Glenavon boss Gary Hamilton has celebrated the increased confidence in the Lurgan Blues camp coming off the back of back-to-back boosts in Belfast.
A difficult start to 2019 left Glenavon struggling for form heading into recent Danske Bank Premiership city dates with Glentoran and Crusaders.
However, Hamilton’s players recovered from a goal down on each occasion to return home with full points from the Oval visit before a 1-1 draw last Friday at Seaview.
On top of the returns which have kept Glenavon in contention for a top-three finish, Hamilton has highlighted the return of self-belief thanks to recent small margins.
“It does come down to tiny moments as I’ve felt there’s not too big a difference between our performances but too often without the right decisions made in key areas,” said Hamilton. “Now it’s about drawing confidence, especially the younger players, off the back of those games against Glentoran and Crusaders.
“Most people will understand the impact of losing six players from our starting eleven.
“Despite those changes and issues, we sit one place below last season and I think there’s been a lot of unfair criticism aimed towards the players at times.
“Things seem to be turning back in our favour, however, in terms of making the right decisions in the final third.
“We were expecting a difficult period off the back of losing so many players to be honest, so now it’s about making the most of greater belief.”
Glenavon will face another Belfast side on Saturday - but with the advantage of home comfort - when Cliftonville come to town in the league.
“Paddy McLaughlin has come in and he’s a superb guy, who I am sure will do a great job,” said Hamilton. “You need to be aware of the Cliftonville threat given such attacking strength but must look back to how we turned the tables away to Glentoran then deserved a win at Seaview, the most difficult away game for me in the league.
“You always look at the next challenge.”
McLaughlin is working hard to achieve the balance of short-term points on the pitch and long-term progress off the playing field, since taking on the Reds role.
“We had wins and clean sheets from the first two games against Newry City AFC and Warrenpoint Town but then lost midweek to Ballymena United,” said McLaughlin. “You are always looking to learn something over these early days together from every situation.
“I was pleased with the performance levels in the two wins but also against Ballymena and felt we were especially impressive over that second half.
“To control the majority of the second half came from controlled but aggressive attacking play that suits the strengths of this side as we have quality players.
“We switched formations at the break on Tuesday and it is a credit to the players for how they adapted but that has been the case since we arrived, they’ve taken on board the information really well.
“It has been a good start because the players have bought into our methods but we know it is going to take time to get in place what we want.
“However, I could not have asked for any more from the squad so far.”