Irish Premiership: Glenavon 2-3 Crusaders

Crusaders cut Cliftonville's Premiership lead to three points as they came from behind to beat Glenavon in a thrilling game at Mourneview Park.

Jordan Owens missed three early Crues chances before Mark Haughey nodded Glenavon ahead on 14 minutes.

Gary McCutcheon levelled on 30 before Ciaran Martyn restored Glenavon's lead but Paul Heatley equalised again on 40.

Both sides wasted chances before Declan Caddell put the Crues ahead as Sean O'Neill made a series of great saves.

Glenavon manager Gary Hamilton handed a debut to former Derry City striker Mark Farren while Kyle Neill and Martyn also returned to the Lurgan Blues line-up.

All the early action was in the Glenavon penalty as Owens wasted three chances.

The Northern Ireland international fired straight at Andy Coleman in the second minute and then headed wide on nine minutes before nodding a point-blank effort straight at the Glenavon keeper after a Gareth McKeown cross when it seemed easier to score.

Gary McCutcheon and Mark Haughey

Gary McCutcheon and Mark Haughey were both on target at Mourneview Park

Owens' misses were punished as Haughey powered a Hamilton free-kick past O'Neill in the 14th minute.

The Crusaders defence was looking under pressure every time a high ball was played in and an unchallenged Kris Lindsay headed straight at O'Neill after a Hamilton corner.

However, the Crues were level a minute later as McCutcheon hammered home from eight yards after Owens had nodded on a Gareth McKeown throw-in.

But Glenavon's lead was restored three minutes later as Martyn stabbed home from close range after some left-wing trickery from Guy Bates.

Crusaders' defensive frailty was emphasised again as Lindsay rose unchallenged only to see his header cleared off the line by Aidan Watson.

However, Glenavon's defence was looking equally shaky and Heatley levelled five minutes before the break as his volley somehow squeezed through a sea of bodies after Coleman's weak punched clearance.

The action continued to ebb and flow after the break as both teams missed glorious chances.

Firstly, Heatley hit the post from close range with Owens missing another great Crusaders chance before Matthew Snoddy's looping shot struck the Glenavon crossbar.

However, it was then the turn of Glenavon to squander chances as O'Neill bravely saved Hamilton's left-foot shot before Farren and Martyn were denied by the Crues custodian when they both should have scored.

The importance of O'Neill's heroics was emphasised in the 65th minute as Caddell headed the Crues into the lead for the first time in the contest as Coleman opted not to come for McKeown's looping cross.

Given the open nature of the contest, further chances were inevitable and O'Neill performed yet more heroics to deny Bates, Andy Kilmartin and Niall Henderson as Crusaders maintained their lead.

As Glenavon continued to chase an equaliser, they left gaps at the back in the closing stages and David Rainey hammered against the Lurgan Blues woodwork with a minute of normal time left.

Glenavon boss Hamilton will wonder how his team failed to take anything from the game and his frustrations will have been compounded by the sight of debutant Farren hobbling off in the closing stages with a suspected hamstring injury.