CARRICK RANGERS 2
THE brilliant Brian McCaul bagged a hat-trick as a second-half comeback led Glenavon to victory over Carrick Rangers on Saturday.
It turned out to be two on-loan Linfield men that swung the tide as McCaul hauled Glenavon ahead after his Linfield team-mate Marcus Kane had been sent off for a second yellow card for Carrick on 70 minutes.
McCaul rightly stole all the plaudits for yet another fantastic display but it was an impressive second-half performance from all of Gary Hamilton’s men, and boy did they need it as the win took them off bottom spot, one point above both Carrick and Dungannon.
Andrew Mitchell made his full league debut, coming in for the injured Hamilton whilst Kyle Cherry replaced the suspended Niall Henderson.
Things certainly didn’t start well for the home side as Thomas Hyland opened the scoring with a 10-yard header on just three minutes.
At the other end, Mitchell headed wide before Kyle Cherry blasted over as Glenavon immediately set about hunting down the equaliser.
It duly came on 14 minutes as McCaul showed ice-cool composure in front of goal. Brendan Shannon’s long ball forward was laid perfectly into the midfielder’s path by Tony Grant and it was finished equally as well as McCaul rounded the keeper and slid home.
However, the home side’s joy was very shortlived as Carrick restored their lead just a minute later. Jay Magee lost the ball on the left-wing and it was from there that another cross set up Stephen O’Neill for an almost identical headed finish to his side’s opening goal.
It had been a firey start and that could have continued as Andrew Mitchell almost made it three goals in two minutes. The forward was played in by Tony Grant and rounded his marker before his composed strike was well stopped by the busy Paul Murphy.
On 22 minutes, Kyle Cherry’s smashed effort from the edge of the area had the keeper beaten but a deflection took it onto the crossbar as Glenavon again looked to draw level.
Carrick’s defence was certainly looking liable to hand the Blues a route to goal, but at the other end, Glenavon’s back-line appeared equally as suspect.
Hitting on the break, the visitors still looked dangerous as Paul Heatley sprung clear only to see his one-on-one effort agonisingly rebound off the post. Marcus Kane then looked certain to make it 3-1 in first half stoppage time but Mark Turkington rushed back to put in a vital goal-saving challenge.
It had surely been an exciting first half with both teams always looking likely to score - or should that be concede? – but that was little consolation for the home support who knew a defeat would leave them adrift at the foot of the table.
At the start of the second half, Kyle Neill’s header almost let in Heatley but his tight-angled shot was well saved by O’Hare. The keeper also had to be alert to make a smart save on 51 minutes as the winger again got through on goal.
From then on, it was one-way traffic as Glenavon took the bit by the teeth, led by the inspirational Brian McCaul.
The winger issued a signal of intent through a weaving run before an attempted one-two with Kyle Neill on the edge of the area just failed to come off.
However, it was a sign of things to come from McCaul, and from Glenavon who were getting closer to scoring. After Kyle Neill had fired a first time shot narrowly wide and Tony Grant nodded Neill’s free-kick just past the post, they were given a huge boost as Kane was issued a red card.
The forward fouled McCaul wide on the right wing and picked up his second-yellow card having already been booked for a first-half trip on Jay Magee.
And things soon got better for Glenavon as, from the resulting Kyle Neill free-kick, John Convery’s back post header found McCaul who smashed a well-hit volley past Murphy and into the net.
Not nearly content with a point, Glenavon could have taken a 3-2 lead on 78 minutes but Ciaran Doherty’s first-time effort from the lively Mark Turkington’s cut-back was blocked on the line.
However, that proved only to leave all the attention for McCaul, who bagged his hat-trick and secured the win five minutes later.
Turkington’s ball forward was again flicked seamlessly into McCaul’s path by Tony Grant and despite Murphy getting a hand on the shot, it nestled into the bottom corner to send the home support wild, Glenavon into 10th spot and the match ball onto the McCaul family mantlepiece.
GLENAVON: O’Hare, Turkington, Convery, Jay Magee, Shannon, Neill, Doherty, Cherry (Hagan 55), McCaul, Grant (Rooney 88), Mitchell (Burrows 55).
Unused Subs: Coleman, Grieve.
CARRICK RANGERS: Murphy, Bell (McDowell 12), Hutchinson, Harmon (Dolan 77), Byrne, Heatley, West, Hyland, Owens (Lagan 19), Kane, O’Neill.
Unused Subs: Brennan, Addis.
Referee: Brian Turkington