Stephen McDonnell feels Glenavon 'didn't turn up' in second-half after falling to defeat against high-flying Cliftonville

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Stephen McDonnell felt Glenavon “didn’t turn up” after the break during their 4-2 defeat to Cliftonville at Solitude as James Doona’s opening goal was quickly wiped out by a 10-minute second-half blitz.

Rory Hale and Sam Ashford netted for the title-chasing Reds in a frantic period before Matthew Snoddy got the Lurgan Blues back on level terms.

Cliftonville’s record goalscorer Joe Gormley was then introduced off the bench and converted a 79th minute penalty after David Toure brought down Ronan Hale following a sloppy clearance and the 34-year-old struck again in injury-time with a classy chipped finish.

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Glenavon have played the league’s top-three over the past three weeks, losing 5-0 to Larne in their Irish Cup sixth round clash at Inver Park before bouncing back with a dramatic home point against Linfield.

Glenavon manager Stephen McDonnell. PIC: Andrew McCarroll/ Pacemaker PressGlenavon manager Stephen McDonnell. PIC: Andrew McCarroll/ Pacemaker Press
Glenavon manager Stephen McDonnell. PIC: Andrew McCarroll/ Pacemaker Press

Despite dominating periods of all matches, Saturday’s defeat means they’re now winless in their last five across competitions and McDonnell was left to rue his side’s second-half showing in North Belfast.

"Three weeks on the spin against the top-three in this country we've dominated first-half proceedings and ultimately we've picked up one point out of six and lost a cup game,” he told the club’s media channel. “I thought we were excellent in the first-half...we forced Cliftonville to change shape and style, so compliments to the lads on that.

"I'm often careful what I say at half-time in good moments because you don't want lads getting too comfortable...we didn't turn up in the second-half.

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"Taking Mark Haughey out is a big reason for that as he's a calming influence, but we have to manage his knee and he was only ever going to play 45.

"There aren't many teams that come here and survive the first-half onslaught, but we did that and were ahead.

"It was another top quality first-half performance but that's the difference between us and these teams at the moment...they aren't as leaky on an individual standpoint and ultimately in those moments we have to come in two or three up with the chances we create.

"That's my initial learnings and thoughts but I'll have to watch it again and get ready for another tough battle next week (against Crusaders)."

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Cliftonville are now unbeaten in their last 14 league matches with no team scoring more (40) or conceding fewer (nine) on home turf this season while Linfield’s 1-0 October victory remains the only time Jim Magilton’s side have lost at Solitude in the Premiership.

"You don't get a moment to have a breather or pause here - everything is quick, the ball boys are on it, they are part of the game plan...the last goal sums it up,” added McDonnell. “You don't get moments to breathe - this is their style and they are very good at it.

"We were well-drilled for that and our message was very, very clear for our lads and rather than say more of the same, we knew the game was going to be different in the second-half so we did challenge the players to one or two details because they'd changed to 4-3-3 in the last 10 minutes of the first-half, but we didn't carry anything out and it was capitulation.

"The art of the penalty comes about we have a chance to clear it but we're flicking it and it makes players make decisions in dodgy areas. It has probably been an Achilles heel over the course of the season."