Belfast Telegraph

'Hats off to Ballymena': Gary Hamilton salutes Jeffrey's men while Glenavon focus on European play-offs


Clear aim: Gary Hamilton is urging Glenavon to reach Europe through the play-offs
Clear aim: Gary Hamilton is urging Glenavon to reach Europe through the play-offs
Adam McKendry

By Adam McKendry

With the final whistle at the Ballymena Showgrounds on Tuesday night, Glenavon's hopes of finishing second in the Danske Bank Premiership ended.

It was always going to be a tough ask to do so anyway, what with five points separating themselves and Ballymena United and a trip to Warden Street needing to yield nothing less than three points.

Instead, Shane McGinty's late strike inflicted a 4-3 defeat on the Lurgan Blues and brought down the curtain on their hopes of finishing in the top two.

They gave it their all in what was a titanic tussle, and had James Singleton's headed effort stood rather than dubiously being chalked out for offside then things could have been very different in a game that could have gone either way.

Glenavon boss Gary Hamilton said after Tuesday's defeat: "I thought we did enough to get something from the game.

"We knew it was going to be an uphill task to finish second anyway, and if we were to do that then we'd have to win here tonight and we didn't.

"So, hats off to Ballymena, it's been an unbelievable season and to finish second is an incredible achievement considering the likes of Crusaders and their finances.

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"I have to pay credit to my boys as well, over the last few weeks we've got a few big results to put ourselves in the position where we mathematically had a chance.

"But, as I said, it wasn't to be tonight."

Third place is still very much the Lurgan Blues' to lose after what was, on the whole, not a terrible Tuesday night as nearest challengers Crusaders and Cliftonville also dropped points elsewhere, and victory over the Reds at Mourneview Park on Saturday in their final league game would secure third spot.

That would guarantee Glenavon home advantage in the play-offs for the final place in the Europa League, and that's the only goal that the manager is concentrating on.

"We would obviously love to secure third spot, but let's call a spade a spade now, the only thing that gets us European football is winning the play-offs and our sole focus and concentration has to go into those play-offs," he insisted.

"If we get the result on Saturday to get us into third then even better, but if not, then at the end of the day we have to focus on the next two games after that."

There is something else on the line for Glenavon in their final game as opposed to just needing the win to hold off Crusaders and finish third, as should they pick up the victory then they would set a club record for the most points in a season, even though it would only be good enough to make them top seeds in the European play-offs.

While that may put an asterisk beside the achievement somewhat, it is still a sizeable incentive for Hamilton and his side, although he does admit it's a bit of a frustration as well.

"If somebody had said to me at the start of the season that we'd be in the position we're in now then I'd have thought we'd have stood a great chance to be in European football, but the league has been so strong this year," he said.

"If we can get that win on Saturday then it'd be a great achievement points-wise, but our main objective is to secure European football."

Belfast Telegraph


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