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Crusaders will hit us for six if Glenavon don't deliver: Hamilton

By Adrian Rutherford

Gary Hamilton fears Glenavon will be on the end of a hammering unless they up their game against Crusaders.

The Lurgan Blues were sent crashing out of the Tennent's Irish Cup by Championship side Loughgall at the weekend.

Tonight they will be aiming to get back on track as two of the top three in the Danske Bank Premiership meet at Mourneview Park.

A win for Stephen Baxter's side would see them move five points clear at the summit, but it is also an important game for Glenavon, who know they need a response after the cup debacle.

Hamilton believes it is the perfect game for his squad to shake off Saturday's woes - but also recognises that they need a vastly-improved display.

"The good thing for the boys is that it's Tuesday night - they don't have to wait too long to get that performance out of their system," he said.

"But we really need to lift our standards in terms of what we did on Saturday and how we played on Saturday.

"If we don't, and if we play like that - and I'm not exaggerating - it will be six or seven to Crusaders.

"There is no way Crusaders will get beaten by a team playing like we did on Saturday."

Before the weekend cup shock, Glenavon had been the league's in-form team.

They hadn't lost in 2018, beating Linfield twice and drawing at Coleraine. But they crumbled against Loughgall, ending their dreams of an eighth Irish Cup. For Hamilton, it's all about the response.

"That is the test for the boys now - they have to go out and show a bit of regret in their performance and to show we're not as bad as what we showed on Saturday," he added.

"We need a good, positive result, or at least a positive performance again.

"I never criticise anybody if they go out and work their socks off and show the right attitude and desire, and maybe you get beaten by a lucky goal or a team who take their chances more so than you do.

"On Saturday we didn't do that, and that's what let us down as coaching staff. We expect a lot higher standards than Saturday."

Crusaders, who are back in action after a 10-day break, will be aiming to extend their lead at the top.

Paul Heatley returns to the squad after suspension, although Darren Murray serves the rest of his ban.

Both meetings between the sides this season have been high-scoring affairs.

Glenavon won 3-2 at Seaview in October with Crusaders claiming a 4-3 victory in the reverse at Mourneview Park in December.

With just nine matches left, Baxter admits each one is gaining more importance.

"There is so much to play for and each game is taking on a bigger context and every point becomes so valuable," he said.

"We can open a bit of a gap, but it's not something I look very closely at. Whatever the result, it's not going to decide anything. There's still a long way to go."

Baxter was at Windsor Park to see Glenavon beat Linfield last Tuesday night, and is expecting a response after Saturday's cup shock.

"I think so, it's natural that if you have a poor result that there will be a bit of a backlash," he added. "These things happen in football. I saw them play Linfield and they are an excellent side.

"We've seen that already in the games between the sides this season, and we know we will have to be at our best on Tuesday night."

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