Belfast Telegraph

No end in sight for Glenavon's injury woes ahead of mammoth cup tie, says Hamilton

 

Big match: Glenavon boss Gary Hamilton must prepare for visit of high-flying Coleraine
Big match: Glenavon boss Gary Hamilton must prepare for visit of high-flying Coleraine

By Conor McLaughlin

Gary Hamilton admits Glenavon's walking wounded may have to be patched up for another mission when his side host Coleraine in the Irish Cup tomorrow.

In the depths of a testing campaign that has seen the Lurgan Blues slugging it out in the bottom half of the Danske Bank Premiership while contending with an ever-growing injury list, it goes without saying that Hamilton could have done without a fifth round date against one of the league's big hitters.

Rather than the virtual formality of progress at the expense of an eager minnow, Glenavon must instead begin their quest for a third Irish Cup in six years the hard way when they welcome Coleraine to Mourneview Park - a task that will be made all the more strenuous by the absence of some key performers.

Dependable full-back James Singleton was forced off with a groin injury in the New Year's Day defeat to Cliftonville, while striker Stephen Murray likewise made an early exit from the action.

While Hamilton has already been busy in the transfer market with the acquisitions of ex-Glentoran attacking duo Dylan Davidson and Danny Purkis, as well as veteran wide player Conan Byrne alongside the return of former Mourneview striker Greg Moorhouse, he admits that the constant chopping and changing of his defence has contributed to the league form that leaves his men chasing an eight-point deficit to secure a top-six finish.

"It's been the story of our season where it's been one player after another who's been out," he says.

"At one stage, all four of our centre-halves were injured and you're having to ask people to fill in and do a job and we were trying to just patch things up from one game to the next.

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"Seamus Sharkey has been out since the last time we played Cliftonville and he's come in and had to play two games in a few days which isn't ideal, then on top of that we lose Singy to a groin.

"When we've had bodies back over the last few weeks, we've looked more like ourselves and had some better results.

"We've not been taking the chances that have been created but you could see the improvement in our performances and that's what we'll be looking to continue against Coleraine."

The return of Moorhouse - who found the net 15 times in 31 starts for the Lurgan Blues in his previous stint at the club during the 2016/17 campaign - should help address Glenavon's inability to put the ball in the net with any regularity, but it's at the back that Hamilton hopes his men will be able to hold firm against a Bannsiders outfit that has plundered eight goals without reply in the sides' two prior meetings this term.

"It's a massive game for us and one of the hardest we could have got in the fifth round but we have to take it on and do the best we can to make it past Coleraine and into the next round," adds the Lurgan Blues chief.

"At this stage of the competition, you're usually looking for a home draw - which we got - against a team from a lower division, but we certainly didn't get that.

"It was always going to be tough and we'd hoped we were seeing some light at the end of the tunnel with all the injuries we've had, but then we lost James Singleton to a groin injury against Cliftonville on New Year's Day and Stephen Murray had to come off as well.

"We're just not getting any luck on that front at the minute and it's never ideal asking people to go in and do a job just to get you through a game, but that's where we've been for a long time now.

"The encouragement we can take is that we've looked better over the last few weeks and hopefully we can continue that for this game."

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