Glentoran in need of Euro boost
Glentoran manager Eddie Patterson believes the influence of Stephen McAlorum can help get his team back on track.
The east-Belfast boys have faltered at a crucial time, having lost their last two games to Glenavon and Linfield.
Those defeats have put a huge dent in their European qualification hopes.
Glentoran are now a massive six points adrift of Cliftonville, Portadown and Glenavon, who are all chasing the lucrative Euro cash.
It is perhaps no surprise that McAlorum, who is out of contract at the end of the season, missed the last two games due to suspension. But he returns to the team for what is potentially a pot boiler against Ronnie McFall's Ports at the Oval tomorrow.
"McAlorum is such an important player for us," said Patterson. "We missed his bite in midfield, both at Mourneview Park and again in midweek against Linfield.
"We also missed the experience of Curtis Allen and Barry Holland.
"Thankfully, Mackers is now back after his ban, but Curtis must sit out one more match. Barry sustained a back injury against Glenavon last weekend and is still struggling. Marcus Kane has been down with a virus all week and I don't think he will make it."
Patterson admits his team simply can't afford to drop any more points against Portadown, even though the Glens still have another possible avenue to Europe in the form of the May 2 Irish Cup final - ironically also against McFall's side.
"The result did damage to our European ambitions, there is no question about that," he added.
"There is no one more disappointed than the boys in the dressing room. They have worked tirelessly all year. We were not able to strengthen the squad in January and I think that perhaps has taken its toll, especially when you are hit with a few suspensions and injuries.
"Unfortunately, we never turned up for the second half against Linfield."
Rhys Marshall has signed a new deal at Glenavon which will keep him at the club for a further three years.
Meanwhile, Glenavon's starlets will take on Linfield Rangers in the Harry Cavan IFA Youth Cup final at Mourneview Park tonight.
Kick-off is at 7.30pm and admission is £5 for adults and £2 concession.