Belfast Telegraph

Glenavon can seal club record with win at Ballymena as battle for second spot goes on

European push: Gary Hamilton’s Glenavon can close the gap on Ballymena with victory tonight
European push: Gary Hamilton’s Glenavon can close the gap on Ballymena with victory tonight

By Alex Mills

Glenavon boss Gary Hamilton has urged his players to write themselves into the record books when they face Ballymena United at the Showgrounds in a crucial league encounter tonight.

If the Lurgan Blues manage to clinch the win they crave, they'll not only pull within two points of David Jeffrey's boys in the Danske Bank Premiership table but will reach their highest ever points total.

Hamilton's team certainly sent out a message of intent with a blistering display against newly crowned champions Linfield at Windsor Park on Saturday by racking up a thumping four-goal victory.

Although Blues boss David Healy made six changes to his team, Glenavon simply swatted away their challenge with a display of power and panache - garnished with three goal of the season contenders from Robert Garrett, Conor McCloskey and Eoin Wearen.

The Lurgan lads still have aspirations of claiming the runners-up place and would dearly love to take their challenge to the final day of the campaign on Saturday.

To do that, they must leave Warden Street with three points tonight.

"The boys did really well at the weekend and are now only three points away from our highest ever tally," said Hamilton.

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"It's ironic to think that if we achieve that, we still mightn't get an automatic European spot.

"At this minute in time, it's still a long way off but, while it's mathematically possible, we will do everything in our power to make it happen. The boys looked after themselves over the weekend.

"We'll go to Ballymena to try and win the match to see where it takes us.

"It's not going to be easy. Ballymena got a great result against Coleraine at the weekend to maintain their five-point lead over us.

"But if we can put in a performance anywhere close to the level we did at Windsor Park, then we stand a chance of beating any team in this league.

"The bottom line is Ballymena are still in the driving seat for runners-up position - it's all about putting pressure on them now.

"It will perhaps take a miracle of getting into second place. All we can do is to go there and try to win the game, which would take it to the last match of the season.

"You never know what happens in football - stranger things have happened.

"First and foremost, we need to win the game - the last match will not matter of we can't achieve that."

Hamilton was oozing with pride following his team's performance on the day Linfield were presented with the Irish League title.

He added: "We'll show Ballymena the same respect we showed Linfield. If I can get another eleven performances similar to Saturday, then we stand a chance.

"It was a big day for Linfield, being presented with the trophy and that, we knew there would be a bigger crowed and there would be a good atmosphere about the place.

"I thought our boys were terrific. I would say it was one of best performances of the season.

"Don't get me wrong. I know it probably wasn't the Linfield team that won the league - there was a lot of changes to the side, which included guys who haven't had a run of games or a long time.

"But there was still a lot of quality of the team, which made it an unbelievable result for us.

"I was proud of every player that took part. Some of the football that led to our goals was top notch, it was excellent.

"It was like our very own goal of the season contest."

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