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Fired up Glentoran still have the power to whip up a festive storm, warns Waterworth

By Graham Luney

Andy Waterworth will warn his Linfield team-mates that if they underestimate Glentoran they will be in for a short, sharp shock this afternoon.

The striker's old club would love to inflict a title blow on David Healy's side and, for Linfield, it's a case of handling the pressure and showing they have the mental toughness to win the championship for the first time since 2012. Five years without the Gibson Cup being paraded at the international venue would be a very long time for a club that has landed the top gong on 51 occasions.

But there is optimism in the air and fans will expect the Blues to sweep Glentoran aside today.

The Glens are very much a work in progress under new boss Gary Haveron while Linfield resemble a well oiled machine.

And the east Belfast side's last league win at Windsor came in April 2014 when they triumphed 2-0. Waterworth knows, however, that the Glens will arrive at Windsor full of hunger and desire and if Linfield want to win the war they are going to have to win battles such as this one.

"Glentoran have had a bit of a resurgence under Gary Haveron and you don't expect an easy game in these Big Two matches," says Waterworth who is nine strikes away from celebrating his 100th goal for the club.

"The atmosphere on Boxing Day is electric and it can come down to who handles the occasion better.

"I've no doubt the Glens will feel inspired, as teams do when they come to play at Windsor Park.

"With a big crowd looking on, there's pride on the line and it's about keeping your cool, taking chances and not making mistakes.

"I've been fortunate to play in many Big Two matches for both sides and in many Boxing Day games. I've been on the losing and winning side and been fortunate to score.

"All the games are different and can be decided by small margins. You just hope you can perform as a team and be ruthless when you need to be.

"The matches can be end to end and you really think that anything can happen.

"It could be tight but it's vital we get the three points as we cannot afford to let Crusaders run up a big lead. It's a crucial period for the title chasing teams and, come January and February, you want to have something to fight for."

Healy, meanwhile, has added former CSKA Sofia striker Kevin Amuneke to his ranks.

The Blues boss maintains the 30-year-old former Nigerian international is hungry to show he can shine for the club.

"Kevin is not coming to us for financial gain, so this signing is not going to be a cost to us," said Healy. "He's signing as an amateur until the end of the season and he's happy to do so, as all he wants is the opportunity to play and prove over the next few months that he would be worthy of earning a contract beyond the expiry of his short term amateur contract. Obviously, he's a player of pedigree with extensive experience at a high level and I'm sure our supporters will give him their usual warm welcome to the club.

"Certainly, his arrival will increase the competition levels within the squad and provide us with further options upfront over what we hope will be an exciting business end to the season."

If selected, Kirk Millar will make his 100th appearance for Linfield in today's derby.

The winger, who came through the Linfield Academy before spending five years at Oldham, made his debut as a substitute in a defeat to Portadown on December 17, 2008.

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