Champions elect show their class

GLENAVON put in a decent display against the champions elect last Saturday but in the end they were ultimately outclassed.

The Blues were beaten 3-1 at home to the flying Cliftonville, although they gave a good account of themselves in what was always going to be a difficult game. In the end a brace from Ciaran Caldwell and a piece of class from Liam Boyce was enough to see off Glenavon with Mark Farren grabbing a late consolation.

Gary Hamilton’s side lined-up in a defensive 5-4-1 formation in expectation of an onslaught from the Reds, who are striding ever closer to the Gibson Cup, although it was the Blues who began the game with the greatest attacking threat.

Things could have been different for the home side had they taken their early opportunities. The first came on just four minutes but Ciaran Martyn couldn’t keep his header on target when he really should have done better from Kyle Neill’s cross.

Martyn was again in the thick of the action soon after when a cute back-heel from Guy Bates teed up the midfielder but his shot was straight at the grateful gloves of Conor Devlin.

The Blues continued to push forward though and created a couple more chances although Guy Bates’ shot flew across goal and another good move ended with Martyn cushioning Mark Farren’s left wing cross wide of goal.

Cliftonville, however, were lions waiting to pounce. They fired a couple of warning shots as Stephen Garrett smashed over and Barry Johnston forced a comfortable save out of Davey O’Hare.

That was until the returning Ciaran Caldwell got in on the act. He went close to opening the scoring with a vicious shot that O’Hare to well to push onto the crossbar but it was merely a stay of execution for the Glenavon net.

With five minutes to go until the break, Caldwell gave Cliftonville their lead with a spectacular finish. Ryan Catney’s cross swung into the box and Caldwell clipped it into the bottom corner of the net with the inside of his right heel and his back to goal.

That would have changed Gary Hamilton’s half-time team-talk and whatever he did say went firmly out the window within just three minutes of the re-start, although there was more than a hint of offside about Cliftonville’s second.

Stephen Garrett’s cross was nodded down by Boyce and when Joe Gormley uncharacteristically scuffed his shot, Caldwell tapped in his second from just a yard out as Glenavon felt he was in an offside position.

Gormley, Caldwell and Boyce again combined for Cliftonville’s third as the goal-scorer turned provider. Gormley fed the ball to Caldwell on the left side of the box and when he found Boyce, the former Werder Bremen forward did the rest. His fantastic turn beat Mark Haughey and with a sight at goal, there was only going to be one outcome as he smashed a finish past a helpless Davey O’Hare and into the bottom corner.

Glenavon did at least get themselves on the scoresheet on 70 minutes after a gift from Reds’ stopper Conor Devlin. He tried to prevent a loose back-pass from going for a corner-kick although his weak clearance handed possession to Guy Bates inside the box.

Devlin did get back to make a great double save from Bates and then Mark Farren but there was nothing he could do to stop Glenavon scoring at the third attempt as Farren nodded a neat header over the keeper from Kyle Neill’s assist.

However, the goal did little to change the predictable outcome as Cliftonville march on towards a well deserved league title.

GLENAVON: O’Hare, Neill, Haughey, McCallion, Shannon, Brown, Kilmartin (Doherty 60), Martyn (Hagan 73), Henderson (Gardiner 60), Farren, Bates.

Unused Subs: Turkington, Hamilton.

CLIFTONVILLE: Devlin, McGovern, R Scannell, Johnston (Donnelly 74), Caldwell (Knowles 71), McMullan, Garrett, Smyth, Catney, |Gormley (Cosgrove 80), Boyce. Unused Subs: O’Carroll, Seydak.