Philip Matthews will be keeping a close eye on Peter Thompson tomorrow while Linfield players will not let their old comrade Glenn Ferguson out of their sight.
‘Spike’ is expected to make his final appearance against Linfield, the club where his place in the Irish League Hall of Fame was assured. The former Northern Ireland international is now focused on the Whites’ Premiership survival fight — a very different challenge to his trophy-laden days at Windsor Park.
Tomorrow’s showdown at Ballyskeagh is a tale of two strikers — one returning Linfield hero and one departed legend.
Matthews knows it could be a busy afternoon for the home rearguard but he hopes ‘Spike’ grabs the headlines.
“I reminded Glenn during the week this would be his last game against Linfield and I think he will relish it,” said the Whites shot-stopper.
“He will go out with the intention of scoring and we know he can. All my career Glenn has been the master, the one striker who has set the standard for others.
“If most of us could get half the medals he has we would be happy.
“I also saw Peter (Thompson) this week and I believe he has come back to Linfield stronger, fitter and sharper.
“He was a great striker before he left the Blues but now he will be more lethal. Give him half a chance and he will score like any prolific striker.
“His movement is excellent and he is now probably doing the role Spike used to do at Windsor by creating as well as finishing. People will notice his goals but these players work so hard and create opportunities for others.
“There will be times in the game when we will be under the cosh but that usually happens against Linfield and you have to stay solid and strong.”
Tommy Wright’s side, who are facing a double Big Two test with Glentoran up next on Tuesday night at the Oval, are six points adrift of second from bottom Institute.
Points have rarely been more precious but a positive result against the Blues could dramatically lift confidence and morale.
“The manager will pick his strongest team and the players must do their jobs,” added Matthews.
“The next two matches are huge tests but we will give it our best shot. We are the big underdogs but we are at the bottom of the table and we need the points.
“The fans have not seen us play well and hopefully that will change. Four or five quality players left the club and that would hurt any team.
“While ‘Spike’ has worked hard on his own, at Linfield he could feed off many quality strikers around him.
“Curtis Allen has left and Darren Armour has been injured while new players need time to gel in the team.
“I think we have used over 30 players this season and it has been hard to have a settled back four. When there are so many changes it can be hard to be consistent.”