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Blues eye final four place and bragging rights

By Stuart McKinley

Published 18/09/2007

Peter Thompson needs no reminding of what Cliftonville did to his Linfield side this time last year.

And the Windsor Park striker isn't ready to let lightning strike twice.

The Reds dished out a 3-0 hammering to the Blues on the opening day of the Irish Premier League campaign 12 months ago and the teams will meet again at Solitude next Monday in front of the Sky Sports cameras as the 2007-08 title race gets under way.

More prominent in the mind of Thompson and his team-mates, however, is another clash with Eddie Patterson's men as he brings his team to Windsor tonight for a County Antrim Shield quarter-final, with the reward for the winners being a semi-final meeting with Glentoran early next month.

"We were well and truly hammered by Cliftonville that day," said Thompson.

"It is as comprehensive a defeat as I can remember since I came into the Linfield team and the worst thing from our point of view was that they thoroughly deserved it.

"We contributed to our own downfall a bit, but that's taking nothing away from Cliftonville.

"We are well aware of the threat that they pose. They had a very good season last season and have added to their squad.

"This is a quarter-final and we only have one thing on our mind, which is reaching the semi-final.

"We know that we play them again next week, but it's still a bit away and we're not thinking about that game."

In terms of going into that league opener with a psychological advantage though, Thompson believes that no matter who wins tonight they will carry no edge into next Monday's Solitude clash.

"I am not sure how much a part winning the first match of back-to-back games really plays when it comes to the second game," said Thompson.

"All games are different and I don't really believe in psychological advantages.

"It's all about what you do on the day and if you don't win the first then it makes you even more determined to win the second.

"Both teams want to get into the semi-finals of the County Antrim Shield and will want to get off to a good start in the league, so there won't be much in the matches."

After opening his account on the opening day of the season it took the Northern Ireland international until Saturday to add his second and third goals of the season in the Blues' 3-0 win at Ballymena United in the CIS Insurance Cup.

After leading the line alongside Mark Dickson and Thomas Stewart so far this season, Thompson was paired with his long-term partner Glenn Ferguson once again as be bagged a double.

Manager David Jeffrey left William Murphy, Aidan O'Kane and Paul McAreavey out of the starting line-up.

Thompson, however, claims that Jeffrey's actions don't speak louder than words and that the players use their eyes rather than their ears to make themselves aware of the competition for places at Windsor Park.

"When you look around the dressing room and see who isn't playing then you know that you have to perform to stay in the team," said Thompson.

"There are 23 or 24 quality players in the squad and every player is capable of coming in and doing a job.

"If you aren't in top form then all of a sudden you might be looking over your shoulder, so you have to work hard and do your job.

"We all have a role in the team, as a striker it is up to me to score goals and provide chances for others in the team.

"It helps that I scored two goals on Saturday, but I have to keep playing well to stay in."

Belfast Telegraph

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