Glentoran defender Sean Ward is confident the Boxing Day Big Two derby will provide the perfect stage for the east Belfast men to get their floundering title challenge back on track.
The Glens were stunned by defeat to Ballymena United who before Saturday’s game were rooted to the bottom of the table.
Kevin Kelbie’s late, late show took all three points to the Braid and meant the league leaders have registered just five from a possible 12 in December.
Ryan Deans had put United in front before transfer-listed substitute Darren Boyce equalised.
However, Kelbie took advantage of some sloppy defending and Shane McCabe cannoning a free kick off Keith Halliday to make it four wins in a row for the Sky Blues.
Alan McDonald’s side are well and truly in the throes of their annual seasonal slump and a win for Linfield on Friday would cut their lead at the top to two points with the champions having played a game less.
Despite the Blues’ poor first half to the campaign - they have already lost four times - they are still very much in the thick
of things, due in no small part to the fact that Glentoran have failed to take advantage.
The Glens haven’t beaten Linfield at Windsor Park in the festive fixture since 1989 - indeed until Michael Halliday’s winner decided the contest at the Oval last year that was the last time the Glens had registered a Boxing Day victory.
Now Ward is hoping to overcome the disappointment of this latest poor run by puting a bit more light between themselves and their firece rivals.
“Two points from the last three (home) games for a team that is supposed to be challenging for championships is just not good enough,” said Ward.
“For people to question our ability and our mentality, they have every right to do so because it isn’t good enough for a club like Glentoran.
“But, as disappointing as it is,
all we can do now is get together, work on it and try and get out of this.
“It’s a cliche, but championships aren’t handed out in January - we are top of the league still, if we are to take any positives from this.
“People say Linfield on Boxing Day is the biggest game in the calendar year aside from the Irish Cup final, and every player wants to be involved in it.
“It’s a game where we have the opportunity to set the record straight and an opportunity to show that we are genuine title contenders.
“I believe we can do that - we have bounced back in the past and we will do again and this is a great time to do just that.”
On the other side of Saturday’s coin, Ballymena are looking up but Roy Walker isn’t getting carried away, despite moving two places off the bottom.
“One swallow doesn't make a summer and four wins doesn't make a season. In the same way that when we were on a bad run the thing to do wasn't to panic. Now we are on a decent run so we have got to keep it going and it will be difficult,” said Walker.