Preview: Ards v Glenavon

Glenavon’s final match before the split, with a top six finish already secured, sees them head to the Bangor Fuels Arena to take on Ards. The hosts have picked up 7 points from their last five games and with a 12 point lead over second-bottom Carrick Rangers, are probably safe from any relegation play-off concerns. This leaves them free to have a real go at catching the teams above them, Colin Nixon’s side only trailing 7th placed Dungannon Swifts by four points.

Glenavon has lost just once in the last five league games (the defeat to Coleraine last Saturday), registering home wins against Ballinamallard and Dungannon with 0-0 draws away to Glentoran and Carrick.

Gary Hamilton has been clear in his comments after last week’s defeat at home to Coleraine that his priority is to avoid any serious injuries or suspensions kicking in ahead of next Saturday’s Irish Cup Semi-final. “It’ll be a different starting eleven next week,” he told BBC Sport in his post-match comments. “We’re never going to catch third place now, given the way results have gone, so next week (against Ards) we will rest the starting eleven for the following week and make sure that they’re right and they’re ready. They’ll do a training session and some will play a part in the Reserves game, on a grass pitch because obviously it’s a 4G pitch at Bangor and that’s the kind of pitch that I feel players can pick up injuries very quickly and that’s the last thing I want.”

Preview: Glenavon v Coleraine

The penultimate game before the split sees Glenavon welcome Coleraine to Mourneview Park for this Danske Bank Premiership fixture. The teams will meet again in a couple of weeks time in the Tennent’s Irish Cup semi-final, a double-header that both managers would probably have preferred to avoid. “I already spoke to Oran Kearney and it’s something that managers don’t want; you don’t want to be playing a team two times in two weeks. It’s not ideal but at the end of the day it’s the hand you’ve been dealt with and you have to get on with it. It’s the semi-final of the Irish Cup and you wouldn’t swop that for anything. Sometimes familiarity can be a bad thing in football and I’m just hoping we can perform in the two games that we play them,” Gary Hamilton explained.

Photo by Maynard Collins

“They’re both big games for Coleraine, for sure, because they have the potential of making 3rd place and maybe getting to Europe automatically so they’re massive games for them. They’re still big games for us but at this point the league game is as important for Coleraine as a cup game because of their league position. I’m sure they’ll be gunning for the win tomorrow and to catch Cliftonville and get into that 3rd spot.

“They’re on a great run of 12 wins in 13 games and Cliftonville haven’t been hitting the heights lately and that happened a couple of years back when we pipped them to third in the league.”

“We want to win as many games from now to the end of the season as possible and whatever team we put out on the pitch we expect them to put in a performance and get results. That’s the be all and end all of it.

“Obviously there will be a few players not play tomorrow as they could run the risk of suspension for the Irish Cup match, and a few have niggles, but whoever we put in we expect them to perform and get us results. There’s a big squad at Glenavon at the minute and most are fit and raring to go and I’m sure everyone of them feel that they should be in the team and the squad. If they feel like that, when they get their chance, they have to take it and prove why they should be in the team.”

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Preview: Glenavon v Dungannon Swifts

A win for Glenavon in tomorrow’s Dankse Bank Premiership game with Dungannon Swifts would confirm a top six finish for the Lurgan Blues. If Rodney McAree is to keep alive hopes of his Swifts side overhauling the hosts, he knows a win is a must so it promises to be an exciting game with both sides going all-out for the three points.

In the last league game between the sides back in December, an 89th minute goal by Andrew Mitchell won it for the Swifts.

Gary Hamilton is expecting a very difficult game, “We want to finish in the top six and tomorrow it’s in our own hands but we know also it’ll be a difficult game. Dungannon’s got a good record against us and they always seem to be a bit of a bogie team for us.

“We know it certainly won’t be an easy game so it’s very important to go out and show the same commitment, effort and energy we did last week against Portadown. If they do that, the ability’s there, there’s no doubt about that.

“They’re all talented boys and they can take a lot of confidence from that performance last Saturday, especially the younger ones who can sometimes be affected more by confidence than the older players. Hopefully it will kick them on for the rest of the season and they can perform like they did last week and if they do that, as everybody knows, we’re more than a match for any team in the league.

“Hopefully the boys see what’s at stake, a finish in the top six again, and they can pull us over the line tomorrow and then we can start looking at other games after that.”

Greg Moorhouse is a doubt after he came off last week with a sore groin and Chris Turner’s debut will be delayed again as he must serve a one game suspension carried over from the Scottish league. Apart from that Gary has a full squad to choose from.

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Irish Cup Quarter Final Preview

Portadown

v

Glenavon

Saturday’s Tennent’s Irish Cup Quarter Final at Shamrock Park could be the most important game of the season so far for both Clubs.

Cup holders Glenavon will be going all-out to make it through to the semi-final but a resurgent Portadown have taken points from both the league leaders Crusaders and second placed Linfield in their last two league games so it’s going to be a tough test against our Mid-Ulster neighbours.

Gary Hamilton has been working hard on having a fully fit squad to select from, with two mid-week friendly games in the last seven days to give match time to those coming back from injury. “It was for the boys like Simon Kelly, Andrew Doyle and Kyle Neill who are coming back from injuries and those who haven’t got much game time recently. It was invaluable for them and for me that everyone got a run out coming into the game on Saturday and it’ll help me choose the squad for Saturday.”

The Glenavon boss is pleased that his side has kept it’s fourth consecutive clean sheet in Saturday’s 0-0 draw with Carrick Rangers but that blank score-line makes it the tenth game in all competitions that the Lurgan Blues have failed to score, leading to seven defeats, four by a narrow 0-1 score line, in those ten games.

Andy Hall could be a key player for Glenavon. Photo by Alan Weir.

Andy Hall, who was ‘king of the assists’ last season and has proven an invaluable asset with his deliveries from set plays, had to come off with a slightly tight hamstring against Ballinamallard so he wasn’t risked on Saturday past. “Obviously we knew the pitch at Carrick was going to be heavy on the legs so we didn’t want to take the risk of losing him for Saturday. I’ve always said that when it comes to the big matches, sometimes set-pieces can be the difference. At this minute in time, Andy Hall is the best set-piece deliverer we have in our squad so the last thing I wanted to risk last Saturday was him playing and pulling up and then missing the game next Saturday and that was the reason for leaving him out of the team.

“In terms of importance, this is the biggest game so far this season. Obviously its the quarter final and its against your local rivals and in these matches you only get one bite at the cherry. If you don’t perform on the day then you don’t get a second chance and that’s you out of the competition until the next year and it’s a long time coming round again till you get the chance to redeem it in terms of cup competitions. It’s vitally important, it’s massive for everybody, and it’s massive for Portadown as well. At this point it’s really the only thing they have to play for. Ok, they’re still fighting to try and get off the bottom of the table but this game is probably the biggest game of their season as well.

“Portadown might be sitting where they are but if you add the 12 points on that were taken off them and look at the run of injuries that they’ve had this year as well, there’s no way they’re a team that are in that position in terms of quality of players.

here’s no way anyone can take this game lightly and they’ll be going into the game very confident after two really, really good results against Linfield at Windsor and Crusaders at Shamrock. They’re coming off the back of good form and we’ll have to be on our ‘A’ game to win it. It’s the same in every game in this league – if you’re not performing and you’re not on top of your game then teams can beat you. Certainly they are more than capable of turning us over if we don’t show the fight and desire and the hunger that’s required to progress in Cup matches. We have to be bang-on come Saturday and we need our big players putting in match-winning performances to get to the semi-final.”

All supporters are reminded about the regulations regarding not bringing alcohol, glass containers, flares, smoke bombs or fireworks into the ground. Read the full statement here.

The Irish Cup quarter-final will be decided on the day. There are no longer replays in the competition so the game could go to extra time and penalty kicks.

Supporters should note that Mahon Road in Portadown is closed for road works. Those who normally use this route should therefore allow extra time to get to the ground.

Preview: Carrick Rangers v Glenavon

After a very good performance and 3-0 home win against Ballinamallard last Friday night, Gary Hamilton takes his team to the Loughshore Arena for a Danske Bank fixture against Carrick Rangers looking to build on that result with the split just four games away. Last week’s win saw the Lurgan Blues open up a six point gap on 7th placed Dungannon Swifts and also close the gap to 5th placed Ballymena United to four points, albeit the Sky Blues have a game in hand.

With the Irish Cup Quarter Final against Portadown just a week away, Gary used Thursday night’s friendly against Banbridge Town to give the players who are returning from injury some game time so he hopefully will have a full squad to choose from for the next few vital games as he aims to progress in the Cup and make a push for as high a league position as possible. “Every game with them has been difficult,” Gary stressed. “Aaron has come in and got them to a final and he’s definitely made a big improvement with Carrick. He’s brought in a lot of players, he’s obviously been given more money than Keiran Harding was given and he seems to have added a lot more to the squad. He’s got them playing counterattacking football and he’s got them getting results.

“Even in the first game, when Keiran was manager, it was never a 4-0 score-line. They gave us a really difficult game that day but we just scored at the right times. When we went down to Carrick it was probably our best performance but it ended in a 0-0 draw. We absolutely battered them but we didn’t score and then they come to Mourneview in the League Cup semi and as much as we had possession of the ball, it’s all about scoring goals as that’s what wins games of football. They did that scoring their chance when it came along and we didn’t take any of our chances that night as well.

“They’re a difficult outfit to play against and we have to make sure our attitude is right tomorrow and hopefully we can go down and get a result. Our aim has to be to finish as high up the league as possible and the only way we can do that is by winning games of football.”

New signing Chris Turner will not be able to play tomorrow after his FIFA clearance failed to come through in time despite Cowdenbeath, Glenavon, the IFA and SFA all having the paperwork submitted in time. He’s also not eligible for the Irish Cup as he signed after the January transfer window.

Carrick Rangers manager Aaron Callaghan made 10 signings in the transfer window and he’s looking for his new squad to gel quickly and overcome the disappointment of losing in Saturday’s League Cup Final to put a run together between now and the end of the season.

Match Officials

TBC