CLIFTONVILLE 2 GLENAVON 3
Glenavon survived a late scare to hold on for all three points against Cliftonville at Solitude.
Three goals to the good thanks to Kevin Braniff netting either side of an Eoin Bradley conversion, the Lurgan Blues shipped two goals in four minutes when Martin Donnelly and James Knowles each found the net to set up a grandstand finale during which the Reds were unable to find another route past keeper James McGrath – whose 50th minute save of a Joe Gormley penalty proved crucial.
The hosts were first to threaten when Jude Winchester whistled an attempt across the face of goal, while Gormley fired over the top after good build-up play between Martins Donnelly and Murray.
Jay Donnelly also went close for the Reds but it was Glenavon – who had not hitherto tested home goalkeeper Peter Cherrie – who made the breakthrough on 33 minutes when Ciaran Martyn’s shot was charged down by Knowles and, with referee Raymond Crangle ruling that the midfielder’s arm had connected with the ball, Braniff duly availed on the opportunity to stroke home from the penalty spot.
Glenavon stopper McGrath denied both Winchester and Murray before the break and was also at full stretch to fingertip a fierce Knowles free-kick out.
The keeper proved his worth again shortly after the interval when he repelled a Gormley penalty – awarded for handball by Simon Kelly – and kept the same at bay with a point-blank stop shortly afterwards.
Glenavon duly punished Cliftonville’s wastefulness when they doubled their advantage when Bradley pounced on a delivery from the left on 59 minutes and, soon later, Braniff rattled home his second of the day.
Martin Donnelly pulled one back with a delightful dinked chip and it was game on when Knowles hooked an attempt into the corner but, despite almost incessant late pressure, Tommy Breslin’s side were unable to force a dramatic leveller.