Belfast Telegraph

Glentoran can deal a Boxing Day blow to Linfield's title challenge, warns Healy

Linfield boss expects rivals to be all fired up, while Morris says hosts have nothing to fear

By Alex Mills

Linfield boss David Healy expects Glentoran to come out all guns blazing in today's Boxing Day Big Two derby showdown at The Oval.

Healy's boys approach the game in the best possible shape, having got their title challenge back on track by beating Cliftonville at Windsor Park on Saturday.

In contrast, Gary Haveron's Glentoran surrendered a 1-0 lead in the very last minute against struggling Carrick Rangers which added to their woeful run of recent results.

The Glens haven't won in front of their home fans since September 2 when they defeated Warrenpoint Town, which is a staggering and alarming statistic.

It means that the Blues go into this clash as hot favourites, although Healy will be taking nothing for granted.

"Every single game we have played against Glentoran since I came to this club has been played at 100 miles an hour," he said. "We seem to bring out the best in them.

"I remember the last time we played them at Windsor Park earlier in the season, they were given a great deal of credit in the press for their performance.

"I would imagine they will be fired up and come at us with everything.

"Their results may not be great of late, but they have good players. There will be a big crowd and I'm sure it will be the usual hostile atmosphere.

"We have to make sure we are well prepared for the challenge - we'll be taking nothing for granted."

Following their horrible result against Warrenpoint Town the previous week, when they were held to a draw, Healy was delighted with his team's response against the Reds on Saturday.

"We were edgy at times, but I suppose that was not surprising as we were coming off a poor result," he said.

"Players were fully aware of how big the game was for us on Saturday. Had we lost, most people would have been saying our season was over. It was a big game.

"But hopefully the players have gained a lot of confidence from it. They showed a lot of battling qualities.

"It was never comfortable at 1-0, especially with the threat they (the Reds) have going forward.

"I questioned the players last week - and when I do that, I always question myself.

"One thing the players did do is stand up and be counted. The first goal was massive for us, but we needed a second goal and Andy (Waterworth) came up with it."

Glentoran goalkeeper Elliott Morris knows his fans are in desperate need of some festive cheer but he insists his men have nothing to fear in the Big Two showdown.

"Linfield are a good side with good players but we went to Windsor Park earlier in the season and got a draw when we really could have won that game," said Morris.

"I felt we were the better side for much of the game but it is all about putting the ball in the back of the net and we haven't been doing enough of that lately.

"Some players need to step up if we want to win matches and get badly-needed points. I believe in these games it's all about who turns up and delivers on the day. The Big Two games are unique and anything can happen. League form is irrelevant but we are very aware we need to improve.

"You've got to handle these occasions well and I can remember beating the Blues on Boxing Day when Michael Halliday scored. It's been done before and we've got to believe that we can go and do it again."

Belfast Telegraph

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