Pressure ramped up ahead of crucial clash
Danske Bank Premiership: Glenavon v Linfield (tonight, Mourneview Park, 8pm)
THE significance of the fixture is enough to ramp up the excitement for Glenavon's clash with Linfield at Mourneview Park tonight, but the pre-match pleasantries have only served to increase the anticipation.
This is arguably one of the most important games of the season. A Glenavon victory and they are back within two points of league- leaders Coleraine. If Linfield manage to successfully build on last week's win over the Bannsiders, they will move within eight points of top spot and will bring plenty of momentum into December's crucial run.
After that win over Coleraine, Linfield boss David Healy questioned how the teams above them would react with the pressure ramped up, something Glenavon boss Gary Hamilton took issue with when talking to his club's website.
“I'm not sure what David's on about. Anyone who knows will realize that all the pressure's on Linfield Football Club and not ourselves or Coleraine. Linfield Football Club, the size that they are and the budget that they have and the players that they have, are expected to finish above Glenavon and Coleraine every year; it's as simple as that.”
Hamilton also questioned the impact of Linfield's recent statement criticising the standard of officiating in their games.
“In this league it seems when Linfield make a statement, something's done about it, but for smaller clubs, it seems to be a situation where nothing is done.”
The words from both managers can only add to the atmosphere at Mourneview, which is expected to be close to full capacity.
Glenavon took just one point from a possible 12 against the Windsor Park men last season, but their fans will be expectant as they aim to continue on from their fabulous start to the season.
They are 14 points better off than they were at this stage last year having lost just once in 15 league games and only Crusaders – who have scored 11 goals in their last two games – have been more prolific.
Seven of the nine points they have dropped this season have been against top-six sides though and they're meeting a rejuvenated Linfield outfit.
Healy's side had lost four of their previous six games ahead of the visit of Coleraine last Saturday, but they dug deep to produce a performance that took the pressure off their boss somewhat.
Andrew Waterworth, from a penalty, and Mark Stafford gave them a two-goal cushion, but although the leaders pulled one back, Healy would have been delighted with how his side stood up to some late Coleraine pressure.
Linfield will also travel knowing that they forced Glenavon to crumble at the same venue 12 months ago.
They played 80 minutes with nine men, had defender Mark Haughey in goals and were trailing 2-0, but they were still able to fightback to earn a point.
Glenavon have shown serious improvement on the pitch this season, now they must show that their mentality is in a better place too.