Glentoran boss Mick McDermott admits the race for the Gibson Cup is on and, as ever, the Christmas fixtures will go a long way to sorting out the contenders from the also-rans.
With games against Coleraine and Larne either side of the traditional festive derby dust-up with Linfield on the holiday period horizon, the Glens have three huge matches ahead but McDermott is only concentrating on tonight’s home clash against Glenavon where three points could take them top of the Danske Bank Premiership table.
With league leaders Cliftonville and defending champions Linfield both dropping points last weekend, the Glens moved level with the Blues and are just two points off the top with a game in hand over the Reds.
“Since I’ve been here, our games against Glenavon have generally been pretty tight with little between the teams,” said McDermott.
“They had an excellent win over Coleraine last week and already this season we’ve had a couple of close matches with them at Mourneview which we managed to win.
“But they have a good squad of players and are always capable of frustrating teams higher up the table. But with our current run of form, we can go into this one in a very positive frame of mind.”
That run of form started with a 2-1 victory over the Lurgan Blues at the start of October, since when they have won seven and drawn three of their Premiership fixtures.
McDerrmott will be able to call on Robbie McDaid tonight as the Glens successfully appealed the red card he received just three minutes after coming on as substitute at Carrick last weekend, and the manager is looking forward to having a full squad to choose from in the near future.
“The couple of medical problems in the last few weeks have been resolved so apart from the long term injuries — Luke McCullough has a cruciate ligament tear and Ciaran O’Connor is out with a fractured foot — everyone should be available by the end of the month so we can hit the second part of the season. But we have to get through the next couple of weeks first.”
To that end, McDermott is pleased with the Christmas schedule this year which he hopes can help his side continue their unbeaten run.
“It’s not such a hectic calendar as normal,” he added.
"Last year, I think we had four games in 11 days, this year the games are on the 22nd, 27th and first so more spread out, better for the players, better for their health and well being.”