We have just been advised that there are major roadworks between the end of the M22 and Toome which adds significantly to the journey time so fans may wish to allow extra time for the journey to Londonderry.
Following the flooding of their Riverside stadium ‘Stute had to play their ‘home’ games last season at Wilton Park. After reaching agreement with Derry City Council the Drumahoe side has been making the Brandywell their temporary home since the start of this season and so far Paddy McLaughlin’s side remain unbeaten and have yet to concede a goal in their adopted home.
They beat Newry City 1-0 on the opening day of the season and have defeated Warrenpoint 2-0 and drawn 0-0 with Dungannon Swifts at the iconic ground which last year underwent a multi-million pound refurbishment which included the laying of a new synthetic pitch.
“The new stadium is wonderful and the facilities are incredible,” Gary Hamilton enthused when we caught up with him ahead of tomorrow’s game. “The only drawback for me is the 4G pitch but it’s a wonderful setting and a beautiful stadium. The changing rooms are great, the boardroom and viewing lounge are really nice. It’s an excellent, up-to-date, modern stadium. It’ll be a great experience for the boys because we may never get the opportunity to play there again.”
Although Gary isn’t a fan of 4G pitches he is confident that his Glenavon side will continue to perform well on the synthetic surface. “We can up there tomorrow with a really good record on 4G pitches last year, compared to previous years. We really only had one player last season that couldn’t play on it, Sammy (Clingan); every other player could participate on the 4G pitches which in years gone by hadn’t been the case, so we were delighted with our form on 4G and hopefully we can start this season in the same vein.”
Gary watched Institute last weekend against Cliftonville at Solitude and, although they lost 3-0, he felt that Paddy McLaughlin’s side was much better than the score line suggests. “They really, really impressed me and personally I felt, although it was a 3-0 score line, that Institute was every bit as good as Cliftonville. Unfortunately for them they didn’t take their chances and at times their final pass or cross let them down and if they’d got it right they would have been tap ins or people through one-on-one. Their all-round general play, for me, was really good but Cliftonville have Joe Gormley and he gets two chances and scores two goals. Institute had three or four chances and they don’t take them and that’s what changes games. Hopefully tomorrow they have a similar run of form!
“We know it’ll be difficult tomorrow. We expect a really hard game but we have to go and be confident as we’re on a decent run ourselves and hopefully we can come back down the road tomorrow with three points. That’s obviously what the aim is and hopefully we can do that.”
Glenavon welcomes back Mark Sykes after he played the full 90 minutes in the NI U21’s impressive victory away to Spain in midweek. Sykes’s callup meant that last week’s scheduled Danske Bank Premiership game away to Ards was postponed until Tuesday week.
If selected, Niall Grace will come up against his former team for the first time since joining Glenavon from Institute over the Summer. When he completed his move to Glenavon the midfielder said “I had a great three years at Institute and we had a few heartbreaks, losing in the play-offs, so I feel better about leaving because they’re going to be in the Premiership as well and I’m looking forward to playing against the boys too!”
“Niall came through training on Thursday night so we hoping he will be back involved with the squad tomorrow,” Gary told us.
Derry lads Josh Daniels and Ben Doherty will also be looking forward to returning to the Brandywell. Ben, who joined the Brandywell side from Institute in January 2015, is currently on loan from Derry City and Josh has just started his second full season for Glenavon after signing a two year deal in August 2017.
Double Figures Challenge for Josh
Niall and Ben have yet to open their goals accounts for Glenavon but Josh has already matched last season’s tally of two with goals against Molde and Ballymena United. “I’ve set Josh a challenge to get into double figures this season,” Gary continued. “Players like Josh should be hitting double figures, with the ability and the pace that he has and he can use both feet as well. He should be aiming to score double figures every year from the wing. If you look at Gavin Whyte and Paul Heatley and boys like that, they were hitting 20+ goals a season; wingers have to have that aim and even if you get ten a season, it’s a massive help to their teammates.
“Hopefully Josh will turn it on tomorrow back in his home town and maybe score or set something up. I’m sure people will be coming out to watch him, Derry City fans and that, many who thought maybe he shouldn’t have been let go.”
One to Watch
Institute forward Michael McCrudden already has four goals to his name and has been a big part of his team’s successful start to their first season back in the Premiership. His contribution has been recognized by the Northern Ireland Football Writers who awarded him the Premiership Player of the Month for August. McCrudden was Institute’s top scorer last season when they gained promotion, earning him the Football Writers Championship Player of the Season award.
Now Captain of Institute in his second spell at the Club, he began his career with Derry City before joining Newcastle United for whom he played at Academy and Reserves level. He has also represented Northern Ireland at U16, U17 and U19 levels. When Newcastle did not renew his contract he returned to the Province and re-joined Derry City in 2010 before moving to Institute in 2012.
After ‘Stute were relegated in 2015 he joined Ballinamallard United but changes to his circumstances saw him rejoin Institute on deadline day in January 2016.
He scored two goals against Loughgall in the penultimate game of the 2017-18 season to clinch promotion.
Head to Head
Last ten games (in all competitions): Glenavon: W6 D2 L2 F18 A10
Average goals per game: 2.8
Last 5 League games:
Institute: L W D D L
Glenavon: L W W W D
Referee: Evan Boyce, Assistants: George Argyropoulos, Ryan Kelsey, 4th Official: Diarmuid Harrigan