If Glentoran are looking for a hero today, they need look no further than Michael Halliday.
Out of any player currently in the Glens’ squad, or indeed any who have pulled on the shirt in the past decade, no one has anywhere near as good a record against Linfield as the 29-year-old striker.
Since opening his Big Two account in memorable fashion with the winner in 2001’s Irish Cup final, Halliday has gone on to find the net on 11 further occasions against the old enemy and today at the Oval he will be hoping it is a case of lucky 13.
It’s a terrific goal return, one that any striker would be proud of, but modest Halliday plays down it’s significance.
And while many wonder just how he manages it, apparently there’s no exact science – just good timing.
“A lot of it is just being at the right place at the right time,” said Halliday, whose latest strikes came last month as he fired in a double at Windsor Park in an emphatic 4-1 victory.
“They are always big games, everyone is always up for them and everyone wants to score but I don’t really know why I have a good record against them.
“I think I have been very fortunate over the years — these things tend to be blown up because it is a high profile game but I’ll not complain too much about that.
“To be honest I have probably got a better record against other teams but people tend not to take as much notice of those.”
Over the years Halliday has been seen as something of an outsider in terms of leading the line for the Glens.
Many strikers have been drafted in at the Oval and given priority in attack while Halliday kept grafting and hoping to get a prolonged run in the team.
Chris Morgan, Gary Browne, Jody Tolan, Stephen Parkhouse, Andy Smith, Mark Wright, Darren Armour, Garry Haylock, Brian Russell, Darren Fitzgerald, Justin McBride and Ian Gilzean among others, have all come and gone, yet Halliday remains, nine years after making his Glentoran debut.
And even now the challenges keep coming.
When Andrew Waterworth made his move to the Oval following an ill-fated spell in full-time football with Hamilton, it was expected that Halliday would be the odd man out with Alan McDonald likely to plump with the partnership of Gary Hamilton and Waterworth up front.
That proved to be the case and against Bangor, in the Northern Ireland Under 21 international’s, debut, Halliday had to settle for a place on the bench.
However, things haven’t gone quite according to plan for Waterworth since his switch back to local football, but for the other striker at the club, his arrival heralded a tremendous run of form in front of goal.
And Halliday admitted that it was just what he needed to give him the proverbial kick up the backside, and now it is he who is regarded as the Glens’ in form forward.
“When Andy came in I suppose I knew that it would be me that would have to miss out on a place,” he admitted. “Gary Hamilton is one of the best strikers around and the manager isn’t going to spend money to bring in Andy just to have him sit on the bench.
“I didn’t want to be sitting on the bench, no one does, so I took it as a challenge.
“When something like this happens you can do one of two things.
“You can just sit there and accept that you aren’t first choice, or you can do something about it.
“I didn’t like being on the bench against Bangor – the manager spoke to me and he explained his reasons for it and I thought then that all I could do was to try and change his mind.
“Since then I have been fortunate to have scored a few goals and done well when I have been given the chance.
“Strikers are judged on goals so I have to keep that up now.
“It’s not going to be long before Andy gets a goal and then he will be flying high.
“And of course Gary Hamilton is always going to score goals.”
As for today’s game, it has already been given that ‘crucial’ tag, even at this early stage in the campaign.
The Glens are a point behind the leaders who have a game in hand and while Halliday is at pains to point out that it is far from a must-win game, he recognises how important it could be when the title is handed over in May.
“The fact that you have to play each other four times in a season and we are very early in the season means that mathematically it is all in your own hands no matter what happens today,” he adds.
“But at the same time you don’t want to let Linfield get too far ahead.
“Football is all about confidence and if you build up a lead then your confidence is high.
“At the same time it can become quite difficult to keep up when you are lagging behind.
“So while it is not a must-win game, it is a game that we will be doing all we can to win.”
He added: “I think since Boxing Day last year we have shown that things are starting to go our way against them again.
“Over the past couple of years we didn’t get anywhere near them but I think it’s been pretty equal recently.”