Belfast Telegraph

Mark Patton targeting a repeat of his 2014 Cup heroics

By Stuart McKinley

If Glenavon manager Gary Hamilton is looking for a lucky Irish Cup omen ahead of tonight's semi-final clash with Crusaders, he doesn't have to search too far - there is one right under his nose.

Not only did winger Mark Patton jump off the bench to score against the Crues in the last-four this time two years ago, he went one better than that by coming on to net the winner in the final against Ballymena United, thus ending a 16-year trophy famine for the Lurgan Blues.

While the club has been on the rise since then, things haven't quite been the same for Patton.

The 26-year-old Lisburn lad is hungry to turn around what has, by his own admission, been a disappointing season, with only four league starts to his name and there would be no better time to do that than on the big stage at Windsor Park.

"I hope that I can do what I did two years ago over again," said Patton.

"It's history repeating itself with us playing Crusaders again and I'd love to get the winner again and get us into another final.

"It just depends on whether I get onto the pitch or not.

"It has been a frustrating year for me. I haven't had as much playing time as I would have liked, but that's football and a lot of players get periods like that."

Patton has, however, got back into the starting line-up at just the right time.

Last Saturday's 1-0 win at Coleraine was his first league start since October after coming off the bench in the previous three league matches.

"I got my chance at Coleraine because Joel Cooper was away with the Northern Ireland Under-21s. I felt fit enough, I was happy with my performance and we won the game," said Patton.

"I hope that I proved a few people wrong and that I can push on now and finish the season strongly.

"It's up to the manager though whether he decides to change a winning team or not.

"Joel and Mark Sykes are both back after international duty, Andrew Kilmartin is back from suspension too - I just hope that I have given him a decision to make."

The return of those three, who consistently figured in the starting line-up this season, is tempered by the loss of captain Kris Lindsay.

His red card was the one blemish on last weekend's victory over the Bannsiders and with Eoin Bradley still sitting out a six-match ban for a previous sending off against the Crues, it means Hamilton is without two of his most important players for Glenavon's biggest game of the season so far.

"Kris is an excellent player and a great leader on the pitch," said Patton.

"He's the type who puts his head where others wouldn't think of putting their feet - which has probably contributed to some of the injury problems he's had in the past.

"He'll be a big loss to us with the presence that he bring to the team, but we've Conor Dillon in there and Dave Elbert to come in, so we've a bit of cover there."

The Cup-winning high lasted for quite a while at Mourneview Park. Finishing third in last season's title race brought further excitement in Lurgan and Patton believes that the current squad has still to fulfil its potential.

"The manager has said that he wants to try to get better year on year and we are trying to make that happen," said Patton.

"We are fighting to finish second in the league and we are in with a chance of a trophy and with a young squad and strength in depth, we can hopefully keep going and achieve more in the future."

Cliftonville will attempt to close the gap on Glenavon in the Danske Bank Premiership to two points when they face Ballymena United at the Showgrounds tomrrow afternoon (3pm) in a rearranged game.

Belfast Telegraph


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