Lurgan Blues ace hopes his side can deliver League Cup knockout blow
Mark Stafford believes all the pressure will be on Glentoran when they face Glenavon at Mourneview Park in tonight’s BetMcLean League Cup clash.
Former Linfield hero Stafford, who has one League Cup winner’s medal, knows all about the expectation levels and pressure at the Big Two.
The sides met at Mourneview Park earlier this month with the visitors running out 2-1 winners.
Jay Donnelly hit the winning goal from the penalty spot after Matthew Fitzpatrick had cancelled out Luke McCullough’s early opener.
While only a few teams hope to challenge for the Premiership title – including the Glens – the Cup competitions offer sides like Glenavon a chance to snatch silverware.
“The pressure is on Glentoran to get a result against us,” said Stafford.
“They are going into the game as favourites and I know that can be uncomfortable, especially when you don’t get off to a good start.
“But they have experienced players and this is nothing new to them. They face these challenges most weeks.
“We have to make their jobs tough and be hard to beat. You want to frustrate them and their supporters.
“The Cup competitions are a real opportunity to win silverware though we do have a tough draw against Glentoran.
“Hopefully the players can do a good job and get us into the next round.
“Saturday is another massive game against Dungannon, we want the three points in that one so we have a lot to think about.
“The Glens have a very good squad of talented players. Against us they huffed and puffed a bit. They had a lot of the ball but didn’t get many shots away.
“They controlled much of the game but we also caused them problems and it’s about ourselves having more belief. They are a fantastic team and it will be a massive challenge for us.”
Former Ballinamallard United captain Stafford may be rested for tonight’s clash as his knee needs to managed well following an operation in the summer.
In the scoreless draw at Coleraine on Friday night, the 34-year-old was immense but he accepts there is plenty of room for improvement this season.
“The season hasn’t went as well as we would have liked,” he admitted.
“We should have more points on the board. It’s been below average for the players we have.
“We can play a lot better but that’s the Irish League. You need to put the ball in the net and keep it out at the other end.
“Against Linfield and Coleraine we had encouraging results so we know what we are capable of. Hopefully, we will improve.”
On the race for the Gibson Cup, Stafford still views Linfield as the team to beat.
“I definitely do fancy Linfield for the title,” he added.
“They have strength in depth all over the pitch and they can do business in January. They have signed really well and the players have been there and done it. They are professional Irish League players.”
Meanwhile, Glenavon have been issued a fine of £200 for letting off a flare towards the end of opening game of the season away to Portadown.
The club stated: “Whilst there were no searchers on duty on the day of the game, this is still an unnecessary expense incurred by the Club, and in the current economic climate the Club would strongly discourage any repeat of this incident.”