After last Saturday’s Irish Cup semi-final loss to Coleraine, Glenavon’s only hope of European qualification lies through the play-offs, with a complex scenario depending on the final league placings and the Irish Cup winners determining who plays who in those play-off matches. The team finishing higher in the league earns home advantage in each of the play-off pairings. As it stands, if the teams finish in their current positions Glenavon would travel to Ballymena for the play-off semi-final on the Tuesday after the Irish Cup Final.
We asked Gary Hamilton what his approach will be for the remainder of the season: “The key for us now is to make sure we’re ready for the play-off semi-final. We know now that we’re going to be in that and we have to make sure we have everybody match fit and ready to go and up for selection. Over the next five weeks everybody will get a turn at some stage and again some of the players who have played in most of the games over the season might get a couple of games rest to allow the boys who haven’t played as regularly to get their match fitness up. That allows us to pick our best team if they’re all match fit.
“It allows us to have a look at Jordan Jenkins over the next two or three games as his goal-scoring record in the Reserves has been excellent – he’s scored 49 goals between the Reserves and the 17’s this year, mostly for the Reserves. To be fair, we have to have a look at him and see if he’s able to step up to the mark because it’s no secret that the big thing we’ve been missing this season has been goals. From the attacking point of view, apart from Greg, none of us has really hit the goals per games that’s really required as a striker and, as I’ve said, JJ is way above that at Reserve team level. So he deserves a little chance and we’ll see what happens with him.”
“A couple of other young lads might feature over the next few games as well and we’ll have a look at them with reference to next season as well. If we don’t make Europe this year obviously the budget will be cut and we may have to look at a few of these young players with a view to bringing them in as first team players next season.”
The three games between the sides so far this season have produced a total of 18 goals – an average of six per game! The first game at the Showgrounds ended in a 3-3 draw, Glenavon won the return fixture 5-0 and made an amazing comeback from 3-1 down at half time to take all three points in a 4-3 away win in January. Greg Moorhouse’s hat-trick was key in helping the Lurgan Blues to complete that fightback and the young striker has scored in all three games with the Sky Blues, bagging five goals against them.
Ballymena’s high-scoring midfielder Tony Kane starts a two-game suspension following his red card against Cliftonville in the Sky Blues last league game.
For Glenavon, David Elebert (hamstring), Guy Bates (ankle), Aaron Canning (back) and Mark Sykes, who has been unwell all week, are all out tomorrow.
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….Finally, good news for all occupants of the Fosters Chocolate Family Section in the Geddis Stand who will receive some freebies at the game. Home supporters are reminded that for the majority of our home games primary school children are admitted free when accompanied by a paying adult.
Also, keep an eye out for IFA mascot ‘Sweet Caroline’ who is rumoured to be making a guest appearance at MVP on Saturday to promote the forthcoming UEFA Women’s under-19 Championships which take place in August at four venues throughout the Province including Mourneview Park and the Ballymena Showgrounds.