Belfast Telegraph

Glenavon can handle the big-match heat, says Singleton

 

By Graham Luney

James Singleton hopes Glenavon's big-game mentality reaps rich reward in tonight's Europa League play-off final.

The Lurgan Blues must taste victory at the Ballymena Showgrounds to take their continental adventures into a fourth year in a row.

Both sides won their semi-finals by going goal crazy with the Sky Blues seeing off Dungannon Swifts 5-2 on Tuesday while the Mourneview Park aces triumphed 5-3 at Cliftonville.

Fans will be expecting plenty of goalmouth action this evening (7.45pm) and with a £200,000 reward accompanying a Europa League qualyifying spot, the stakes are high.

Singleton knows there will be tension in the air at Warden Street but he believes the visitors' big-game experience could be crucial.

"The game has massive financial implications for both clubs and we are all well aware of that," said Singleton who was one of five different scorers against the Reds.

"There is pressure but we have been involved in big games over the last few seasons, from Cup finals to semi-finals and also playing in Europe. We'll be treating this one just like another big game and hopefully that mentality will be crucial," he added.

"We had an Irish Cup semi-final at the Ballymena Showgrounds this season which we unfortunately lost but we can rise to the occasion and I don't believe there will be too many nerves around.

"Ballymena have done very well under David Jeffrey this season and he has got them ticking.

"You don't want to miss out on the European funding because it will affect the squad and limit the manager's options.

"If not as much money is coming in then contracts may not be renewed or not as many players may come in, it's the way football operates."

There has been criticism of the playing surface at the Showgrounds. "The pitch is a bit bobbly, but our own pitch is not in a great condition either so we are well used to a surface like that," he added.

"You have to get on with it and it's important we qualify for Europe for four years in a row."

• Crusaders have announced that midfielder Michael Gault has left the club.

Meanwhile, Warrenpoint Town have made four signings ahead of their return to the Premiership.

Matty Parker and Sean Mackle join from Portadown, Luke Fisher moves from Glenavon, while Darius Roohi also makes the switch from PSNI.

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