Belfast Telegraph

Glentoran v Linfield: Joy of six is Blues star’s inspiration

By Graham Luney

The job title is Gibson Cup winner and only men of strong character should apply.

It’s on weekends like this when Blues boss David Jeffrey must wish he was a player again, throwing himself into tackles as if his life depended on it.

If any of the Linfield or Glentoran players need motivated for tomorrow’s Big Two showdown at the Oval they shouldn’t be anywhere near the famous ground.

As remarkable as it seems given their financial turbulence this season, Glentoran can still win the Carling Premiership title but the players will need to spring to life in these back to back games against the old enemy to realise that dream.

Victory for Linfield tomorrow would represent a significant step towards a 50th title in their 125th anniversary year.

Crusaders are waiting to pounce on any slip-up but Linfield’s fate is in their own hands and they tend to cross the finishing line with their chest pumped out, meaning business.

The message to the Blues players is simple — nothing has been won yet and every battle from here on in is a cup final.

Eight points adrift of the defending champions, the Glens would have to finish with a real bang but they at least know they can stop their bitter rivals winning another title.

Any player worth his salt should relish these defining moments in title races. Michael Gault, who is showing the form he displayed when he earned his Northern Ireland call-ups, is chasing his sixth league title.

“These matches are the reason we are at Linfield,” said the 27-year-old midfielder. “They are brilliant occasions and it’s all about winning games and winning titles. We can’t afford to look too far ahead but we know that a win over Glentoran at the Oval would leave us in a fantastic position.

“I was suspended for the final two league games when Chris Morgan scored the winner to effectively win the title for Glentoran in 2005 and those painful memories will drive on the boys who suffered that day.

“It’s all about the three points and performing in a very important league game.

“I’m like the other players, I relish these big games and we all want to play in them because winning trophies is a goal we all share.

“Matches against Glentoran at the Oval are always massive occasions and everyone is looking forward to it. We are hungry to win the game because there are other teams fighting for the title.”

Come next Tuesday evening after hostilities have been resumed at Windsor Park, Linfield and Glentoran players will be sick of the sight of each other.

Facing the same team three times in a row is far from ideal, but when the rivalry is as intense as between the Blues and Glens, it’s an even bigger headache.

But Jeffrey’s men delivered a psychological blow winning the JJB Sports Irish Cup semi-final and now the fans will be anticipating a fifth double in six seasons.

The Linfield faithful are a demanding lot and only the players who thrive under that weight of expectation will survive.

“It’s a pity the games haven’t been broken up more,” added Gault. “But we have to deal with the situation as it is and the players must rise to the challenge.

“I always felt the team would find form again, we went through a sticky spell but I was always confident we would hit back and at this crucial stage of the season we are on a roll.

“Peter (Thompson) and Mark (McAllister) have been working very hard up front and they are a real handful for defenders.

“People questioned whether Peter was a better player when he came back from Stockport but he has been superb for us.”

Championships have been won and lost at the Oval down through the decades and although tomorrow’s game is not a title decider, if Linfield can win it, then the engravers should get ready to go to work again.

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