Honours even between Glenavon and Institute but mixed emotions

Paddy McLaughlin and Paul Millar embrace at the final whistle. Pic by Pacemaker.
Paddy McLaughlin and Paul Millar embrace at the final whistle. Pic by Pacemaker.

It is a measure of the high stakes at the Irish League’s top table that a share of the spoils was considered two points dropped by the side with a last-gasp equaliser but one gained from opposition twice in front.

The thrilling six-goal return at Mourneview Park finished with honours even after a breathless afternoon of high-energy football in which the pace rarely seemed to drop.

Glenavon raced in front but failed to hold control for more than a few minutes and Institute refused to buckle under intense early pressure. The visitors managed to hold the upper hand at 2-1 and 3-2 but high-flying Glenavon displayed desire and drive to equalise on two occasions.

That game’s final goal was far from the final talking point as both sides pushed in search of a final blow before the final whistle signalled a point apiece.

Having suffered frustration across November’s Danske Bank Premiership dates, picking up a single victory, December kicked off in similar disappointment for a Glenavon side still three points off top spot but with a game in hand.

Newly-promoted Institute continue to acclimatise to life alongside the established names and left Lurgan with a point having lost to defending champions Crusaders the previous week off an injury-time penalty kick.

“Every game is a cup final and every point lost matters as we need to keep on winning,” said Glenavon assistant manager Paul Millar. “I’ve been here over six years and at times in the past coming back like that late on would have been a reason for doing somersaults.

“But today we were coming off the pitch down as we know we’ve let ourselves down.

“The last five fixtures we’ve had five points compared to maybe expecting 10 or 12.

“We are conceding poor goals but have to work our socks off for our goals.

“We are disappointed, the boys fought back and showed character but it is just frustrating.

“It’s a sense of two points dropped as you expect to win after scoring three goals at home.

“Our goals conceded seem to come down to a miskick, silly free-kick conceded or losing possession off poor decision-making.

“We will keep on working at it as we know we can beat any team in this league.

“We have that confidence but need to get results in the bread-and-butter fixtures and have been dropping points to teams lower in the league than us.”

Institute manager Paddy McLaughlin opted to focus on the positives off a point and another step forward in adjusting to the demands of the senior stage.

“We felt hard done-by last week and could feel a wee bit the same today after conceding so late on,” said McLaughlin. “But we are playing against a top-quality side and know ourselves coming away with anything was going to take a massive effort.

“So we have to be pleased with our point off one of the title contenders.

“Our boys are getting bigger and stronger, developing rapidly in what is an exciting season and we can go to places like Mourneview Park without any fear.

“When the ball is down on the ground we are as good as I’ve seen in the Irish League.

“But we spoke about managing situations before the game and I think today showed how we are adapting to the demands of the Premiership, alongside playing good football.

“Our game management was great today against a side with bundles of talent in that Glenavon squad.

“We were more than comfortable dealing that talent today.

“The aim is to get to that point of putting the nice football, game management and everything together to get that run of positive results.”