Glenavon blueprint for beating the Blues can now fire forward European ambition
Glenavon kicked off on Saturday evening aware of falling short in the season-long pursuit of a top-six finish - then turned that frustration into one of the campaign highlights by beating defending champions Linfield.
The change in emotion over the span of one of the side’s most impressive 90 minutes had Glenavon boss Gary Hamilton praising his players and calling for continued post-split standards.
“I’m delighted for the boys as it was tough for us...we had a wee chance to get the top six depending on the Crusaders result so it was a bit of downer before the start of the game as we knew, no matter what we did, it wasn’t going to happen,” said Hamilton. “But they were superb to a man and didn’t let it affect them.
“I said to the players before the start, no matter what, we’ve to finish seventh.
“We have to give ourselves a chance at European football and, now, the only way we can do that without a top-six position is to be seventh.
“That win gives us a bit of a gap but now over the next five games we must make sure we are in a position come the end of the league season to have that opportunity to get into Europe.
“It’s going to be tough and I think if you look at us now compared to last season there’s been a difference of 17 points...so there’s been improvement.
“We know at the start of the season we are not going to win league titles so we want to be in a position to challenge for Europe.
“But it’s really difficult when you look at the top six now and I think Ballymena are plus-19 points on last season so they’ve done unbelievable as well.
“It’s so, so tough to get into that position of seventh never mind the top six.
“We’ve been superb this year and with another five games to go.
“We still might not be there but we’ve given ourselves a chance at that European play-off so have to keep going.”
Colin Coates, Matthew Fitzpatrick and Danny Purkis grabbed goals but Hamilton highlighted the team work ethic as the only blueprint for beating the Blues.
“We were very good from start to finish,” said Hamilton. “The front two were exceptional - hard to play against, led the line brilliantly, both got a goal and caused Linfield problems all day.
“Peter Campbell was the best player on the pitch with his deliveries, work-rate, energy and everything.
“The two centre-midfielders were brilliant and back four solid.
“If you look at Linfield’s second goal...I think if he tries that a thousand times again he wouldn’t get the same outcome.
“Other teams may sit in and defend to protect a lead but when playing the way we were today and confidence levels there, I think you have to keep going.
“If you can get that fourth goal that’s the game killed off but we showed the other as well, we defended well.”
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