Linfield: Honours even with Glenavon in entertaining scoreless draw
Although not quite a festive thriller, Linfield and Glenavon finished with honours even off an afternoon of energy and endeavour at Windsor Park in an entertaining scoreless draw.
Jamie Mulgrew’s driving run from deep inside the opening moments took advantage of time and space afforded the Linfield captain by Glenavon - but his final flourish proved high.
Andy Hall then cleared the crossbar for Glenavon, although from a greater distance after Roy Carroll had to race to the edge of his box to clear a Rhys Marshall upfield punt and the Glenavon winger’s speculative effort off the clearance would not drop.
Carroll was called into action again soon after to gather a James Singleton header at the far post off Ben Doherty’s curling corner-kick delivery from the right.
Niall Quinn’s angled pass from the left was met on the run by Joel Cooper but the attempted lob against his former club lacked the height to trouble Jonny Tuffey.
Hall’s curling corner-kick from the left dropped under the bar, with Carroll getting his gloves on the delivery but it bounced off the frame of the goal.
Cooper was next to fire over the top when he raced in to meet a bouncing ball inside the box on the volley off a Linfield corner-kick.
Andy Waterworth had the ball in the Glenavon net but it was ruled out by an offside flag after Tuffey struggled to hold Stewart’s initial attempt.
Stephen Murray replaced the injured Conor McCloskey past the half-hour mark and enjoyed an early impact - with Carroll pushing a deflected ball on to the bar after the substitute challenged with Josh Robinson, then he fired wide with a first-time shot following Doherty’s drive from distance which the Linfield goalkeeper could only push out.
A frantic start to the second half featured an early flurry of scoring opportunities.
Hall and Murray linked up to find Andrew Mitchell with his back to goal in the box and the in-form striker’s shot on the turn bounced off the crossbar.
A teasing low delivery across the danger area by Cooper proved beyond both Waterworth and Kirk Millar.
Mitchell had a second sight of goal after bursting into the box but his shot lacked the power to trouble Carroll.
Linfield continued to probe and press but Glenavon remained resolute in defence and a threat on the counter-attack.
One promising break involving Hall and Murray ended with Sykes picking up possession but his long-range effort was high and wide.
A sliding block by Linfield skipper Jamile Mulgrew prevented Glenavon from taking full advantage of a surging run down the right by Marshall and subsequent clever pass into the path of the supporting Hall by Murray.
Stephen Fallon’s clearance off the line prevented Caolan Marron from finding the net from a Doherty corner-kick.
Late attempts arrived for Cooper and Daniel Kearns but it finished a point apiece.
LINFIELD: Carroll, Robinson, Callacher, Waterworth (O’Connor, 61), Cooper, Stewart (Kearns, 62), Millar, Fallon, Mulgrew, Quinn, Casement.
Subs (not used): Deane, Clarke, Garrett, Mitchell, Reynolds.
GLENAVON: Tuffey, King, Marron, Marshall (Harmon, 89), Mitchell, Sykes, Hall, Clingan, McCloskey (Murray, 32; Jenkins, 89), Singleton, Doherty.
Subs (not used): Grace, Larmour, Muir.
Referee: Tim Marshall.