Glenavon worth the wait

Joel Cooper and Guy Bates during Saturday's victory over Carrick. Pic by PressEye Ltd.
Joel Cooper and Guy Bates during Saturday's victory over Carrick. Pic by PressEye Ltd.

Paddy McCourt’s fitness and form should improve over time but Glenavon fans had some familiar faces to thank for firing the Mourneview Park men to a perfect weekend win.

The summer signing of former Northern Ireland international McCourt added to the glare of the spotlight on the Lurgan Blues.

A first-half injury cut short McCourt’s Irish League debut to a 43-minute cameo against Carrick Rangers that featured sporadic examples of his vision and ability to unlock domestic defences.

However, the main matchday talking points came from players so crucial to Glenavon’s past progress.

Rhys Marshall wrapped up an appearance from right-back by bagging a brace of goals - with left-back Mark Patton also on the scoresheet alongside the livewire Joel Cooper.

All three players have helped Glenavon push on and Saturday’s individual displays confirmed the quality extends beyond any single marquee signing, although McCourt’s track record obviously suggests a central role in the story of the season as he adjusts to a return home from professional football.

If a scoreless first half left fans frustrated, it took just four minutes of the second to spark the Danske Bank Premiership’s opening date into life in Lurgan.

Marshall waltzed along the Carrick backline then cut back and steered home a delightful long-range shot.

Carrick squandered sights of goal at key opportunities - with former Glenavon player Brian McCaul firing over the bar in the first half then Nathan Hanley heading a corner-kick high after the break at 1-0.

Glenavon pushed on from the Marshall lead to carve out openings for Cooper, David Elebert and Declan O’Brien. Elebert, so often the starting point of attacks on Saturday, formed an assured defensive partnership alongside substitute Kris Lindsay in front of the alert Jonny Tuffey.

Cooper had Carrick on the backfoot across the game and capped his energetic afternoon by smashing home Glenavon’s second from a measured pass by Guy Bates, the latter enthusiastic on his second Mourneview Park debut.

Marshall kicked off and closed a flowing move that ended with an acrobatic header to angle home Andy Hall’s cross before Mark Patton raced into the penalty area to wrap up the win.

GLENAVON: Jonny Tuffey, Simon Kelly, Andy Kilmartin, Rhys Marshall, Joel Cooper, Mark Patton, Mark Sykes, Declan O’Brien, Paddy McCourt, David Elebert, Guy Bates. Subs: Gary Hamilton (on for O’Brien, 70 mins), Kris Lindsay (on for Kelly, 17 mins), Andy Hall (on for McCourt, 43 mins), Andy McGrory, Ciaran Martyn.

CARRICK RANGERS: Brian Neeson, Gareth McKeown, Patrick McNally, Stephen McCullough, Thomas James Murphy, Mark Clarke, Seanna Foster, Tiarnan McNicholl, Brian McCaul, Nathan Hanley, Gary Lavery. Subs: Elliott English (on for McCullough, 83 mins), Chris Morrow (on for Clarke, 75 mins), Fra Rice, Glenn Taggart, Miguel Chines (on for McCaul, 63 mins).

Referee: Steven Taylor.