Glenavon take the lead but fall short in Mid-Ulster derby

Gareth McKeown grabs the first goal of the afternoon. Pic by PressEye Ltd.
Gareth McKeown grabs the first goal of the afternoon. Pic by PressEye Ltd.

Glenavon grabbed the first goal of the afternoon at Mourneview Park - but finished on the losing side of a six-goal thriller against derby rivals Portadown.

The Ports recovered from the early setback to cut short Glenavon’s winning sequence at three successive games and move level at the head of the league standings on a 4-2 success.

Kevin Braniff’s first appearance against his former team-mates dominated the pre-match talk between supporters. The former Portadown captain caused problems for the visitors inside the opening moments by collecting Ciaran Martyn’s pass and attacking Garry Breen on the outside but his shot deflected wide off a combination of post and goalkeeper David Miskelly.

Portadown’s first attack arrived when Peter McMahon found Darren Murray and the striker twisted and turned before curling a shot which deflected over the target off Mark McAllister and Kris Lindsay.

The subsequent corner-kick was directed in by Chris Casement, with Michael Gault’s header diverted on to the bar by Gareth McKeown.

McKeown then made his mark at the other end when, on 17 minutes, he stepped up and drilled in a low free-kick inside Miskelly’s left-hand post.

Portadown responded with another testing corner-kick - this time Ross Redman produced the delivery for Keith O’Hara to connect. Shane McCabe was on hand to block the header.

The equaliser arrived just before the half-hour mark when McMahon slipped a pass inside the penalty box for McAllister and his low cross evaded Alan Blayney’s glove for Sean Mackle to turn home at the far post.

Portadown then moved in front with a memorable strike as Casement stepped up and curled a free-kick into the top corner.

Another Casement free-kick clipped the top of the bar as Portadown held the upper hand.

Glenavon, however, produced the final talking point of the half when a corner-kick was cleared but McCabe returned the ball into the danger area and Kyle Neill fired home from wide on the right. However, a flag from the referee’s assistant ruled out the goal.

Portadown had Glenavon under pressure from the start of the second half - with three clear sights of goal inside the first 10 minutes of play.

Casement released Mackle but Blayney proved alert to stop the shot with his foot.

A feint by McAllister caught out Glenavon but Murray opted for an early shot as Lindsay raced back to close down the Ports striker and Blayney enjoyed a comfortable save.

Casement and Mackle combined again to find space behind the Glenavon backline but the midfielder was unable to add to his tally for the afternoon, with the shot dragged wide.

Portadown eventually added number three as Murray made it six goals in seven appearances across all competitions with his fourth of the season from the penalty spot. Redman’s corner-kick bounced off Rhys Marshall, with the handball ruling against Martyn allowing Murray the chance to increase the derby lead.

Braniff and substitute Tony McNamee combined for Ciaran Caldwell to touch a loose ball goalwards under pressure from Miskelly but his effort hit the outside of the post.

Glenavon eventually closed the gap on 77 minutes with an element of good fortune as McNamee’s cross was met by Chris Ramsey but the defender’s attempted clearance bounced off Martyn’s face and rolled home.

Portadown cemented victory within two minutes, however, as McAllister collected the ball wide on the left and, with Glenavon stretched, slipped a low ball across the edge of the box and McMahon smashed a first-time drive beyond Blayney.

GLENAVON: Alan Blayney, Gareth McKeown, Eddie McCallion, Kyle Neill, Kris Lindsay, Ciaran Caldwell, Darren Forsyth, Rhys Marshall, Kevin Braniff, Shane McCabe, Ciaran Martyn. Subs: Andy Kilmartin, Gary Hamilton (on for Forsyth, 46 mins), Conor Dillon, James Singleton (on for McCallion, 46 mins), Tony McNamee (on for Neill, 61 mins).

PORTADOWN: David Miskelly, Chris Casement, Ross Redman, Keith O’Hara, Garry Breen, Peter McMahon, Sean Mackle, Darren Murray, Mark McAllister, Michael Gault, Robert Garrett. Subs: Billy Brennan, Chris Ramsey (on for Breen, 72 mins), Tim Mouncey, Gary Twigg, Shea Conaty.

Referee: Raymond Crangle.