Glenavon: Gary Hamilton targets gains from Crusaders drama beyond three points as Coleraine come to town

Glenavon manager Gary Hamilton. Pic by INPHO.
Glenavon manager Gary Hamilton. Pic by INPHO.

Glenavon boss Gary Hamilton is banking on benefits from Saturday’s dramatic injury-time defeat of defending league champions Crusaders beyond the immediate reward.

With 88 minutes gone, the Lurgan Blues were down and out before a thrilling fightback featured Stephen Murray’s equaliser then a last-gasp Sammy Clingan penalty kick to complete a 2-1 turnaround.

Coleraine boss Rodney McAree. Pic by Pacemaker.

Coleraine boss Rodney McAree. Pic by Pacemaker.

It marked the perfect start to the Danske Bank Premiership post-split programme as Glenavon now sit just a single point behind the Crues in contention for a third-place finish.

Coleraine will provide the weekend test at Mourneview Park for Hamilton and the Glenavon manager cites increased confidence from the circumstances behind the Crusaders result alongside a four-game haul of maximum points.

“The split gives you a challenge each week against teams around or above you, so it demands a real team effort otherwise you simply cannot expect to win games at this point of the season,” said Hamilton. “Even on the sidelines on Saturday I always felt we would get something from the game, certainly score a goal.

“Over the past few games you can see us produce, not just as individuals but as a team, with that never-say-die attitude.

“We can go right to the end and Saturday showed that but, to be honest, I would not have said the same a few months ago.”

Off-the-field preparations for the Crues game were disrupted by Paul Millar’s midweek exit as assistant manager - with Hamilton immediately turning internally to promote Andy Mathieson alongside bringing Kyle Neill back to the club.

“I had a close friendship and working relationship with Paul on and off the field and it is not about replacing a character like that but I wanted to bring in people I could trust and respect,” said Hamilton. “We want to develop a pathway across the club of not just players but coaching staff, so someone like Andy is a familiar face around the first-team players.

“Kyle has also enjoyed a wonderful career, including his successful time as a Glenavon player, so will add an important voice to the changing room.

“It is important we have that integration across all areas of the club.”

Bannsiders boss Rodney McAree is aiming to improve on a Coleraine return of a single point from this season’s three previous meetings with Glenavon.

“Hopefully we can put that right,” said McAree. “We won’t dwell on previous results against Glenavon.

“We certainly didn’t do well enough in the first home and away games against them, but I think we have to go there with the belief that we can get a win.

“We have to try and win all of our games before the play-off.

“We have four games left before the European play-offs and I’ll take great confidence from how we played going forward.

“We have to make sure we get bodies back so we have as many bodies available as possible.

“If we keep turning in performances going forward and tighten up at the back, I think we will give ourselves a chance.

“We will go into the play-offs with the full belief that we can beat any team who is going to be in it.”