COMMENT: Gary Hamilton’s on-pitch presence at heart of home help for revitalised Glenavon
Glenavon player/manager Gary Hamilton spent 70 minutes at the heart of the hosts’ spirited performance on Saturday night that defied the fact his appearance only arrived due to alternative options ruled out by lack of fitness or form.
Ultimately, the Lurgan Blues managed to deliver despite lacking confidence based on past results and a line-up disrupted by current injury woes.
It’s rare that a last-gasp equaliser evokes muted celebrations from the scorers and fails to significantly damage the delight of the suffering side.
But when Paul McElroy touched the ball over the line in the closing seconds of the 2-2 draw at Mourneview Park it appeared more a case of two points dropped than one gained for Crusaders.
The immediate pain of victory slipping away for Glenavon subsided to be replaced by the realisation that a panel stretched by a lengthy injury list managed to test a squad with Crusaders’ strength over 90-plus minutes before falling short in the final moments.
And alongside the inevitable aches and pains expected by Hamilton over this week from his rare top-flight Irish League appearance at 39 years old, he will draw comfort from the display delivered by the other 13 players called on.
Hamilton’s playing career often featured moments of individual brilliance that set the striker apart from his peers.
His managerial career has often been defined by an ability to galvanise the collective and maximise the team-before-self ethos.
Those strengths were on show on Saturday as he encouraged and engineered a team performance against one of the title favourites that offered, at best, free-flowing football with pace and energy thanks to a freedom of pressure irrespective of Glenavon’s struggles this season for consistency.
Now the challenge is to use the momentum from an upturn in matchday levels and transfer the positivity of Saturday’s improved performance into improved points to go along with the weekend plaudits.