Manager Gary Hamilton hails Glenavon team spirit

Gary Hamilton's side have made a good start to the season

Glenavon manager Gary Hamilton has hailed his current squad as "the best group of players he has been involved with with as a player or manager".

The Lurgan Blues go into Saturday's game at home to league leaders Cliftonville in third spot, just one point behind the Premiership champions.

"The spirit in the camp is good and obviously results help," said Hamilton.

"The players go out to win every game and they are not here for the money, they want to play for the club."

The Mid-Ulster club, who strengthened their panel significantly over the summer months, face a testing month ahead with matches against the Reds, Crusaders, Linfield and Portadown.

"We lost all eight league games we played against these sides last season so anything will be an improvement on that. These are crucial matches and it will be a massive month for us."

George McMullan and Barry Johnston are nearing a first-team return for Tommy Breslin's outfit.

Linfield have been making up ground on the leaders after a shaky start to the season and lie in fourth place ahead of their trip to Ferney Park to face Ballinamallard United.

The Blues will be without Aaron Burns, who begins a two-match suspension, while full-back Jim Ervin is unavailable because of a groin injury.

Ross Clarke remains an absentee with a broken bone in his toe and Alan Blayney is out with a foot injury but boss David Jeffrey hopes defender Mark Haughey may be able to turn out for the Swifts in a reserve game next week.

Jeffrey will check on the fitness of strikers Peter Thompson and Mark McAllister before finalising his team, but fit-again pair Philip Lowry and Matthew Tipton return to the squad.

"Linfield is still the big game for us and they will be there come the end of the season but last week's win over Coleraine has given us a major boost. We'll go out and work hard again," commented Mallards manager Whitey Anderson.

Meanwhile Coleraine manager Oran Kearney remains confident that his side, who are 10th in the table with just one league win, will reap the rewards for their efforts if they can put away their chances.

"I've been in the game long enough to know that you just have to keep your head down and keep working hard and the results will come," said the Bannsiders boss.

"The one area we are falling short on is putting the ball in the net and that's the most difficult thing in football.

"It's a very difficult league and all the teams are scrapping for their lives. I can't fault the application or work-rate of my players."

Ninth-placed Ballymena United travel to take on Glentoran with the aim of extending a run of six victories in their last seven league visits to the Oval.

Indeed, of the last 17 meetings between the sides in all competitions, only two have been won by the home side.

The Sky Blues have skipper Allan Jenkins out through suspension but Aaron Stewart is available again after serving a one-match ban.

Mark Surgenor and Neal Gawley may be available again while Shane Dolan, David Cushley and Neil Lowry are in contention to start.

Elsewhere, Crusaders play second-placed Portadown at Seaview and Dungannon Swifts entertain bottom-of-the-table Ards at Stangmore Park.