Blues win Stena Cup

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GLENAVON boss Gary Hamilton was delighted with his side’s perfomances after they picked up the Stena Cup last weekend.

Hamilton’s men beat Hebburn Town and Stranraer to win the pre-season tournament, but the gaffer was even more pleased that they managed to do it without conceding a goal.

The Blues’ Achilles’ Heel last season was their inability to keep clean sheets, but after four pre-season matches so far this term, they are yet to concede, and that stat is much to the delight of their gaffer.

“The most pleasing thing was that we kept the clean sheets,” he said.

“We know that we have to cut the goals against down from last season and that’s four pre-season games over now and we still haven’t conceded a goal so it’s very pleasing for us.

“We know that we’ll score goals going forward, there are no problems there but the problem last season was that we were conceding goals too often.”

Glenavon had no issues with either game, overcoming Hebburn town 2-0 in the semi-final before an overhead kick from the boss himself saw them to a narrow 1-0 victory over the hosts in the final.

“The whole tournament went very well for us,” he said.

“Without being disrespectful to the teams we were playing against, the standard wasn’t great. In saying that, we played with two different teams in the two days and the boys were very up for the challenge.

“We brought everything that we had worked on in pre-season into the two games and we got two positive results. We probably could have won both games by bigger margins but, as I say, the most important thing is the clean sheets.”

The Blues took on English side Hebburn Town on Saturday, playing for a place in the final and they made it safely through, eventually winning 2-0.

The Blues dominated the game but it took until the 73rd minute for them to capitalise when Marc Brown nodded home trialist Lee Toland’s corner at the near post. That set-piece came as a result of Brown’s free-kick, which had been tipped round the post by Town keeper Dan Regan.

The stopper was again beaten in the 89th minute when substitute Andy Mitchell tapped home from Andy McGrory’s cross.

In the final, Glenavon took on host side Stranraer and it required a stroke of genius from Hamilton himself to claim the trophy. Just before half-time, Kyle Neill’s throw-in landed on Hamilton’s chest and he set himself up for a superb overhead kick which looped over the keeper’s head and into the net from the edge of the area.

Despite again dominating play after half-time, the Blues failed to extend their advantage, but they rarely looked like surrendering it either, with new signing Robbie White and youngster Conor Bradley remaining resolute in central defence.

Bradley, who recently signed for the club from Donegal Celtic, was called up to the squad along with fellow reserve players such as Darren Munce and Dan McGarry and they all impressed the gaffer as they staked a claim for a regular first team spot.

“The young guys were all very impressive,” Hamilton told the ‘MAIL.’

“I’ve been to watch the Reserve games as well and that’s why these boys have got their chances. They all played very well for the Reserves and they’ve been excellent since they have stepped up to the first team as well. It shows all the other guys in the Reserve team that just because they aren’t in the first team at the minute, it doesn’t mean that they’ll never get back into it.

“I’ll be watching the Reserve team and Youth team games and if anyone can impress me, they’ll get their chance, like these guys have.

“Their performances over the weekend were quality. Andy McGrory was there as well and he’s just a different class at the minute. He’s absolutely superb.”

Hamilton wants his players to now keep up their good performances, but knows he will have big decisions to make on his selections as the coming season draws closer.

He said: “We just want to keep winning matches now. As a professional player, you always want to win matches, there are no such thing as friendlies. We’ve played four games and won four so far so the aim is to keep on winning.

“To be honest, it’s given me a headache as well. I can honestly say that if the season was to start next week, I have no idea who I would select and who I would leave out. It would be very hard to pick a team because everybody has been putting in good performances so far. It will be difficult to select the first team of the season.”

GLENAVON SEMI-FINAL TEAM: O’Hare, McGarry, McCashin, Brown, Toland, Rooney, Hagan, Doherty (Kilmartin 56), McGrory, Dick (Mitchell 46), Burrows (Munce 76).

Unused Subs: C Bradley.

GLENAVON FINAL TEAM: Coleman, Neill, C Bradley, White, Hagan (McCashin 27), Munce (McMahon 82), Hamilton, Kilmartin, Shannon, Bates, Mitchell (McGrory 7).