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.

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Preview: Glenavon v Ballinamallard United (Fri)

Friday night football is back at Mourneview Park in Glenavon’s only home game in February as Ballinamallard United come to Lurgan for Match 29 in the Danske Bank Premiership.

On their last visit to Mourneview the Mallards went away with a win after Adam Lecky scored a late, late penalty to grab all three points and in the recent fixture at Ferney Park it took a late equaliser by Glenavon player-manager Gary Hamilton to secure a point for the Lurgan Blues.

Ballinamallard’s Adam Lecky scores from the penalty spot in the last game at Mourneview Park. Photo Alan Weir

Lecky, the Mallard’s leading goal scorer, has since moved to Australia but Ryan Mayse has stepped up to the mark and has six goals to his name, including last week’s winner against Cliftonville.

With five games, including Friday’s match, remaining until the league splits and an Irish Cup Quarter Final with Portadown to look forward to, Gary Hamilton is aiming to “try and win as many of the next six games as we can, to finish as high in the league as we can and make the Irish Cup semi-final. Over the past few seasons we’ve done well in cup competitions and if we can finish in the top six that is like another cup competition with a place in Europe at stake.”

“The number of draws this season has been a big factor but they’ve been by fine margins so hopefully the addition of Andrew Mitchell next season will see us turning those draws into wins.

“We need to be positive and play with less fear. We’ve analyzed everything this season and we’ve given all the teams in the top six hard games. Against the teams in the bottom six sometimes it looks like, because we’re expected to win, that the players are playing with fear and that’s something we’re working hard to put right.

“Ballinamallard have pace in attack and they can hurt you on the counter. I never thought they were in any danger of finishing in the relegation places as they are a decent side so it’s no surprise to me that they are on a good run of form at the minute.

“They beat us here in September but we had enough chances that day to win three games but we couldn’t take them and kill them off. It won’t be easy tomorrow night but I’m hoping we put in the sort of performance that is long overdue and we’ll get the three points.”

Reminder: Tickets for our Irish Cup QF with Portadown will be on sale in the Bedeck Sports Bar from 6:45pm ahead of tomorrow’s match. Payments by Cash or Cheque only.

Match Officials

Referee Assistant 1 Assistant 2 4th Official
Steven Gregg  Adam Jeffrey  Bogdan Sfirloaga  Paul Burns 

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Preview: Glentoran v Glenavon

It’s back to league action tomorrow as Glenavon head to The Oval to take on Glentoran in Danske Bank Premiership match number 28. The two previous meetings between the sides this season have ended in draws, 1-1 at Mourneview in November and 2-2 at The Oval on our last visit back in September.

Joel Cooper scored in both those games including a spectacular moment of individual brilliance in the Oval game as Glenavon came back to take the lead after going a goal down in the 20th minute. He also put Glenavon ahead in the home fixture before former Lurgan Blues defender Jay Magee equalised with 25 minutes to go.

Eoin Bradley and Joel Cooper celebrate after Cooper gave Glenavon the lead at Mourneview Park. Photo by Alan Weir

“They’ve been tight games this season especially the one at The Oval when we were leading until late on and then we could have had a penalty at the end but we ended up drawing it. That’s probably been the story of our season when in a lot games we’ve been in good positions and we haven’t seen it out or a refereeing decision has also maybe cost us as well,” Gary told us.

“The Oval is a difficult place to go; no matter where Glentoran are sitting in the league it’s always a difficult game. They’ve struggled against the lower sides this season but they’ve always matched the bigger teams. It’s been a similar story for ourselves this season. Ok, we maybe haven’t been getting beaten by many of the lower sides but we’ve drawn a lot of games against them.

“Tomorrow we’re going there and our aim is to try and win the game. We have the ability to win the game, we know that, but it’s how we turn up and how we perform and we have to make sure we’re right, mentally first and foremost and we’re up for it because they are one of the teams in and around us that could maybe replace us in that sixth position and that’s something we don’t want. We want to make sure we’re in the top six, minimum, and, if we can, we would like to finish a bit further up than that. Whether that’s possible or not remains to be seen but we want to win as many games as possible.

“The other side of the coin is that there’s places up for grabs in the Irish Cup quarter final against our derby rivals Portadown. It’s important when they get their chance in the team that their perfomances are high and they do well enough to keep the shirt.  If they don’t, come the Portadown game, they might not be in the team. That’s a wee carrot dangling in front of them and the players have to make sure they get that carrot and they’re in the team come the Portadown game. They only way they can do that between now and then is by winning games because I don’t change a winning team.

“If the team that plays tomorrow wins and continues to win until the Portadown game, that’ll be the same team in the Portadown match.”

Match Officials

Referee Assistant 1 Assistant 2 4th Official
Raymond Hetherington  Adrian Sobieski  Kristian Hanna  Raymond Crangle 

Irish Cup R6: Armagh City v Glenavon

Attention turns to the Tennent’s Irish Cup tomorrow as Glenavon travel to Holm Park to take on Armagh City in a 6th Round tie, kick off 3pm. Armagh beat Trojans 2-1 in Round 5 whilst Glenavon recovered from conceding an early goal to defeat Portstewart 4-1.

City have not been enjoying the best of seasons and currently occupy the second-bottom spot in the NIFL Championship table but they have made a brighter start to 2017, winning two out of two before crashing to a 4-0 defeat away to Dergview in their last league game.

The Armagh line-up could feature a number of ex-Glenavon players including goalkeeper John Connolly, forwards Shea Campbell and Andrew Hoey and defender Paul Carville.

For Glenavon, Andrew Doyle is still on his recovery from a knee operation and Kyle Neill and Andy McGrory are also still out injured. Simon Kelly and Andy Kilmartin are both doubts with groin niggles which means they probably won’t be risked on the 3G pitch at Holm Park. Andrew Hall played the full 90 minutes in Monday’s friendly with Dundalk so he’s available for selection.

“Of course! I love the Irish Cup,” was Gary Hamilton’s response when we asked him if he was looking forward to the game.

Andy Hall is fit again. Photo by Alan Weir.

“Everybody has been well warned not to take anything for granted and they’ll be well warned again before kick-off tomorrow. These games are potential banana skins and a no-lose situation for the other club. If they turned us over tomorrow it would be a giant killing and it would be seen as us not performing to our capabilities. If we match them for work-rate, desire and hunger, we’ve a great chance of making it to the Quarter Finals. If we don’t the players could have egg on their faces and be sitting with regrets and that’s what you don’t want to have as a footballer.

“We’ve had disappointments against lower league opposition so we know what it feels like, we know how much it hurts but the flip side of that is the boys have to remember what the feeling is like walking out on Cup Final day, seeing your family and friends and the crowds in the stands and getting the opportunity to win the Irish Cup. There’s no better feeling than that on a single day out in football.”

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Preview: Glenavon v Crusaders

The last time these two met at Mourneview Park Crusaders managed to go away with a point after coming back from 3-1 down with a late goal by Jordan Owens securing a 3-3 draw for the Champions.

David Elebert strikes his second goal to put Glenavon 3-1 up. Photo by Maynard Collins

Two goals by Dave Elebert and one from Rhys Marshall had cancelled out an early opener from Paul Heatley who also grabbed a second shortly after Elebert had made it 3-1 to the Lurgan Blues. “It was a really good game of football, entertaining from both teams,” Gary Hamilton recalled. “It’s going to be difficult, we always know that. Crusaders have won the league the last two seasons because they’ve been the best team and this season they’re sitting top of the league, seven points clear, because they’re the best team.

“The one thing we’ve done okay this year is we’ve competed in most matches against them so we need to go out with the same attitude tomorrow, the same desire and  hunger and compete the same way we have done in other matches and hopefully we can manage to get a result. That’s the aim is going into every game and hopefully we can get the slice of luck and decisions will go for us and we’ll get a win. That would be nice but we know it’s going to be a difficult game.”

James Singleton is suspended following his red card in last Saturday’s Mid-Ulster derby win over Portadown. Andy McGrory injured ankle ligaments during the week so also misses the game tomorrow, joining Kyle Neill, Andy Hall and Andrew Doyle on the injury list. The latter two are making good progress following operations on ankle and knee respectively.

International clearance has come through this morning for new signing Renato de Vecchi so he’s likely to feature in the squad tomorrow. “In training he looks a talent and he looks like he will excite people,” Gary said, “but of course it’s what happens on the pitch that counts. Some players take a while to adjust while others can hit the ground running. His pace is impressive and that’s a big thing in any league but especially in this league. If we can get the best out of him, getting him running at people,  that will hopefully add goals to our tally.”

Gary also paid tribute to Declan O’Brien who has joined Carrick Rangers this week. “I wish Fabio all the best and I’d like to thank him for the service he has given us over the last couple of years. He’s been a joy to work with and his attitude was always first class and whenever he was called upon he always did a job for us and never let us down and he scored a lot of goals. Remembering back to the semi-final of the Irish Cup last season, that was probably one of his best moments for us.

“He goes with our blessing and it’s best for both parties at this moment – obviously he’s not been getting a lot of game time with ourselves and it releases a bit of budget for us and by the same token it gives him the opportunity to go and get first team football and get another year on his contract. He’s a model pro and everything I expected him to be when I signed him.”

Charity Collection

Our 2016/17 charity partner Angel Wishes will be undertaking a charity collection at the game and we would ask all supporters to please give generously.

Match Officials

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Raymond Crangle Richard Storey David Anderson Raymond Hetherington

Matchday Programme

In this week’s programme, Gary Hamilton says Andrew Mitchell has the potential to become a legend! Get your copy for £2.

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