Glenavon: Gary Hamilton backing depleted squad going into date at in-form Coleraine
Although weakened by January exits, Glenavon boss Gary Hamilton is backing his depleted squad to fire forward with a strong second half this season.
Departures this month by Mark Sykes and Ben Doherty have left the Lurgan Blues short of key numbers in pursuit of European qualification.
Hamilton will continue his search for signings but is facing up to the reality of little margin for error across the closing stages of the campaign.
“We have spent years building a squad but essentially lost four under 21 internationals across a matter of months in Bobby Burns, Joel Cooper, Mark Sykes and Ben Doherty,” said Hamilton. “Some have left for professional football across the water and some due to increased financial opportunities, so we cannot control either situation.
“In terms of bringing in replacements, it is proving difficult due to various factors.
“We have been working hard over the past few months and will continue to do so up until the end of the January window.
“The situation as it stands means we face a shortage of breathing space over the rest of the season when it comes to injuries and suspensions.
“I still believe in this group and know on our day we can beat any other side in the Danske Bank Premiership.
“But the difficulty comes with achieving that consistency when injuries and suspensions are unavoidable and we stand short of numbers.”
Glenavon visit Coleraine this weekend searching for a welcome lift following festive blues and return of just three points from the 12 on offer since beating The Bannsiders by 4-0 across early December. Improved Coleraine form has left Rodney McAree’s side sitting just four points behind fourth-placed Glenavon.
“You expect tough times across every season,” said Hamilton. “Rodney was always going to need time as a new manager coming in but they have found form so our goal is to produce a performance capable of matching previous results against Coleraine.”
Coleraine boss McAree has not ruled out an appearance by transfer-listed Darren McCauley at home to Glenavon - if the winger is still on the Bannsiders’ books by kick-off.
“It’s something that we will have to look at,” said McAree. “He has all the quality in the world and if he is here it is something we will have to address.
“I don’t think he would let us down and not for a second do I think he wouldn’t put a shift in as he has been brilliant since I’ve arrived.
“We have probably waited until now to place him on the transfer list in the hope that he changed his mind and signed a new contract.
“That doesn’t look likely to happen, he loves this club and loves playing here but I think he has his mind made up.
“We’ve conceded bad goals against Glenavon, falling away after bright starts in both previous games.
“But now we’ve competition for places and a little bit of momentum, going in off five games unbeaten.
“It’s up to us to keep that going but we know it’s going to be difficult against a well-drilled Glenavon side with lots of qualities all over the park.
“We’ve got to keep looking up and challenging ourselves and obviously if we win we go one point behind Glenavon.
“That has to be our target.”