Belfast Telegraph

Glentoran are out to wreck Feeney's Boxing Day debut

By Graham Luney

Warren Feeney will today get his first introduction to a Big Two Boxing Day battle as a Linfield manager and Eddie Patterson hopes that in the years to come the former Northern Ireland international will recall it with little affection.

Glentoran boss Patterson is in the mood to ruin Feeney's Christmas and wipe the festive smiles off Linfield faces.

The Blues sit top of the Danske Bank Premiership, four points clear of the chasing pack, and a win today would underline their title-wining credentials but the old enemy from east Belfast is relishing the chance to burst their bubble.

Glentoran have a spring in their step as they head to Windsor Park after last weekend's dramatic win over champions Cliftonville.

And they arguably should have won the last derby tussle at the international venue in November when Johnny Addis grabbed a stoppage time equaliser in a 2-2 draw but the real story of the game was a catalogue of missed chances from the visitors.

"We will go to Windsor Park to win the game, it's as simple as that," said the Oval boss.

"We are improving all the time and I know we will play our own game there and as long as the young lads believe in themselves, I am confident we can get a positive result.

"Boxing Day is Boxing Day. It's about who turns up, who doesn't suffer nerves. Age wise and inexperience I don't know how it's going to affect our boys.

"We put up a good second-half performance last time and fully merited the last minute goal but no two Big Two games are the same.

"People are coming back from injury, the challenge is there for the lads to step up to the mark again.

"Jim O'Hanlon, Jay Magee and David Howland are all still to come back. We could be doing with that experience to help the young lads but that is the challenge for those lads who have the shirt.

"They stepped up to the mark against Cliftonville, the question is can they can step up again on Boxing Day?

"Saturday was our third win in a row in the league which is the first time this has happened since I came here so that is a boost for all the boys and we hope to make it four against our biggest rivals.

"The Blues are in good form and are sitting at the top of the table for a good reason but the two games we've had with them this season could have gone either way."

Linfield are full of festive cheer after shooting to the top of the Premiership but the supporters and players will keep grounded.

Memories of topping the table last season and falling short are too fresh in the mind. And even the most demanding Blues fans recognise the club is in a transitional period under a new boss. The league title is a realistic prospect at the moment but the question remains, do the Blues have the stamina and strength to stay in this long race?

Feeney, despite missing out on County Antrim Shield and Wasp Solutions League Cup success, can still achieve the 'double' in his debut campaign in the Windsor hotseat.

There will be a formidable challenge for the Irish Cup and Gibson Cup come the new year, but long-term goals can be place on the horizon for now with the immediate challenge of silencing Glentoran this afternoon.

"I just take one game at a time. It's an old boring cliche, but that's all we are doing.

"I've told the boys to enjoy their Christmas. We're four points clear at the top of the table that doesn't mean a lot in December. There is a long, long way to go.

"No one will becoming carried away in our dressing room."

Feeney can perhaps afford a wry smile ahead of the Belfast showdown. So far he has managed to prove the doubters wrong. He was a target for the Windsor boo boys earlier in the season when things were not going entirely to plan.

Of course, he had big boots to fill, in the shape of the legendary David Jeffrey.

"I have been written off in some quarters at the start of the season … people said I didn't know what I was doing. What I do know is that we have a great, great bunch of lads in the changing room. It's a special time for the club."

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