Sports

Courageous City exit cup after controversial Glenavon defeat

Thursday, 9 February 2017

Courageous City exit cup after controversial Glenavon defeat thumbnailCity goalkeeper John Connolly keeps a close eye on the ball during their clash with Glenavon at Holm Park.

TWO highly contentious refereeing decisions from Fermanagh whistler Arnie Hunter proved pivotal as a spirited Armagh City exited the Tennent's Irish Cup at the last sixteen against reigning cup holders Glenavon.

ARMAGH CITY ...0
GLENAVON ...2

James Gray's goal on 34 minutes and Greg Moorhouse's penalty in the closing stages of the tie were the difference between the two sides, but City manager Marty Rice and the Holm Park home support were left totally bemused by the two decisions.

The cup holders started the strongest and some good defending by Caolan Marron saw him slide a fine pass into the path of the on-rushing James Gray, but Ultan Lennon made a stunning tackle inside the area to put the ball out for a corner and prevent the former NI international from getting a shot on goal.

The next major talking point came just after the half hour mark and it was a decision that referee Hunter is likely to want to forget in a hurry.

John Connolly collected a deep free-kick and walked out to the edge of his 18-yard box and the ball was poked out of his hands by the elbow of Glenavon defender Rhys Marshall and it fell kindly at the feet of former Accrington striker James Gray, who used his experience to calmly round the fuming Connolly and slide the ball in to the empty net.

The Armagh City players and backroom staff were totally incensed by the decision and manager Marty Rice expressed his frustrations with fourth official Neil Robinson, while the City players rounded Hunter making him aware of what had just happened.

With BBC cameras in attendance the incident was soon a major talking point on social media and the clip went viral over the weekend.

City came out for the second half determined to get themselves back in the tie but it was Glenavon that should have doubled their lead.

Gray ran across the City back four and latched on to a through ball and after cutting on to his right foot, Connolly somehow saved the ball at the second attempt while he was lying on his back.

Moorhouse pounced on the loose ball and fed it to Gray, but he miskicked his strike and the ball fell to a teammate but Dale Montgomery was on his toes to block the effort and deflect it wide for a corner.

Mark Patton should have added to their 1-0 lead moments later, but Eoin Toal made an excellent block to deny the Mourneview Park winger.

Connolly was in the thick of things minutes later when he made a stunning reflex save from a James Gray drive, which he tipped on to the post and the ball rolled back into his path.

The City 'keeper raced out to his area and rolled the ball to Luke Grimley, who played the ball to the feet of Sean Mallon.

Mallon fired a stunning forty yard pass over the top of the static Glenavon defence and Conor Mullen raced on to the ball and fired an effort towards the bottom corner, but Jonny Tuffey was on hand to push the ball around the post and out for a corner kick.

Mullen was unlucky just moments later when he headed against the post after another pinpoint delivery from Paul Carville and Glenavon were struggling to contain the lively City striker.

Indeed Mullen went close just minutes later as good work from Tiernan Rushe down the right saw the ball scooped over the head of Tuffey, but Mullen was off balance as he rose to head the ball into the empty net and his header went over the bar.

Just when it looked like City were going to claim a deserved equaliser, referee Hunter made another controversial decision as he awarded Gary Hamilton's side a penalty kick with seconds left on the clock.

Rhys Marshall latched on to a pass on the right hand side and made a driving run in to the City box and he seemingly jumped in to Eamon Kelly after taking a heavy touch and the Maguiresbridge whistler had no hesitation in pointing to the penalty spot.

Greg Moorhouse stepped up and sent Connolly the wrong way as Glenavon secured a quarter-final clash at Shamrock Park against Niall Currie's Portadown in the next round.

In the last two games City have fallen foul of some controversial refereeing decisions and manager Marty Rice will hope that their luck will change this weekend as they welcome high-flying Ballyclare Comrades to Holm Park for their final league clash before the split. Kick off at Holm Park is 3pm.

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