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Linfield are favourites for third spot, says Glenavon boss

Glenavon 0 Ballymena United 0

By Billy Weir

Gary Hamilton says that anyone who thinks Glenavon are in the box-seat for the sought-after third position in the Danske Bank Premiership is 'delusional'.

The Glenavon boss goes into the last day of action next week with a one-point advantage over Linfield after Saturday's dramatic results thanks to a frustrating scoreless draw against Ballymena.

It means they remain a point ahead of Linfield in the battle for third, which will offer guaranteed European football if Coleraine win the Irish Cup.

If they don't, then it is into the uncertainty of the play-offs, and with the title-chasing Bannsiders coming to Mourneview Park on the final day, Hamilton insists that Linfield are favourites as they take on a Cliftonville side with one eye on that Irish Cup decider.

"We know that Linfield won't get beaten by Cliftonville next week because at the end of the day Cliftonville's got an Irish Cup final at stake, it's their only route into Europe and they want to win a trophy," said Hamilton.

"Linfield will beat Cliftonville next week, that's a given. The situation is we have a very, very difficult game against Coleraine who, after today's result, can still win the league.

"They've only been beaten once all year so for anyone to say it's in our own hands is delusional. It's a massive game, there will be a full house here. We're third at the minute but the pull is probably with Linfield because we know they'll take three points against Cliftonville next week, and that's not being disrespectful.

"It's to be expected with an Irish Cup final the following week players won't put it in as much, they'll be worried about suspensions, injuries. It's human nature."

Whetever happens, Glenavon will need to be much more ruthless in front of goal and rely on big decisions going their way, which was not the case on Saturday, where the major talking point was a 48th-minute penalty shout.

Rhys Marshall's driven cross into the box appeared to strike the hand of United defender Johnny Flynn and, while most of the ground waited for referee Arnold Hunter to point to the spot, the official waved play on.

"It's massive money to finish third, and I'd rather come away and say we didn't take our chances and we didn't do this and that, but you rely on decisions, big decisions in games," Hamilton fumed.

As for the Sky Blues, it was an end to a run of three defeats since the split but, with an eye on the play-offs, David Jeffrey juggled his squad to give returning players much-needed game time and handed a debut to former Spurs keeper Tom McDermott.

"We're trying to maximise or optimise the squad at the moment in terms of minutes on the pitch and in terms of options, and that's why young Thomas McDermott came in and I thought he was absolutely superb," said Jeffrey.

Glenavon: Tuffey, Marshall, Burns, Kelly, Doyle, McGrory (Hall, 60 mins) Sykes, Clingan (Daniels, 70 mins), Mitchell, Murray (Griffin, 74 mins), Cooper. Unused subs: Marron, Norton.

Ballymena United: McDermott, Ervin, Quigley, Owens, Flynn, Balmer, McCaffrey (Faulkner, 71 mins), McAlorum (McKinney, 82 mins), Shevlin, Braniff (McCloskey 70, mins), Millar. Unused subs: Glendinning, Nolan.

Referee: Arnold Hunter; Rating: 6/10

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