IRISH LEAGUE: There’s beauty in the back line for Glenavon boss

Glenavon's David Elbert'celebrates after scoring to make it 1-0'during Saturday's win over Dungannon. 'Photo by TONY HENDRON/
Glenavon's David Elbert'celebrates after scoring to make it 1-0'during Saturday's win over Dungannon. 'Photo by TONY HENDRON/

Gary Hamilton’s love of the ball hitting the back of the net led to a career as one of the most feared forwards in the modern Irish League.

That admiration for attacking ambition followed the former striker across the white line from player’s pitch to managerial dug-out.

His Glenavon sides have developed a reputation for free-flowing football with the focus on scoring goals - however, recent form has confirmed a dedication to defensive excellence for the Lurgan Blues boss.

Hamilton’s players line out this weekend against Coleraine aiming for a seventh successive clean sheet across league and cup play.

Jonny Tuffey, James Singleton, Caolan Marron and Aaron Canning have been familiar faces across the Glenavon backline within that run of blanks - with David Elebert rested for a single fixture.

Hamilton highlights selection consistency as key and the fact that familiarity has helped turn individual strengths into a collective end product.

“We work a lot in training obviously and I certainly am a big believer in man-to-man responsibility, with each individual’s focus primarily on his own job,” said Hamilton. “In the past we have scored a lot more goals but this season that has not been the case, however, six clean sheets in a row shows an improvement at the back.

“In the past we have had to score two or even three times to stand any chance of coming away with a win but that is no longer the case.

“It is a testament to the hard work across the group but, of course, having a consistent line-up has helped.

“We rested David for the Carrick game due to the Irish Cup quarter-final, with that the only change and the same goalkeeper and backline lining out across the other fixtures.

“That ability to stop the opposition can be a real asset at this stage of the season, with every game a big one and belief growing from clean sheets.

“From the start of the season we went so long without having the option of putting out the same defensive line-up.

“Injuries and suspensions are inevitable and played a part but everything has been settled of late.”

Hamilton accepts the benefits of a selection reshuffle as a result of absence enforced by injury or bans.

“Caolan has played in pre-season and cup ties for the club so we’ve been watching him, plus we listen to our reserves’ management team and even feedback from senior players dropping down to the Premiership Development League,” said Hamilton. “Reports were so positive so he was always going to get first-team chances but my initial idea was to use him at right-back.

“Across the game you rarely see a teenager handed such responsibility at centre-back and full-back is a position which allows you to grow and learn without the lack of cover you get in the heart of the defence.

“But Caolan has worked really hard, listens and learns to everyone and basically been so good as part of a winning side that he stayed in that centre-back role.

“Jonny has been so consistent and reliable since joining the club, so offers confidence to everyone in front.

“Aaron was also handed an opportunity as a January signing on a short-term deal we wanted to give a chance to and he took full advantage.

“We have an excellent record of wins with David in the side given his experience and that obviously helps the younger players.

“James took time to get back to his previous levels after returning from long-term injury but is starting to rediscover that form in recent appearances.”