Glenavon play their first game in 28 days tomorrow – and it’s a trip to Solitude for the Lurgan Blues.
Manager, Gary Hamilton, says everyone is “itching to get back at it”.
He told the club website: “We don’t seem to have had any luck recently with matches being called off and the COVID situation.
“It’s been a nightmare – I think it’s about four weeks since we played our last game. In that period we’ve sold Daniel Larmour to Crusaders, which is a good deal for the club considering he’s not going to be here next season. We’ve got the situation with Jonny Tuffey and we’ve had a few new players come in. It’s been a busy few weeks.
“Cliftonville have been playing games in that period and we haven’t, but hopefully that won’t be an issue. Anyone who knows anything about football knows you start to lose your fitness after two to three weeks so it takes a while to build it back up again. I just hope that doesn’t have an affect on us tomorrow.”
Gary and his coaching staff held a training match on Wednesday night to try and get the players back up to match speed.
He explained: “It’s not ideal but you have to try and emulate what you’d do on a Saturday as much as you can.
“It was a good tempo, a good standard and the boys got their sprint distances built up so hopefully that will stand them in good stead for Saturday.”
Saturday’s game is not going to be an easy task, particularly on a 4G pitch – something which the Glenavon boss has made his feelings clear on in the past.
“The pitch is one of the poorer ones in the league in my opinion, and with them training and playing on it they’re used to it so that gives them an advantage,” he said.
“We’ve had a few good results down there over the years and hopefully we can go down there and get another one. We’ll just have to see what way the boys are in terms of match sharpness but it’ll not be for the lack of effort or trying – anyone who has seen us this year knows the effort these players put in. Hopefully that will help us get a result.”
Injury-wise, Gary says his squad is “all good to go” – however a decision will be made over whether to play Michael O’Connor on the Solitude 4G.
“Mick played on the 4G pitch at Larne and missed a couple of games afterwards. He’s a big, big player for us and with so many games coming up, we can’t take risks that could keep him out of the team for two or three weeks and leave him missing four, five or six games because we’re playing twice a week,” Gary explained.
“He’s as fit and as sharp as anyone else in the squad, it’s just a question of whether we risk him.
“Mick’s not used to playing on 4G pitches because he didn’t have to do that in England. He’s been brilliant since he came to the club – he’s a leader, he’s experienced, he helps the younger players and the older ones too.
“Someone like that is so vital to what we do and we don’t want to lose someone like that over one game on a 4G pitch.”
REFEREE: Tim Marshall
ASSISTANT REFEREES: Stephen Donaldson, Ryan Kelsey
FOURTH OFFICIAL: Shane McGonigle
LAST TIME OUT: Glenavon and Cliftonville played out an entertaining 1-1 draw in front of the Sky Sports cameras at Mourneview Park. Cliftonville substitute Daire O’Connor fired the Reds in front on 67 minutes when he latched onto a long ball forward from Aaron Donnelly and slotted into the far corner. The away side’s lead lasted less than five minutes, however, as Glenavon striker Danny Purkis ran onto goalkeeper Jonny Tuffey’s long free-kick and drilled a low shot beyond Richard Brush in the Cliftonville goal to draw the home side level.