IRISH LEAGUE: Cliftonville and Glenavon searching for points over plaudits

Cliftonville boss Barry Gray. Pic by Pacemaker.
Cliftonville boss Barry Gray. Pic by Pacemaker.

Cliftonville and Glenavon, having served up 16 goals across Friday’s frantic fixtures but finished with points frustration, will ignore the entertainment interests of the Sky Sports TV audience tonight (Solitude, 7:45pm) in pursuit of victory irrespective of the end product.

Both Barry Gray and Gary Hamilton have spent the swift turnaround between games attempting to address defensive frailties which left the former on the wrong end of a 6-4 defeat by Ballinamallard United with Cliftonville and the latter having to share the spoils in Glenavon’s home draw against Warrenpoint Town.

Glenavon manager Gary Hamilton. Pic by PressEye Ltd.

Glenavon manager Gary Hamilton. Pic by PressEye Ltd.

Now two of the Danske Bank Premiership’s most entertaining sides will line out at Solitude in front of an expected bumper crowd - plus television audience for the latest Irish League broadcast.

“To be honest, as managers, we will take a way in any shape or fashion,” said Gray, the Cliftonville boss. “But we would need to play a lot better than Friday night.

“On paper we are delighted with the quick turnaround as training on Sunday gave us the chance to go over Friday but then it is about a clean slate and moving forward against Glenavon.

“Given the results we both had on Friday, the Glenavon game may not prove quite as expansive as some would think.

“Friday was a night in which we counted Ballinamallard scoring six goals from seven chances and we came into the game with the second-best defensive record in the division.

“It was pure madness on Friday and completely out of character as Ballinamallard didn’t have to even really open us up, we gifted goals with errors.

“But you either approach the situation with negativity or concentrate on getting it right next time.

“It is not about ignoring anything and we spent a few hours on Sunday analysing Friday but, first and foremost, the short-term goal is to prepare for the Glenavon game.”

Cliftonville welcome Glenavon with a suspended Liam Bagnall the only player out of contention.

Simon Kelly was forced out of Friday’s 3-3 draw following a calf injury during the warm-up, with replacement Andrew Doyle on the scoresheet against Warrenpoint Town.

“Unless there’s a miraculous improvement then Simon will be out for Cliftonville, it’s a blow given how well he played against Linfield and we wanted to keep the same team but Andrew has been brilliant all season so it’s not a massive change,” said Glenavon manager Gary Hamilton. “It’s an opportunity for the boys to go into a massive game at Cliftonville and put things right.

“Individually and as a team we want to produce in front of the Sky cameras and to show people our ability.

“We did not play with the energy of most weeks in the Warrenpoint match but then the performance and effort in the win over Linfield took a lot out of the players.

“We were a bit jaded, even after resting the boys last Monday and only doing a light session.

“You could see they used up a lot of energy but that’s football and now both clubs prepare for Monday in the same situation having played on Friday.

“There are five points now between us and Cliftonville so we need to go there and start bringing back those energy levels.

“Cliftonville have an abundance of forward players and remain a top team so we have to make sure we are on our game and get a positive result.”