Belfast Telegraph

Glenavon can weather the storm and kick ahead: Tuffey

By Graham Luney

Jonny Tuffey believes Glenavon can weather the storm sparked by a heavy suspension for their lethal frontman Eoin Bradley.

Bradley must serve a six-game ban, on top of the suspension for tomorrow's trip to Linfield, following an alleged head-butting offence in a match against Crusaders.

Referee Raymond Hetherington showed the 32-year-old a straight red card after a clash with Crues skipper Colin Coates.

The Derry GAA star has scored 17 Premiership goals this season and only Linfield's Andy Waterworth (19) has netted more.

Bradley will miss the Irish Cup quarter-final clash against Loughgall as well as big league battles as the Mourneview Park men eye a top three finish.

Keeper Tuffey admits Bradley's ban is a massive blow to the Lurgan Blues but he still believes his side can maintain their stunning form.

Since losing 1-0 at Crusaders in October, Gary Hamilton's side have only been defeated twice in 15 league outings - with Glentoran inflicting the damage on both occasions.

"It's a disappointing outcome for us and for Eoin who has been nothing short of sensational for us," said the eight-times capped Northern Ireland international.

"His goal-scoring form has been fantastic and he will be a big miss, a massive loss.

"But if you want to look at it in a positive way, there is an opportunity for other boys to step up and deliver.

"Kevin Braniff is a class act, Daniel Kearns can play through the middle, Gary Hamilton can feature or Declan Fabio O'Brien can perform. You have a squad so players can be rotated and we still have strikers who can hurt teams.

"I thought Eoin was very unfortunate. I didn't see what happened but obviously two big lads came together, the referee has made a decision and we must respect it.

"The six-game ban for the alleged head-butt comes at a crucial time of the season and you never want to lose a player of that quality. I'm gutted for him, he's devastated but I'm sure he will return with a real determination to impress and we can't dwell on it for long. We must be professional and be up for the challenges ahead."

The challenges don't come much tougher than a title-chasing Linfield side at Windsor Park and although the Blues trail leaders Crusaders by seven points - the champions also have a game in hand - Tuffey doesn't expect his former employers to throw in the towel.

"The feeling within their camp is that they must win every game and you expect that to be their mentality," added the 29-year-old.

"Linfield have bags of experience and David Healy has strengthened the squad. The results show they are much stronger and well equipped to challenge until the end.

"They won't give up on the title until it is mathematically impossible. Linfield will not believe it's all over but if Crusaders can win their game in hand and go 10 points clear there is no doubt it will be a significant gap and the Crues are looking strong.

"Having points on the board is always better than the games in hand but the Crues are in the driving seat and they are a fantastic outfit."

Glenavon lie in fourth spot, only a point behind Cliftonville, though the Reds have played a game less.

The former Partick Thistle stopper added: "We have the top three in our sights but it's been important to stay realistic as well as we suffered a little slap back down when we lost to the Glens.

"It was important that we regrouped and got the win against Portadown but there are areas where we can improve."

Belfast Telegraph


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