Glenavon must bounce back quickly after being dumped out of the Irish Cup by Loughgall on Saturday and they could hardly face a sterner test as league leaders Crusaders are the visitors in a re-arranged Danske Bank fixture on Tuesday, kick off 7:45pm. That defeat by the Villagers was all the more of a shock as it was Glenavon’s first loss in any competition this calendar year.

“You always want to get a game as soon as possible to try and put the last game to bed. Sometimes if you wait for a week or ten days before your next game it can linger with players a long time but football’s a wonderful game that you get an opportunity in the next couple of days to put right what you did wrong on Saturday with a good positive result,” Gary Hamilton responded when we asked him about tomorrow night’s game. “At the very least they all know that they owe it to the supporters who worked very, very hard for a long time on Friday night, early hours of Saturday morning and all Saturday morning to get the game playable, to put in a proper performance tomorrow night, to fight for every ball and show the energy and commitment that they’ve been showing over all the league games.

“We all know that Saturday wasn’t good enough and they’ve been told that, they’ve been told their levels weren’t anywhere near where they have been and the only people that can put it right now is the eleven players and the subs that are used tomorrow night when they cross the white line. We prepared them on Saturday as we do for every game, whether we’re playing Linfield or we’re playing lower teams or whoever it is. We prepare the same way, we say the same things, and especially when you are playing lower opposition you try and emphasise even more so to the players that it’s not a matter of turning up today, it’s a matter of following the same principles that you do in every other game and work your socks off and show them the respect.

Stephen Murray returns to the squad after attending his brother’s wedding on Saturday. Photo by Maynard Collins

“For me, I felt the first 45 minutes on Saturday cost us – we weren’t good enough, we didn’t get out the blocks, we didn’t get in their faces like we’ve done in Irish League games against teams that are in our league. We didn’t get enough play down the sides or enough balls in the box and in front of goal we weren’t clinical enough.

“Sometimes it comes down to peoples mentality and if you’ve got that (wrong) against lower teams and go out and play the way we did then it’s really hard to grind yourself out of that at half time or any other time in the match – you need to start with the right attitude because once you set the tone and standard for the game it’s very hard to get out of that.”

Gary quoted a statistic that would suggest that mental attitude has been Glenavon’s downfall in other games against lower opposition. “We’ve had nine cup competitions that I’ve went out to in the League Cup and Irish Cup since I’ve been in charge and, out of those nine games, seven have been against teams that have either been lower than us in the league or in a lower league. That sums it up in general: it means that every team we’ve played that was above us, bar those two teams, we’ve beaten them.

“So it only comes down to one thing and that’s about the boys mentally not going out onto the pitch the right way and treating them with the same respect. You can argue about a lot of things in life but you can’t argue with facts and that’s a fact. The two teams that have beaten us that would have been above us were Coleraine in the semifinal last year and Cliftonville in the League Cup a few years back and, no disrespect to the players at the time, when we were nowhere near the strength that we are now and Cliftonville was a team that was winning league titles.

“Those two teams apart, the other seven teams were all below us so the boys will have to cop on very quickly when it comes to this game that they can’t do it. At the end of the day they’re letting their supporters down and letting their families down but the most important thing is they’re missing out on chances to get to semifinals and finals of cups and adding medals to their tally. You don’t get many chances to do that. I played for Glentoran and Portadown for 11 years and in that 11 years and I only ever had the privilege with those clubs of playing in Irish Cup semifinals twice. These boys don’t know how lucky they are that they’ve played in three in five years and won two Irish Cups because they are very, very few and far between.”

Form Guide

In the previous five league games between the sides Crusaders have won four and Glenavon just one. That victory for the Lurgan Blues came in the first encounter this season, at Seaview, when they came away with a 3-2 win, a result that was more comfortable than the score line would suggest. The tables were turned back in December when the Crues edged a 4-3 win at Mourneview.

Last 5 league games

Glenavon: D D W W W

Crusaders: D W W W W

Matchday Sponsors

  • Match Sponsors: Andy & Issac Gilkinson, Moira Blues, Stephen Brown and Thomas Crowe
  • Ball Sponsor: Barry Craig
  • Glenavon MOM Sponsor: ‘The Crues Missile’