Back-to-back league defeats and a month-long wait for full points may hint at cause for concern in the Glenavon camp but manager Gary Hamilton remains adamant time is on the side of the Lurgan Blues.
Glenavon’s attempts this weekend to topple the top side in the Danske Bank Premiership table lack a domestic foundation heading into Seaview but Hamilton considers the recent trip to Scotland as a step towards rediscovering the form which helped his squad secure last season’s record-breaking club points tally.
A 3-0 defeat of Formartine United in the Scottish Challenge Cup offered benefits beyond a return to winning ways on the pitch as the weekend across the water helped enhance team spirit on top of knockout progress.
Now Hamilton is keen to carry that momentum back on to the home front, keeping his faith that the positives will ultimately help get the campaign back on track.
“We cannot expect anything to change overnight and know there are some tough fixtures coming up, however, we came home from Scotland with so many encouraging factors that will help us over time,” said Hamilton. “To score three goals and keep a clean sheet was great but the squad really enjoyed the time away together bonding, from the travel to staying and eating together over a few days.
“It can only help us in terms of team spirit and confidence, with the players able to go out in that competition and play with the shackles off.
“At the end of the day, it is basically the same squad that finished last season’s league in third place and players do not become bad overnight.
“If we look over our season so far in the Premiership, we have suffered off individual mistakes but also not had the small margins fall in our favour.
“Maybe time away can help everyone come back into our Irish League commitments as something of a clean slate and fresh start.”
Although a sweeping search for answers is inevitable during difficult times at a club with Glenavon’s impressive recent track record of league placings, Hamilton also highlights a more mundane cause for the lack of consistency.
“Missing some experienced players this season has really hurt us, not only on the pitch to handle situations but off it when the older heads may not be around the changing room in the same way,” said Hamilton.
In contrast to Glenavon’s early-season setbacks, the Crues have enjoyed a dream start thanks to five wins from the six-game unbeaten league sequence.
“It is very early in the season but we are very pleased with the start,” said Crusaders boss Stephen Baxter. “We came into the season anxious to get off to better start than last year and know we have some big games coming up but can be pleased with our momentum.
“Glenavon always present a tough test and you only have to look at the consistency of finishing league positions over the past number of seasons to realise the quality and how they have exceptional players.”