Glentoran striker Gary Hamilton has said that the omission of Glenn Ferguson’s name from Linfield’s team sheet tonight is as big a lift as the league leaders are likely to get.
The Big Two draw swords at Windsor Park for the second time in two weeks, with the Blues looking to avenge the recent defeat in the east of the city.
Hamilton was on target in a 2-0 victory for the Glens that night — a win that has fired them into the box seat in this rivetting race for the JJB Sports Premiership.
It was almost a cruise for Alan McDonald’s men at times, and that was helped in no small part by the fact that Ferguson — who had been struck down by conjunctivitis — was left kicking his heels on the substitutes bench.
The legendary Blues striker has been a thorn in the Glens’ side for many years but a broken finger will keep him out of another crunch derby tonight and Hamilton believes that can only be good news for his colleagues at the other end of the pitch.
“The fact that Glenn Ferguson isn’t playing is a massive boost to us,” admits Hamilton. “I think both he and Noel Bailie have been the best two players in Irish League football over the past 20 years or so and so seeing a teamsheet without him on it is going to be a huge boost to us.
“He has shown so often over the years just how good he is and has scored a lot of goals against us during my time at Glentoran so it’s great that we don’t have to worry about him.”
Hamilton warned however: “Linfield have a lot of quality in their team, though — they went out and spent 50-odd grand on two strikers during the transfer window (Kevin McHugh and Mark McAllister), who , I think, are two very good players.
“They’ve also got the young lad Miskimmon who is a handful and and Carville and Munster who scored a few goals earlier in the season, so they aren’t short up front.”
While Hamilton has been looking at the Blues forward line, he does, however, believe that the game will be won in the middle of the park and there, he’ll be looking to Shane McCabe and Dean Fitzgerald to come out on top.
That midfield pairing have been impressive this season when put together and Hamilton says Fitzgerald (left), has been the Glens best player this season.
“If you look at big games all over the world you will find that the midfield battle is where the game is won and lost,” he said. “If we win that then I think we have enough quality to win the game.
“Shane and Deano have been brilliant for us, especially Deano.
“If you look at the big games that we have won throughout this season, he has had played a major role in them.
“People haven’t spoken too much about him but as far as I am concerned he has been our best player this season.
“When you talk to people like Scott Young who played against him when he was at his best at Portadown, they are saying he’s back to that level so if he is on his game then I think we have a great chance of winning.”
He added: “It’s a massive match, it always is when Glentoran play Linfield no matter what the game is and hopefully we can press home our advantage and open up a big gap at the top again.”