ve conceded in the 44th minute, we’ve switched off at a throw-in and we’ve gifted them a goal. We’ve done the same in the second half.
“We can’t feel sorry for ourselves. I thought we played well and I don’t think we deserved to lose the game.”