Manager optimistic about Seaview chances

Gary Hamilton is optimistic about his side’s chances on Seaview’s artificial surface this season.

The Blues have struggled to compete at Crusaders’ ground in recent games and haven’t won there in almost five years, since November 2008.

The defeats there last season were heavy, 4-1 and 5-1, with Hamilton known for his dislike of the artificial pitch.

This season, however, he’s hoping it will be a different story as his squad is now more capable of taking to the 4G pitch.

He said: “This year, we’re more equipped to deal with the surface. Last year, a lot of our key players struggled to play on the surface in Ciaran Martyn, Kris Lindsay and even Mark Farren, who was suffering with injuries.

“We weren’t comfortable on it but the squad’s different this year. We have young lads and young wingers who will have no problems playing on it. David Rainey and Gareth McKeown have also been added and they’re well used to playing on it.

“We’re not saying we’re going to go down there and get a result because it’s a hard place to go but we’re better equipped to go and compete.

“Hopefully we will be able to keep our good run going. There’s a good feeling around the club at the minute so it would be good to get some sort of result. You never know what this group of players could do. We will go down and try and win the game.”

Hamilton himself, however, won’t be risking picking up an injury and says there could be a few more of his squad who will be protected.

“I’ll not be in the squad and we’ll have to speak to some of the guys and see,” he said.

“It’s a long season and we have a lot of games to play so people who will be worse off for it won’t play. To risk putting people out for a long time isn’t worth it. .”

Guy Bates had to be withdrawn before half-time in Glenavon 1-0 win over Cliftonville last week and Hamilton is as yet unsure of the extent of the injury.

“He’s still in a bit of pain,” said the boss. “He’s gone over on his ankle but hopefully it’s not serious. It’ll take a few days for the swelling to go down to let us see what it is. We’ll just have to wait and see.

“Mark Farren is back in contention though so that’s the bonus of having a squad with a lot of quality players. It would be a blow for us, losing Guy Bates but at the same time we know we have Mark to come in.”