YOUNG winger Andy McGrory impressed in Glenavon’s first friendly of the year, bagging an early hat-trick as the Blues thrashed Larne 5-0.
The 19 year-old has been tipped for a big season by Reserve boss Gerard McMahon and it was certainly as impressive start as he netted three first half goals. His success on the pitch came as little surprise to gaffer Gary Hamilton, who has been impressed with the former Linfield winger’s displays in training.
“Andy’s doing really well for us,” he said.
“In pre-season, he’s been one of the best players and he has really impressed with everything he’s done. His attitude has been exceptional and to be honest, we were expecting him to get at least one goal on Saturday. He’s been flying in pre-season and when boys have that wee buzz about them, they tend to do well.
“We expected him to score, but he did even better than we expected and scored three. It’s good for us because he’s stepped up from the Reserves and has come in flying and everything’s went well so far.
Hamilton is hopeful that McGrory can help to fill the void left by Brian McCaul’s departure but has warned the in-form youngster that he must keep up the good performances if he is to have a successful season.
He said: “He came to the club in January last year and scored 11 goals in as many games for the Reserves as a winger so when he’s doing that it’s a good sign.
“He’s done well and worked hard but it’s only one game and he has to regularly produce it at that level. He’s worthy of the squad number he’s been given and if he keeps doing what he’s doing, he has a good chance of playing regular first team football.”
Overall, Hamilton was happy with his side’s first pre-season outing and was particularly delighted to come away from Inver Park with a clean sheet.
“It was good and there were a lot of positives,” he told the ‘MAIL.’
“The work-rate and determination was there and there was evidence of what we have been working on in training. We created a lot of chances. Andrew Mitchell could have had four or five, I could have had two or three and Matty Burrows could have had two or three. They were all good chances as well.
“One thing that we could do a bit more work on is our defending as they could have scored a couple of goals from corner-kicks when we weren’t marking properly. In the second half, we changed the defence and were playing with a back four who had never played together before. They got through to a couple of one-on-ones with the goalkeeper then.
“We have Mark Haughey and Kris Lindsay to come back into that though and maybe we’ll have a couple of other players to come in as well. Hopefully we’ll have strength in there because we don’t want to have to rely on Kyle Neill or Conor Hagan to fill in there for us.
“It was good that we kept a clean sheet. That was the one thing that we asked of the team before the game because we’ve worked so hard at closing the ball down and pressing the ball. With respect to the teams we’re playing in pre-season, we want to keep as many clean-sheets as possible and we know we’ll always score goals.”
McGrory opened the scoring early on when Marc Brown’s long ball forward was nodded on by Matty Burrows and found the young winger who did well to hold off his marker and finish low past Larne stopper Darren Gibbons.
The former Linfield man doubled his tally soon after when he was on hand to tap in after new signing Guy Bates’ low effort could only be parried away by the busy Gibbons.
McGrory managed to bag a first-half hat-trick when he beat Gibbons to a long ball forward, nicking it over the oncoming keeper as Glenavon broke quickly from a Larne corner kick.
That remained the score at the break with Glenavon keeper Andy Coleman rarely threatened, having to make just one smart save at his near post and another from a header just before the Blues broke for their third.
After the break, Glenavon, complete with 10 changes, continued to push forward but Andrew Mitchell was denied twice in quick succession as Gibbons stood tall in front of the fresh striker.
The forward did well to set up his side’s fourth, however, as his initial shot was saved and he remained calm to square the rebound to player/manager Gary Hamilton who made no mistake, tucking the ball into the bottom corner.
After Mitchell had then fired wide from a Hamilton cross, he dispossessed a slack Larne defence and rounded the out-coming Gibbons before slotting his effort low into the bottom corner past the covering defenders.
It was a comfortable victory in the Blues’ first outing of pre-season and a performance on which they can certainly build.
GLENAVON FIRST HALF: Coleman, Shannon, McCashin, White, Brown, McGrory, Knowles, Kilmartin, Dick, Bates, Burrows.
GLENAVON SECOND HALF: O’Hare, McGarry, Neill, Hagan, Munce, Gardiner, Knowles, Doherty, Hamilton, Mitchell, Rooney.