Belfast Telegraph

Ports' recent displays are a timely warning for Lurgan Blues, says Hall

By Steven Beacom

Glenavon's Andy Hall believes form counts for nothing in a Mid Ulster derby - especially when there's a cherished Irish Cup semi-final spot up for grabs.

The Lurgan Blues will tomorrow carry the favourites tag when they clash with neighbours Portadown in an intriguing last-eight dust-up at Shamrock Park.

Gary Hamilton's Cup holders are sitting comfortably in the Danske Bank Premiership's top six, whereas the ailing Ports are facing the prospect of falling through the relegation trap door as they have been cut adrift by 11 points at the bottom with only eight games remaining.

A return to the Championship appears more of a probability than a possibility.

But after holding the league's top two teams - Crusaders and Linfield - in their last two games, Niall Currie and co can smell Glenavon blood and Hall insists the Lurgan Blues will not be fooled.

"Portadown have proved with recent results that they are a match for any team in the league," said Hall.

"Yes, we'll probably go into the match as favourites, but anything can happen in a derby match - form can totally go out of the window, especially in a game as important as this one.

"There is local pride up for grabs and derby games always bring out a lot of extra passion and commitment, adding to the special atmosphere.

"I suppose no one would have given Portadown any hope in their last two matches, but they matched both Linfield and Crusaders, so that shows what they are capable of and we will show them the respect they deserve."

Hall has great memories of last season's final against Linfield, scoring one of the goals in his team's 2-0 victory.

"We were under the cosh for the first 10 minutes or so, but we really dominated the match after that - we were worthy winners," said the former Bangor man.

"When you are on top you have to make it count by putting the ball in the net, Linfield failed to do that. Once we took over, there was always going to be one winner."

The midfielder admits Glenavon must improve on last week's showing against lowly Carrick Rangers if they are to progress.

"It was hardly ideal preparation," he said. "Our problem this season has been consistency. Although we are only a few points away from guaranteeing a place in the top six, we have given away too many cheap points.

"We have kept four clean sheets in our last four matches, but have failed to put away teams at the other end - and that was evident against Carrick.

"With all due respect to them, we have to be beating teams in their position."

Hall also shrugs off the suggestion that extra pressure will be piled on due to the fact that the Lurgan Blues are the current Cup holders.

"We want to win the Cup again - that's the bottom line," he added. "We've a few players who have sampled double cup wins against Ballymena United and again last season. They want to do it again.

"It's a matter of chalking off the matches. We are now only two games away from the final, so we'll not be taking our eye off the ball."

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