Glenavon travels to North Belfast on Saturday to face perennial Sports Direct Premiership top six finisher, Cliftonville. Although the surroundings at Solitude will be familiar, Gary Hamilton reckons that the fixture has something of the unknown about it.
“This is Jim Magilton’s first game, as a manager, in our league,” he explained. “It is unclear what way he is going to ask his team to play or, indeed, who will be in it. Obviously, we have been keeping an eye on them in pre-season but that might mean nothing. We’ll have to wait to see what way he sets up.”
It is definite that the Reds will be without three suspended players, including the talented brothers, Rory and Ronan Hale. Cliftonville declined the opportunity to play Linfield this week after the clubs’ attractive first day meeting at the National Stadium was postponed due to the Belfast Blues’ Europa Conference League commitments.
“I am aware of that situation and of the suggestion that Cliftonville think it would be better to play us rather than the Blues without the three lads,” added Hamilton. “I am not reading too much into that. Our players will all, like me and the rest of the backroom staff, want to win the match regardless.”
Hamilton was encouraged by his team’ s performance against Glentoran last Saturday. “We were excellent all over the pitch,” he said. “The defence was organised, and we competed well in midfield. Perhaps we could have been a bit more creative in the final third. But that is knit picking. The disappointing thing is that if the game had been played last season and the added time had been four or five minutes, not nine or ten, we would have picked up a deserved point.”
Unfortunately, new signing Niall Quinn will not be available this weekend after suffering a groin strain against the Belfast Glens. Midfielder Jack Malone is also a fitness doubt. “Unfortunately, Niall will be out for two or three weeks,” Gary added. “We are assessing Jack and are hopeful that he will be available but that will depend on his condition closer to Saturday.”
Glenavon v Cliftonville, Last Season
||Glenavon 0 Cliftonville 1
||Cliftonville 2 Glenavon 2
||J. Doyle, Addis o.g.
||Glenavon 1 Cliftonville 3