Glentoran 1 Linfield 2: Callacher urges Blues to focus on gruelling month
Linfield goal hero Jimmy Callacher shrugged off the high-fives after bagging a last-gasp winner against former club and Big Two rivals Glentoran, preferring to focus on a tough month ahead.
The big defender struck a decisive blow, just when Gary Haveron looked set to pocket his first point for his new employers.
Linfield bossed the first half, but had only a Marcus Kane own goal to show for their efforts. Haveron's half-time rant had the desired effect, and Curtis Allen poked the Glens level within 10 minutes of the restart.
But when Kirk Millar whipped in an 87th-minute corner, Callacher was first to react and his booming header ballooned the net before his former team-mate Elliott Morris could even move.
"It's three points, it wouldn't matter who it was against," said Callacher. "It means a bit more for the fans, but for us it's three points and we move on."
The result maintained the Blues' stranglehold over their rivals - and ensured Glentoran remain rooted in the bottom three in the Danske Bank Premiership table. Linfield haven't lost in east Belfast since Boxing Day, 2011.
In fact, Glentoran now haven't enjoyed a Big Two success since April 2014. But there were certainly shoots of recovery embedded in the performance, which will hearten Haveron.
"I think you have to give credit to Glentoran," said Callacher. "They are in a false position in the league. I think everyone knows that. And they're going to come good sooner or later.
"A draw would probably have been a fair result. It was a game of two halves - we won the first and they won the second.
"I've played in 40 or so derbies between Linfield and Glentoran and it proved that form goes out the window. I remember playing (for Glentoran) when we beat Linfield four times in the same year and we finished the season 28 points behind them when they won the league. Anything can happen in derby games."
It was Linfield's sixth win on the bounce, but Callacher insists it's time for cool heads as there are many big games looming.
He added: "It's all about momentum. I think even this game, if that was last year, it would probably have finished in a draw. It was a big win for us.
"We have Queen of the South and then we play Ballymena United in the League Cup. We also have Coleraine, Crusaders and Cliftonville, so we know it's a big month coming up. All we can do is focus on ourselves."
Haveron admitted his boys had their pockets picked, but had seen enough to suggest his team will start climbing the table.
"The performance was acceptable and is something to build on," said Haveron. "We restored a bit of pride in the shirt. It was devastating to lose in that manner. I thought we deserved at least a point, if not more.
"We stood off Linfield and showed them too much respect in the first half. But our second-half performance was good. I had a bit of a go at the boys, but it was constructive criticism.
"They gave everything. I'll be looking for that every week. If we keep playing like that, we'll win more than we lose. The fans got behind the team because of the effort they put in."
GLENTORAN: Morris, Ferrin, Birney, Addis, Kane (Redman, 46 mins), Caldwell (Smith, 88 mins), Foley, Gordon (Novo, 84 mins), Harmon, Lavery, Allen. Unused subs: Nelson, Leu.
LINFIELD: Carroll, Casement, Strafford, Callacher, Clarke, Millar, Ward, Clingan, Gaynor (Bright, 74 mins), Burns (Quinn, 84 mins), Smyth (Waterworth, 60 mins). Unused subs: Haughey, Fallon.
Referee: Arnold Hunter (Maguiresbridge)
Man of the match: Jimmy Callacher
Match rating: 7/10