PREMIERSHIP: Glenavon’s flying start decisive to defeat Crusaders

Andrew Mitchell slots home to increase Glenavon's lead over Crusaders. Pic by Pacemaker Ltd.
Andrew Mitchell slots home to increase Glenavon's lead over Crusaders. Pic by Pacemaker Ltd.

Three goals inside the first half hour handed Glenavon control on the way to a convincing 3-2 victory over Crusaders.

Glenavon raced into the lead on three minutes when Evan Boyce’s decision to play advantage following a foul on Rhys Marshall left Mark Sykes in space and he smashed home a low drive.

Crusaders’ response featured Paul Heatley at the heart of everything positive and he was rewarded with an equaliser to remember on 11 minutes. Heatley cut inside from the right and steered a superb left-foot drive into the top corner for his 100th league goal in Crusaders colours.

Glenavon, however, forced the home side on to the backfoot thanks to collective drive and determination.

The free-flowing first half produced a second Glenavon goal soon after as Andy Hall’s low cross was forced in by the supporting Marc Griffin ahead of a static Crusaders backline.

Heatley offered evidence of his constant threat with a series of shots but the cutting edge was provided by Glenavon.

Crusaders captain Colin Coates had a moment to forgot on his 500th appearance for the club when a pass was intercepted by the alert Sykes, who then fed the ball wide for Griffin to pick out the unmarked Andrew Mitchell for a simple finish.

Crusaders’ much-improved second-half performance featured early openings as Jordan Owens’ diving header to meet Billy Joe Burns delivery towards the back post dropped wide then Jonny Tuffey pulled off a smart stop to push out Heatley’s close-range shot.

A goal within minutes of the restart could have shifted the momentum but Crusaders’ failure to capitalise on that bright period proved decisive.

The game’s final talking point arrived with an injury-time effort by substitute David Cushley - with the final whistle moments later wrapping up Glenavon glory.

CRUSADERS: Jensen, Burns, Coates, Ward, Brown, Carvill (Forsythe, 26), Lowry (Snoddy, 62), Caddell (Cushley, 77), Heatley, Whyte, Owens.

Subs (not used): Beverland, Glackin.

GLENAVON: Tuffey, Burns, Doyle, Daniels, Marshall, Mitchell (McCavitt, 81), Griffin (McGrory, 88), Hall, Sykes, Marron, Singleton.

Subs (not used): Foley, O’Mahony, Jenkins.

Referee: E.Boyce.