Glenavon returns to action for the first time in a fortnight with tomorrow’s trip to The Oval to take on Glentoran (kick-off 3pm).

Supporter information: Supporters travelling by bus to the game will be dropped off at the Parkgate Drive area and then collected from here after the game. We would like to thank Glentoran FC officials for their help in the matter.

Gary Hamilton will, as always, be looking to win each game as it comes and keep the pressure on leaders Linfield who took advantage of the postponement of Glenavon’s game with Cliftonville last week-end as they beat Newry City to move two points clear of the Lurgan Blues, albeit having played one game more.

The Glens have lost their last two league games, 1-0 at home to Linfield and 3-0 away to Crusaders when they were stunned by a goal after just ten seconds and never recovered from the early setback. The defeat to their ‘Big Two’ rivals was a much closer affair and Ronnie McFall felt that his side deserved at least a share of the points but failed to take their chances.

Glens captain Marcus Kane is missing through suspension and there are fitness doubts over Connor Pepper who has a groin strain. Curtis Allen missed the Seaview defeat through illness but is expected to return up front with former Glenavon forward Robbie McDaid as the veteran striker looks for his 100th goal for the Glens. McDaid, who scored in the 1-1 draw between the sides at Mourneview Park at the beginning of September, only returned to action last Saturday after a month out with a hamstring problem.

Stephen Murray celebrates after scoring from the penalty spot in the 1-1 draw in September. Photo by Alan Weir

Gary expects to have a more or less full panel to choose from tomorrow with the exception of Sammy Clingan who will play for the Reserves on Monday night to build up fitness. Andrew Doyle is back and will be in the squad tomorrow.

The Glenavon boss has kept a close eye on his former Club’s recent performances, watching them in a 2-2 draw against Coleraine back in August as well as the Linfield and Crusaders games and he says he was impressed. “The defeats were against probably the two top teams in the league in terms of consistency over the last two or three years. Against Linfield I felt they deserved something from the game; both teams were lacking a cutting edge in front of goal but in terms of the overall game I thought Glentoran slightly shaded it without working Roy Carroll. Curtis missed a decent chance and Roy Carroll made a decent save from a Marcus Kane header. On the whole I thought Glentoran were quite good and impressed me that night as they did against ourselves earlier in the season and against Coleraine – they’re probably the best they’ve been in four or five seasons. They’ve got a great spine to the team and that’s what the key is at any club and that’s why they’ve done a lot better this season in terms of results and performances.

“It’s going to be a tough game, when you go to play Glentoran there’s no two ways about that. Tomorrow will be no different and we have to go down and we have to really grind out a performance and make sure we go with the same mentality that we’ve approached the other games in the league this season and not have an off day because if you have an off day against Glentoran this season, you’ll be punished and we can’t afford that.

“We want to play with the same energy and the same tempo that we’ve been playing at and keep closing the ball down and not letting them play and then we have ability throughout the team and when you’ve done the hard, dirty work, your ability will take over and that’s what’s got us into the position that we are now and we need to keep doing that.”

Commenting on his appointment of Mark Ferguson as Glenavon’s new first team coach, Gary told us “I’ve had Fergie at the club for three or four seasons now from when he came in originally as the coach for the Under 20s and he’s been excellent. He has a real good way with the lads and his coaching is like Kris’ and previous coaches like Nigel Law, Bryan McLoughlin, Norman Kelly and Stevie McBride. His coaching is really, really good and I probably would have promoted him a few years earlier but, as he was moving from boys club football, I wanted him to gain experience with the Under 20s, adult-type players, including first team players getting game time. I always had a long-term plan that Fergie would come into the first team setup at some stage.

“Kris did an absolutely superb job for us as coach and Fergie has just carried on from where he left off. Him and Andy Mathieson (Under 20’s Manager) have been a massive, massive part of what’s happened at this football club for the last four or five years with the young lads coming through. It’s alright people saying ‘Gary gives the young players an opportunity’ but it’s based on these guys beliefs and opinions and I trust them so much it’s unreal. So when they say to me ‘Bobby Burns is flying’ or ‘Caolan Marron is flying’ you listen to them because they don’t get too many wrong.”

Mark Sykes played his last game for the Northern Ireland U21’s at the National Stadium on Tuesday night and capped it off with a superb performance and the winning goal against Slovakia and his Glenavon boss was there to watch his midfielder who he rated as ‘the best player on the pitch’.

Northern Ireland U21 starting line up against Slovakia featured Mark Sykes (11) and former Glenavon players Shayne Lavery (9) and Bobby Burns (3). Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye

Stats a Fact

Until Gary Hamilton took over as Glenavon Manager in December 2011, the Lurgan Blues had not won at the Oval since August 1999. That rare victory was then followed by a run of 22 games without a victory, including 15 defeats. Although Hamilton lost in his first two trips to his former stomping ground, the Oval ‘hoodoo’ was finally broken in an Irish Cup Quarter Final in March 2014 with Glenavon going on the lift the Irish Cup in May. Since then, in the ten subsequent games in all competitions at The Oval, Glenavon has won 7, drawn 2 and lost just once.

Form Guide

Last Five League Games

Glentoran: W W D L L

Glenavon: W W W W W

Head to Head

Last ten games (all competitions): Glenavon: W3 D6 L1 F17 A13 Average goals per game: 3.0

Match Officials

Referee: Keith Kennedy, Assistants: George Argyropoulos, Ryan Kelsey, 4th Official: Gareth Stewart

Keith Kennedy was also the man in charge when the teams met back in September at Mourneview Park.