It was penalty shoot-out heartbreak for Glenavon on Tuesday evening as Ards won 5-4 in the League Cup quarter-final at Mourneview Park.
The Blues had been 3-0 down after a disastrous first half but rallied to level the game, largely thanks to a delightful double from the outstanding Rhys Marshall with Ards reduced to 10 men as David Gibson was given his marching orders after a second yellow card at 3-2.
It had been quite a comeback from the home side, who in truth had plenty of chances to win the game before it had to go to penalties.
Ciaran Martyn, Gary Hamilton and Mark Patton were brought on at the break and their introduction certainly changed the game.
The first half, while not as bad as the scoreline suggested, as Glenavon dominated the opening 18 minutes but then Willie Faulkner put Ards ahead, firing across Andy Coleman after Craig McMillen’s through ball had played him in. Kris Lindsay had looked to be blocked off and there was nothing the centre-back could do about Faulkner’s second. He rifled an effort in off the post and four minutes after that, it was 3-0. Ben Roy fired into the bottom corner.
The second half was a different story. The Blues again dominated and this time got the goals their efforts deserved.
Full-back Rhys Marshall did the damage as he put in another absolutely dazzling display. The teenager gave his side a glimmer of hope on 58 minutes, calmly converting a back post header from substitute Hamilton’s in-swinging corner. Mark Patton then hit the post as Glenavon launched an unrelenting onslaught on the Ards goal.
Patton made no mistake with he next chance, striking home from the tireless Eddie McCallion’s right wing cross.
Then came Gibson’s dismissal and the equaliser was surely only a matter of time. Hamilton fired wide and Bates had a shot saved as the Blues pressed. The ball was in the Ards net again as along clearance from Coleman crashed off the bar and went in off Andy Hunter, but the ref ruled it out for a foul on the keeper. Finally, the leveller came and no better man to get it than Marshall. Another header from another corner kick found the net as the comeback was all but complete. Bates flicked over the bar as Glenavon tried to win it before extra-time and even in the added 30 minutes, the home side were pressing. Inspired Ards stopper Graeme McKibben held onto a Bates effort when perhaps the Geordie could have done better.
Marshall continued to bomb forward and but for a fantastic McKibben stop he would have had a hat-trick. Hamilton then hit the post and Marshall had another effort deflected wide.
Glenavon’s efforts were going everywhere but in and as time ticked on, the lottery of penalty-kicks was to decide.
In the end, conversions from Gary Hamilton, Kris Lindsay, Mark Patton and the pick of the bunch from Andy Coleman into the top corner weren’t enough to see Glenavon through.
It was a truly heartbreaking end but one plus must be Rhys Marshall, who continued to stand out head and shoulders above the rest.