IRISH LEAGUE: Glenavon out to blunt Ballymena

Glenavon player/manager Gary Hamilton on the ball in last weekend's Danske Bank Premiership draw at Carrick Rangers.  Picture by Jonathan Porter/Press Eye

Glenavon player/manager Gary Hamilton on the ball in last weekend's Danske Bank Premiership draw at Carrick Rangers. Picture by Jonathan Porter/Press Eye

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Glenavon have struggled to turn possession into points in recent weeks but manager Gary Hamilton is expecting a test of his players’ defensive resilience to hold the key on Saturday.

The Lurgan Blues welcome in-form Ballymena United in the Danske Bank Premiership aiming to improve a league return of just one win from six outings.

Paddy mcCourt attempts to spark the Glenavon attack into life last weekend against Carrick Rangers.  Picture by Jonathan Porter/Press Eye

Paddy mcCourt attempts to spark the Glenavon attack into life last weekend against Carrick Rangers. Picture by Jonathan Porter/Press Eye

A run of four draws within that period has served to derail early enthusiasm but Hamilton is keeping the faith in his attacking options - although also keen to see continued defensive stability.

“We have always managed to score goals and that has been a big part of our progress,” said Hamilton. “However, statistics show we are down to under two goals per game and our lowest return over the past eight fixtures than any time in the last five years.

“But we must continue to trust in our ability and continue to do the things which have helped us achieve success in the past.

“I will continue to back our players as we have real attacking strength across the squad but just need something to turn in our favour.

“One benefit, despite a lack of a consistent defensive line-up, has been an improved record at the back.

“We have Andrew Doyle serving a suspension this weekend due to his red card and will wait on the fitness of Simon Kelly, so it is going to be another case of having to reshuffle the defence.

“But our record has improved in that area and we must continue to concentrate and work hard for each other against Ballymena.”

Hamilton is aware of the Ballymena threat from both open play and set-piece situations, with United arriving in town having scored six goals towards back-to-back defeats of Crusaders and Linfield. Only defending champions Crusaders can boast a greater goals return in league play to date.

“Ballymena have players in great form and full of confidence,” said Hamilton. “They have regular scorers on the pitch but also a real strength from set-pieces.

“Manager David Jeffrey has put together a well-organised and hard-working side that offers a difficult challenge.

“It can be difficult in part-time football to work on certain areas but Ballymena can cause real trouble from free-kicks and corner-kicks so we must not give away anything on the cheap.

“Height-for-height I cannot imagine too many teams will be able to match Ballymena.

“But we must face Ballymena with the belief we can get a win and you think back to our match at The Showgrounds earlier in the season when it was 3-0 then we battled back to 3-3 and could have won it with more time on the clock.

“We know we need to improve our form, especially when it comes to scoring goals.

“But that is football, you get sides that cannot stop winning and others who cannot find a win from any place.

“I trust in the players that we can turn Saturday into a successful day.”

Kick-off will be 3 o’clock.