Saturday’s trip to 3rd-placed Coleraine is the first of a tough Easter double-bill of away games for Glenavon, with Gary Hamilton’s side also taking on the team in second spot, Linfield, at Windsor Park on Easter Tuesday (7:45pm kick off).
Tomorrow’s opponents have opened up a 5 point lead on their nearest rivals for that coveted 3rd place and, of course, also have an Irish Cup final with Linfield to look forward to, having overcome holders Glenavon in the semifinal. In many ways the Bannsiders situation mirrors that of Glenavon last season when the Lurgan Blues secured third place and also went on to defeat Linfield in the cup final.
Gary Hamilton’s thoughts are focused on preparing his squad for the European play-offs which are his side’s only remaining route to Europe for next season.
“The players that started last week were the ones that needed games so it’ll be a similar line-up tomorrow, especially with the result. Chris Turner will be missing as he has a tight hamstring that forced him off last week, and we don’t want to take any risks with him. The main importance for us is the play-off semifinal so we have to make sure they’re right for that. Ciaran Martyn comes back into contention there and Renato will come onto the bench and Doyler (Andrew Doyle) will be back in the squad.
“We have to be careful with suspensions as Mark Sykes and Dave Elebert are on 9 bookings so we have to manage that as we don’t want to lose them for the play-offs.”
Along with Coleraine, Tuesday’s opponents Linfield are the top two teams as far as form is concerned and last weekend’s win for David Healy’s side over Crusaders has narrowed the gap to the leaders to just a single point. It goes without saying that he will be going all-out for a win against Glenavon to keep the pressure on the league leaders.
“These are the games you want to be playing in at this stage of the season as players. They’re big games, unfortunately not for us this season, but for the opposition. There’ll be a decent crowd at both games and a decent atmosphere as well and a chance for the players to show their quality, which they did last week. We don’t want to be pushovers for anybody; we want to go out and get results, no matter who you play, and that’s what our aim is.”
Rhys Marshall starts a two-game suspension from Monday so he is unavailable for the Linfield game after picking up his 10th booking of the season against Ballymena last weekend. Teenage striker Jordan Jenkins who scored two goals last Saturday on his first full start will be looking forward to having a run in the first team after that impressive performance against the Sky Blues.
“He was exceptional and I was really, really pleased with him; he’s a finisher and its up to him what level he wants to play at. That’s two games now at our level and he’s scored goals in both. He’s proved that his desire and attitude is right and he can play at this level. Whatever level he finds himself at, Jordan Jenkins will score goals. He just reminded me so much of Mark Farren,” Gary concluded. High praise indeed!