Character key for Glenavon boss Gary Hamilton
Following a Boxing Day derby which presented fans with a taste of everything expected from the festive showpiece, Glenavon manager Gary Hamilton singled out the improved character as his key ingredient.
Basement side Portadown raced clear by 2-0 thanks to a goal in each half from, respectively, Mark Carson and Aaron Haire.
However, Ciaran Martyn’s powerful header on 77 minutes sparked a frantic finale that Mark Sykes wrapped up deep into injury-time when he deliver the perfect Christmas present to the packed away stand.
Hamilton is hoping that the 2-2 draw - and the manner in which it was achieved - can lead to a return of past positives across future fixtures.
Glenavon host Cliftonville tomorrow (Friday) aiming to end 2016 in winning form. Tuesday’s New Year test marks a trip to take on Ballymena United.
“That character pleased me and it was great to see it return towards something similar to last season, when we made a habit out of fighting back for draws and wins,” said Hamilton. “That has not been the case as much this season but to come back from 2-0 down, you will always take a draw.
“We feel we’ve been on the wrong end of a lot of decisions this season and that’s a major factor that leads to knocking confidence, which makes it harder to turn games around and get those draws or wins.
“We had to take a gamble in the second half at 2-0 after Portadown dominated for 15 or 20 minutes.
“Thankfully, the change in formation worked but, even more than the scoreline, it was the character on display.
“I thought over the first half we didn’t deserve to go in 1-0 down. Portadown were decent but we shaded it in terms of chances in dangerous areas.
“I didn’t think there was much in the game but we started slow in the second half and they got a second plus they could have scored more.
“The tactical switch got us back into the game as we went to three at the back from 2-0 down.”
Two talking points arrived from the substitutions - as Joel Cooper was replaced by Mark Patton after just 15 minutes then McGrory made his mark with an assist moments after joining play.
“The fourth official told our bench that if Joel had made another foul he was going to get sent off and a derby is hard enough without playing with 10 men for 80-odd minutes,” said Hamilton. “We couldn’t risk a derby with 10 men.
“Mark was lively when he came on and created some chances. Andy came on and produced a great cross for Ciaran to score. We had a choice to make as Ciaran was on yellow but he gives you goals and can get into the box, so we kept him on and it was a cracking header.
“Then Mark got his goal from a free-kick but I’ve always said that you stand a chance from that kind of position if the quality of the delivery is right. It can create problems for defenders and the goalkeeper.”