Belfast Telegraph

Glenavon keen to reel in rivals and stamp passport for Europe: Stephen Murray

Pointing way: Stephen Murray is hoping to embark on a run
Pointing way: Stephen Murray is hoping to embark on a run

By Alex Mills

Striker Stephen Murray insists Glenavon still have eyes on an automatic European qualification place - but must start piling on points if they are to realise their dream.

Gary Hamilton's boys' inconsistency has left them playing catch-up as the top three clubs in the Danske Bank Premiership - Linfield, Ballymena United and Crusaders - have cut loose from the chasing pack.

The Lurgan Blues, however, have the chance to get back on track today when they face basement side Ards at Mourneview Park - a team that has won three of their 27 league starts.

Incredibly, Glenavon's last league win was back on December 14, when they enjoyed a thumping 4-0 success against Coleraine at Mourneview Park.

Murray admits it's vital for his team to change the trend.

"Consistency has been a problem," he said. "Some of our performances haven't been bad, but we haven't got the result we deserved on occasions.

"There have been a lot of draws in there and that's the problem. It's similar to last season. We have fallen nine points below third-placed Crusaders, but there are still a lot of games left, so we must believe they can be reeled in for that automatic European qualifying place.

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"It's surprising how quickly you can climb the table if you get a run going."

Glenavon claimed a creditable 1-1 draw with Cliftonville at Solitude last time out, last week's Irish Cup game with Dungannon Swifts called off because of a frozen pitch. Murray, who hit his team's equaliser on that occasion, insists his boys must build on that result.

"I was actually looking forward to the Irish Cup game, which is always something different," he added. "Although the sun came out in the afternoon, there was a part of the ground that was still under the shadow of the stand and it was still hard, so the referee had no option.

"We had a good result against the Reds, a game we perhaps should have won, so it's crucial we start picking up three points.

"We'll show Ards the respect they deserve. They are fighting for their lives so it won't be easy, but we must focus - it's our priority to get three points."

Murray believes the team has also been affected with the comings and goings in the January transfer window. Probably two of the biggest losses were midfield duo Mark Sykes and Ben Doherty, while the influential Sammy Clingan has missed a chunk of the season because of injury.

"There have been a lot of changes," he added. "Any team would feel the pinch after losing a boy likes Syksie, while Ben made an enormous contribution.

"Dylan King, Niall Grace and Gary Muir also departed recently, but the gaffer has bought well by bringing Robert Garrett to the club along with Seamus Sharkey and Eoin Wearen, while Cameron Stewart has arrived on loan.

"Hopefully, they will help get us back up and running again."

Belfast Telegraph


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