A POOR start to the second half led Glenavon to a 3-1 defeat against Glentoran at Mourneview Park on Saturday, as the home side again ended with 10 men.
Brendan Shannon was shown a late red card for pushing referee Arnold Hunter to cap off an ultimately disappointing day.
The Blues had gone 1-0 up through Andy Graham on just six minutes but an equaliser from, guess who, Gary Hamilton and two quick-fire strikes from defender Colin Nixon of all people after half-time meant it was Scott Young’s men who left with the three points.
Glentoran were running riot either side of the break and it was that period that won the game, with all of Glenavon’s impressive play at the beginning and the end coming to nothing.
The home side lined up with a 4-4-2 formation but played forwards Andy Graham and Mark Miskimmin on the wings as they looked to cope with their lengthening list of absentees.
And the game started oh so well as Graham poked home his second goal in two games when Kevin Kelbie headed Kyle Neill’s corner into the path of his strike partner, who made no mistake from 15 yards out..
The young forward could then have made it 2-0 soon after but his low shot flew just wide after he had burst past his marker on the edge of the area.
League debutant Kyle Cherry then tried to force Glentoran back into the game but his first long-range effort was saved and his next was deflected just wide.
However it wasn’t long before the visitors forced their way back into the game thanks to a typical piece of goal-scoring instinct from Gary Hamilton. The impressive striker was unsurprisingly in the right place and reacted quickly to poke home after a Stephen Carson ball in from the left wing fell on the six-yard line.
And the Glens should really have gone ahead shortly after although Cherry somehow smashed an effort wide of goal after O’Hare had punched a cross into his path 15 yards out.
At the other end, Kevin Kelbie’s free kick was straight at Elliot Morris and the half ended with the sides deservedly level.
However, at the beginning of the second-half, it seemed as though goals were only going to come from one side and indeed that was proved to be true as Young’s men picked up two goals in three minutes.
Glenavon’s defence could have won any magic competition for their disappearing act for the first on 56 minutes. Stephen Carson was played in through a neat ball as he was left totally unmarked and he then crossed for Colin Nixon to tap home at the back-post, where the defender was also left unmarked as Glenavon cleared out of the box following a corner-kick.
For their second goal, a series of Davey O’Hare saves still couldn’t stop Glentoran finding the net. The keeper was out quickly to block a couple of efforts from Johnny Taylor but the ball fell kindly for the defender to tee up Nixon who bagged his second of the afternoon.
Over the following 15 minutes, Glenavon attempted to change the course of the game, bringing on David Magee, Conor Hagan and Alan Davidson although in truth the damage had already been done with Nixon’s brace.
The very impressive Glentoran 18 year-old Kyle Cherry again fired one of his trademark long-range efforts wide of goal before Andy Graham headed wide from Niall Henderson’s right-wing cross as Glenavon attempted to mount a comeback.
Stephen Carson then curled a beautiful effort inches wide before Graham again headed wide from another of Henderson’s crosses.
The Blues again had a lot of possession but they were finding it difficult to create chances against a stout Glentoran defence. Substitute David Magee’s cross was just in front of Alan Davidson who couldn’t stretch to poke it home. The midfielder did get on the end of Hagan’s cross on 83 minutes but could only fire wide of goal.
The game ambled to a finish after that with Glentoran mustering a couple more chances as Gary Hamilton was played in and forced a save from O’Hare, as did Richard Gibson before the referee blew the final whistle.
If ever Glenavon were to appreciate just how much they miss Hamilton, it was on Saturday as he orchestrated Glentoran’s attack. What the Blues would do to have him in their side now.
GLENAVON: O’Hare, Shannon, Neill (Hagan 70), Jay Magee, Henderson, O’Carroll, Miskimmin (D Magee 65), Kelbie (Davidson 74), Jonny Magee, Turkington, Graham.
Unused Subs: Brennan, Carson.
Glentoran: Morris, Nixon, Clarke, Taylor, Martyn, Carson (Gibson 87), Hamilton, Hill, Callacher, O’Hanlon (Boyce 70), Cherry.
Unused Subs: Ward, Boyce, Gibson, Hogg, Murray.