Glentoran out to lay another bogey at Crusaders expense
Glentoran v Crusaders, Danske Bank Premiership: The Oval, Today, 3pm
Glentoran manager Mick McDermott is hoping that recent performances against Cliftonville and Coleraine can inspire his players against bogey team Crusaders.
The Glens face the Crues at the Oval today knowing their record in matches with Stephen Baxter's men is woeful. The last time the east Belfast team defeated Crusaders in the league was six seasons ago.
Mind you, in campaigns of late the east Belfast outfit hadn't shone too often against Cliftonville and Coleraine, yet a fortnight ago they won 1-0 at Solitude and last weekend drew 2-2 at the Showgrounds.
Back on home turf, McDermott would love to see his side finally deliver against the Seaview men.
"We know we are playing a team we haven't beaten in a long time," said McDermott, whose side, like the Crues, are contenders in the title race.
"But we hadn't a great recent record against Cliftonville or Coleraine so there's no reason why we should feel any different going into this one.
"We don't need to get ourselves up for matches that we have this month. These are the sorts of matches players should want to play in.
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"It's good for us that games like the one with Crusaders matter. That hasn't been the case for the past few years."
Glentoran are in fifth place in the table after an impressive eight-match unbeaten run in the Premiership. In the same timeframe the Crues have been inconsistent.
Baxter's side looked as though they would go on the type of sustained period of excellence their most recent title triumphs have been built only to lose 1-0 at home to Ballymena United in their last outing.
That was a hugely disappointing result as it allowed Linfield to jump into top spot.
McDermott will know a backlash could be coming from the Crues. He also appreciates his team are playing extremely well and if they win this afternoon will go within a point of the Shore Road men with a game in hand.
"We've put in some good performances in recent weeks and I believe we are growing in confidence but we need to keep our foot on the pedal," said McDermott.
While Baxter is not averse to making changes to freshen up his side and throw out challenges to his players, McDermott's team selections have been intriguing too.
McDermott pointed out this week that due to injury and suspension all the outfield players who started at the Showgrounds were at Glentoran before he and assistant boss Paul Millar arrived at the end of March last season.
For today's crucial encounter the Glens have Paddy McClean and Hrvoje Plum available again while Cameron Stewart is available after missing out at Coleraine.
Captain Marcus Kane was taken off in the 2-2 draw at Coleraine but McDermott says he is ready to play.
Glentoran's clash with Crusaders is one of three huge home games this month with Linfield visiting on Boxing Day and David Jeffrey bringing his Ballymena United team to the Oval two days later.
Meanwhile at today's game there will be a final collection of items for Glentoran's Christmas Appeal for the Homeless.
The outstanding initiative, which has been going since 2013, provides gifts, food, clothes and other necessities for members of the homeless community in Belfast as well as pensioners and lower income families in the area.
The collection point will be in the main car park before and after the match.
Glentoran players and supporters will distribute items donated to this worthy cause later this month.