Manager David Healy admitted he was on the verge of joining the Linfield fans to celebrate after young Paul Smyth hit a sensational late equaliser at Mourneview Park on Satruday.
Against all the odds, the battling Blues plundered a point. They had to play for 80 minutes with only NINE men after Matthew Clarke and Roy Carroll were dismissed by referee Tim Marshall, who appeared to be out of his depth at times.
Clarke was red carded after a robust challenge on Andy McGrory, although the Blues defender made full contact with the ball. Marshall’s decision led to a mass brawl right in front of the two dugouts.
When the dust had settled the Irvinestown official, on the advice of his fourth official, then summoned Carroll before also showing him a red card for ‘a spitting incident’ which the referee later confirmed.
Glenavon took full advantage of their numerical advantage and raced into a two goal lead through Paddy McCourt and Greg Moorhouse.
But Healy’s battlers failed to throw in the towel. Andy Waterworth bulleted home a great header before substitute Smyth took off on a lightning 40 yard dash that ended with an exquisite finish.
I’ve know Roy (Carroll) since he was 17. I know what type of character he is. Apparently, the linesman accused him of spitting. Was he spitting directly at the Glenavon officials? My money would be on Roy not to be guilty of a thing like that.David Healy
“If I had been close to the Linfield fans, I would have been in among them after Paul had scored, that’s how much it meant to me,” beamed Healy. “We had to be disciplined. We always work hard in training as a solid back four.
“The boys worked incredibly hard. They were a credit to the club. Many weaker teams could have folded, they could have been beaten six or seven and blamed the circumstances but the boys stood up and were counted.
“Yes, it’s two points dropped but it still feels like a win. I have no doubts if we had kept 11 men on the pitch, we would have won the game, especially with the attitude they turned up with.
“We’ve the biggest support, the best and most demanding supporters and, boy, are they passionate.
“I love being manager of this club and I had such enormous pride walking off the pitch at the end.”
Healy defended both Clarke and Carroll following their red cards.
“I can understand if it is reckless tackle,” added Healy. “I ask my players before every game to be toug, to put their bodies on the line but the boy (McGrory) didn’t even require treatment and I pointed that out to the officials afterwards.
“I’m an honest person but I’ve no doubts Matthew won the ball. It’s football, there is always going to be contact, it’s a man’s game.
“I’ve know Roy since he was 17. I know what type of character he is. Apparently, the linesman accused him of spitting. Was he spitting directly at the Glenavon officials? My money would be on Roy not to be guilty of a thing like that.
“I don’t believe he would do what. The linesman has seen something but you only have to look at some of the small decisions they got wrong today.”
Healy also praised the performance of big Mark Haughey, who took over when Carroll made his exit.
“People may question me about not naming a substitute goalkeeper on the bench,” he added. “But I think everyone knows that the big man can handle himself in that position.
“He is more than capable of stepping in. I certainly don’t want it to happen three or four times a season, of course. He did the same last year also against Glenavon and he actually saved a penalty kick from Kevin Braniff, so I know he is up to it.”
Glenavon chief Gary Hamilton admitted his boys failed to carry out his instructions in the second half and paid for it.
“It feels more like a defeat than a draw. We should have been four up at half time,” he said.
I asked the boys at half time to keep their shape and try not to concede free kicks, as Linfield are dangerous from set pieces. That’s where there first goal came from.
“I wanted them to move the ball quickly and to do things at pace in the second half. I wanted up to play at a high tempo. We didn’t do that and were ultimately punished.
“They (Linfield) sat in and our boys didn’t do what was asked of them. Yes, we dominated position, but we didn’t hurt them.
“On their second half showing, they deserved a point. They created two chances and put them away, fair play to them.”