IRISH LEAGUE: Glenavon manager Gary Hamilton believes Crusaders will be hard to stop this season

Crusaders winger Paul Heatley takes on the Glenavon defence
Crusaders winger Paul Heatley takes on the Glenavon defence

Glenavon boss Gary Hamilton believes it’s going to take something special to prevent Crusaders retaining their Danske Bank Premiership title, WRITES ALEX MILLS.

Seaview hasn’t been a happy hunting ground for Hamilton’s team of late – they’ve now won only once in their last 12 visits to north Belfast.

Paul Heatley’s early goal guaranteed Stephen Baxter’s team the three points that took them level with Linfield at the top of the table.

It really could have been more only for an inspirational goalkeeping display from Jonny Tuffey.

And, when the chances arrived at the other end, Glenavon failed miserably, particularly the usually lethal Eoin Bradley, who will have nightmares over a glaring miss midway through the second half.

“It was a strange game in many ways,” said Hamilton. “Crusaders dominated the first half hour or so. Big Jordan Owens was winning everything. There is no defender in the league that can beat the big man in the air... and Heatley plays off the scraps. It is very difficult to defend against.

“The system works for Crusaders. They won a league title with it. And, if they keep playing like that, they’ll probably win it again.

“I believe you should play to a style that wins you games and gets results – that’s what they do, especially on their synthetic surface.”

Hamilton, however, wasn’t totally disappointed with his team’s efforts.

He added: “I thought we came back into the game over the last 15 minutes of the first half. And, we kept that going after the break. We had a lot of great deliveries from set pieces into decent areas, but we had no one with the conviction to get on the end of any of them.

“Skinner (Bradley) was through on a one-on-one with their keeper, but he pushed his shot wide... he normally sticks those away.

“By the same token, Jonny (Tuffey) made a few brilliant saves late on. I was happy enough with the performance of our boys. I felt we done enough in term of possession, to warrant a draw at least.”

Crusaders manager Stephen Baxter insisted it was a vital three points against a side that is sure to be among the leaders further down the line.

“It’s all very tight at the moment and that’s the way it will be,” he said. “We are all jockeying for position. Cliftonville, Coleraine, Glenavon, Linfield and ourselves are all in there.

“There are going to be other teams trying to push in to make sure they in touch come Christmas time – and then kick on from there.

“Nothing is ever taken for granted. You have got to work hard no matter who you play in this league. For me, that brings good value for money and good entertainment.”