GLENAVON gaffer Gary Hamilton says his side will have to beat Ballymena on Saturday if they are to avoid having to beat Dungannon Swifts to avoid the promotion/relegation play-off in the final game a week later.
The Blues travel to face Glenn Ferguson’s in-form side at the Ballymena Showgrounds on Saturday (kick-off 3pm) and Hamilton says his side will be gunning for victory as they look to secure Carling Premiership survival.
“We’ll be trying to get the three points on Saturday,” he said.
“We’ve tried to do that in every game since the split and while it hasn’t always happened, we haven’t been beaten but hopefully we can add another victory on Saturday in a very important game.
“If I was in Michael Hughes’ position with Carrick all but relegated, I’d be trying some of my Reserve players out as his budget will be tight in a lower division next season so he has to see what he’s got. Taking that into account, Distillery will probably win on Saturday.
“In the other game, DC have lost the last three and haven’t scored and now they’ve picked up a couple of suspensions and lost Jonny Harkness to injury so we’ll not be getting any favours in that game either.
“Taking that into account, we have to concentrate on ourselves. It’s very important that we get a win in this game or at least pick up something.”
However, that will be easier said that done against a Sky Blue side who are unbeaten in their last 10 matches, winning eight.
“It will be a difficult game at Ballymena because, although they’re safe from relegation, they have a lot of players playing for news contracts and they’ll keep plugging away to try and impress Spike (Glenn Ferguson),” said Hamilton.
“Money’s tight at the minute and it’s nice to have a football wage coming in to help support your house and your family so that’s what some of the Ballymena players are playing for at the minute and it’s bound to give them an extra bit in their tank.
“Spike has made a big difference at Ballymena as well. For the players they have, the results weren’t good enough before he came in but they’re starting to play better now. Spike is a very knowledgeable guy, he’s made a big difference and he will continue to do so.”
Also in form is former Glenavon striker James Costello, who has netted six goals in his last three games. Hamilton, however, says that it is only when the forward keeps up that form that he will become one of his side’s biggest threats.
“James is on a good run of form,” he said.
“It’s funny the way football goes sometimes. Players can pick up their game when they’re looking to impress a new manager but consistency is the most important thing. James can destroy any team in the league on his day but it’s all about getting consistency.
“I’ll be looking at Gary McCutcheon and Allan Jenkins as well. They do it every week for Ballymena.”
Meanwhile, Matty Burrows fractured his wrist against Donegal Celtic and will be out for the rest of the season whilst Niall Henderson may come back into the squad for Saturday’s game.
“Matty’s out for the season now so it’s a blow but it gives Andrew Mitchell or Gerard Rooney a chance to get into the squad,” said Hamilton.
“Whoever does best in training this week will get their chance. We know either of those boys could do a job for us if they get the chance to.
“Niall Henderson might come into contention for a place in the squad as well but Ciaran Doherty and Jay Magee have been doing a very good job in there lately.”