Super comeback snatches a point

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BALLYMENA 3

GLENAVON 3

WHO’D have thought, at 3-0 down, that Glenavon would leave the Ballymena Showgrounds disappointed with a draw on Saturday afternoon?

Such was the character of Marty Quinn’s plucky side, a point was the least they deserved for a largely dominant performance but again it was just a few defensive lapses that cost them the three points.

The Blues found themselves 2-0 down after just five minutes and that deficit was stretched a goal further on 32 minutes as the game looked beyond the struggling visitors.

However, something clicked and quick goals from Mark Haughey and Kevin Kelbie before the break put them right back in the game.

And when Aaron Black was sent off for a second yellow on 48 minutes, Glenavon totally dominated and should have been level before Niall Henderson finally made it 3-3 on 88 minutes.

It was a real nightmare start for Glenavon, as Gary McCutcheon opened the scoring with a well struck drive after he found himself unmarked in the box from the impressive Allan Jenkins’ header.

Things got even worse for the Blues three minutes later as former Portadown duo Alan Teggart and Jordan Baker combined to make it two. Teggart’s low left-wing cross found Baker who slotted home from close range.

Allan Jenkins then saw a 15-yard free header fly well over but Glenavon then finally kicked into action.

Niall Henderson’s free-kick was flicked over the bar by Diarmuid O’Carroll on 10 minutes but at least the Blues were at last on the front foot. Johnny Magee then forced Kyle Neill’s cross narrowly wide before Aaron Kerr was forced into a save by Kevin Kelbie’s looping header.

However, on 32 minutes it was 3-0 as Johnny Magee brought down Allan Jenkins in the box and McCutcheon sent Andy Coleman the wrong way to slot home the resulting penalty.

The goalkeeper’s save from former Glenavon man James Costello minutes later was rewarded as Mark Haughey made it 3-1, his header smashing in off the crossbar from Niall Henderson’s left-wing corner.

There was only one goal in it soon after as Kevin Kelbie didn’t need a second invitation to smash home a low finish when Peter McCann’s header back into the box fell to the striker.

As the second half began, Kelbie then lost out to Chris Rodgers but his shot was well stopped and seconds later, Glenavon were given a huge boost as Aaron Black was sent off for a second yellow after a tackle on Niall Henderson.

From then on, it was one-way traffic as the visitors pressed to try and force the equaliser.

On 53 minutes, Diarmuid O’Carroll was inches away from doing just that but he couldn’t manage to poke home David Magee’s low cross.

Mark Miskimmin replaced O’Carroll on 59 minutes and shortly after could have levelled matters. Niall Henderson played a quick free-kick to set him free in the box but his shot flew wide of the far post before all the Magees missed opportunities.

First it was Johnny, who somehow fired off the crossbar from point blank range after Henderson’s corner was fumbled and fell to the former Crusaders man.

Jay Magee then headed over the bar from another Henderson corner before David Magee curled an effort wide with the outside of his left foot.

On 81 minutes, McCutcheon fired a long-range lob over the crossbar in a rare Ballymena break but the action was soon back at the other end. Substitute Andy Graham, still in a daze after being struck on the head, nodded a Kyle Neill cross wide from six yards out.

However, that wasn’t to matter as key man Henderson made it 3-3 on 88 minutes. Kevin Kelbie played a superb ball into the midfielder’s path and he made no mistake, calmly slotting past Kerr to reward a nice footballing second half display from the Blues.

Kelbie then also teed up Mark Miskimmin but his well struck 20-yard drive was well stopped by the Ballymena keeper and so both teams had to make do with a point at the end of a fantastically entertaining afternoon.

BALLYMENA UTD: Kerr, R Black, Stewart, McCutcheon, Jenkins, Teggart (Carson 80), Surgenor (A Black 44), Baker, Munster, Costello, Rodgers.

Unused Subs: Murray, Woods, Boyd.

GLENAVON: Coleman, Shannon, Neill, Jay Magee, Haughey, Henderson, O’Carroll (Miskimmin 59), Kelbie, D Magee, Johnny Magee (Graham 73), McCann (Doherty 83). Unused Subs: Turkington, O’Hare.

Referee: Mervyn Smyth