GARY Hamilton is set to return to the pitch on Saturday to help his Glenavon side in their crunch Carling Premiership match against Ballymena United (3pm kick-off).

The player/manager has been injured since coming off in the first-half against Donegal Celtic last month but is set to return to ease his team’s injury crisis that saw nine first team players sit out last Saturday’s 1-0 defeat to Crusaders.

“Hopefully I’ll come into contention after a week’s training,” he said.

“Tony Grant will definitely be back and hopefully a week’s rest will do Jay Magee and Niall Henderson a lot of good. “Peter McCann had a bit of a reaction to the reserve game but he might be in contention too. There are a lot of players coming back so that will help the squad.”

Hamilton is likely to take the place of Andrew Mitchell, who sits out the game as he represents Northern Ireland Schoolboys in Scotland on Friday evening.

“He’ll be available on Saturday but I won’t ask the kid to play two games in two days because he wouldn’t be playing to his full potential and would be open to criticism,” explained Hamilton.

“I wouldn’t put a young player into that situation. I wish him all the best on Friday night and hopefully he can do the club proud.”

Back at Mourneview though, Mitchell’s team-mates have a big game as they look to ease their relegation worries with victory over Ballymena.

“It’s a massive game, there’s no doubt about that,” agreed Hamilton.

“We just want to get points on the board to keep ourselves out of the relegation spot. We want points on the board and quickly, hopefully we can start to get them on Saturday.

“There has only been one game when I haven’t been happy with the work-rate so far and that was our last home game against Crusaders.

“If the lads can show the same commitment and work-rate as they have in every other game, there’s no reason why we can’t get a result on Saturday. I’d be quite confident in that but the team that shows the most hunger and desire on the day usually goes on to win.

“If we do that, we’d be confident with the quality in our team that we can go on and get a result.”

The game also sees Hamilton come up against old enemy Glenn Ferguson, rekindling old rivalries from their days as talismen for opposing side’s of Belfast’s ‘Big Two’ and the Glenavon gaffer is looking forward to again taking on the newly appointed Ballymena boss.

“Glenn and me go back a long way,” he said.

“We were both sponsored by Umbro and we’ve been in each other’s company quite a lot.

“Glenn demands work-rate and effort from his players as that’s what he was like. He had the quality but everybody remembers him as a hard-working centre-forward and his team work their socks off for each other too.

“He was my footballing idol as well, in Irish League terms. I always looked up to him following Glenavon and he was the best striker and probably the best player in the Irish League in the last 30 or 40 years.

“He’s somebody that I have always looked up to and it will be nice to pit my wits against him as a manager on Saturday.

“Hopefully come 4.45pm I’ll be the one sitting with the three points!”