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Glentoran 1 Linfield 1

By Chris Holt

It's fair to say that Andy Waterworth's Glentoran career could, up to the start of this season, be described as a disappointment.

When he arrived at the Oval from Scottish side Hamilton in 2008, the striker was lauded as the man who, alongside Gary Hamilton, would score the goals which would end Linfield’s dominance for good.

There was a league title-winning campaign under Alan McDonald, but that was a rare ray of sunshine in what has generally been a very cloudy sky for Waterworth and Glentoran since signing for his boyhood club.

At times he was guilty of poor finishing, too often straying offside or even falling over. In his defence, he was very often played out of position and, as a confidence player, it can't have been easy to read criticism or hear it consistently coming from the terraces.

The reason for the fans' annoyance at the Crossgar man's form generally is perhaps they knew what he was capable of, but they had yet to really see it week-in, week-out. That is until now.

Waterworth has been a revelation under Eddie Patterson in this early stage of the season and has scored in three of the Glens' four games so far, including the opener in Saturday's 1-1 draw with Linfield in the first Big Two encounter of the season.

Quite simply, the reasons for this seem to be that the Glens boss and his coaching team at the Oval are playing to Waterworth's strengths and offering genuine encouragement — and the in-form front man is repaying that.

He was a constant threat in the derby, his pace causing the Linfield defence problems throughout. He looked sharp, fit and full of confidence. This is the player Glenmen thought they were signing those few seasons ago.

So what's the secret?

“Basically all we have been doing is explaining to Andy the role we want him to play,” said Patterson. “He gets his rollockings like everyone else but he also gets the praise when it's due.

“At the end of the day, he understands the role he is playing within the system and that's the big thing.

“In the past Andy would have been coming into the midfield looking for the ball and congesting the midfield, not allowing us to play. So he is playing high up the park, he has been given an instruction and he is adhering to that instruction.”

He added: “Whether Andy has been coached or not in the past, I don't know, but Andy Waterworth is taking on board everything that we are explaining to him.”

Waterworth's strike came via a superb ball from Jim O'Hanlon and, typically modest, the striker preferred to praise the role of the staff and his team mates for his return to prominence.

“We don't need to go into last season again, I think we all let ourselves down,” he said.

“The management staff have been brilliant and the boys are confident.

“To be fair, the system is to suit me. I know I have scored the past couple of games but I have done nothing but get on the end of it. Jim O'Hanlon's ball in (for the goal) was unbelievable, all I had to do was get near post.

“I feel good, it was a good pre-season and, to be fair to Eddie, he is a perfectionist. Anything tactical he has it down to a tee. You understand your role on the pitch.

“It's early days yet. Ask me again in January and we'll see where we are.

“There's still some way to go but I think, compared to last year, as a team we are a million miles better. We are still a long way off and probably not one of the top four teams so we are keeping our feet on the ground.”

As for Linfield, Billy Joe Burns' superb left foot strike into the top corner banished the memory of last season's derby failures and earned the champions a deserved point from an evenly-matched game. The Blues had lost all four of their league clashes with the Glens last term, failing to find the net in each of them

“Everyone was giving it loads about the four defeats last year — okay, they won the battle we won the war but I was saying to myself ‘no, I am going to have to grind one out here',” said boss David Jeffrey (pictured).

“So that was my own personal motivation which I haven't shared with anyone until now.”

He added: “We obviously scored and that was good. There's no doubt anyone would have changed places with us last year.”

Belfast Telegraph


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