Glentoran defender Jimmy Callacher dismisses the theory that’s it’s an ideal time to face winless Linfield!
David Jeffrey’s boys are hovering at the bottom of the Premier League table, having pocketed only one point from their opening three games.
In contrast, Eddie Patterson’s Glentoran take an unbeaten tag across the city for Saturday’s first Big Two showdown of the season at Windsor Park.
Callacher, who lives in the shadow of the international stadium, insists current form means little when the teams meet.
“People say it’s a good time to play the Blues, but the reality is these are the games you relish playing in,” he said.
“There has been a lot of talk about what is happening at Windsor Park . . . yes, they have suffered a few defeats, but on paper they still have the biggest and best squad in the league.
“David Jeffrey has won numerous trophies, including nine league championships, he’ll have them well up for this.
“It’s only a matter of time before things turn for them -- but we have to make sure it’s not against us. Irrespective of where the so-called ‘Big Two’ are in the league, it doesn’t really matter. We know it’s going to be a competitive game.
“We want to hang on to the coat tails of the teams above us . . . and the Blues will want to make ground after the poor result on Saturday, so it makes for a good game.”
After losing a number of ‘high profile’ players over the summer, Glentoran’s early season form has certainly turned a few heads, having beaten Glenavon and drawn with Coleraine and Ballinamallard.
“If we had taken our chances in every game, we would be sitting with Cliftonville at the top of the league,” adds Callacher. “If we start putting the ball in the net on a consistent basis, we’ll not be far away.
“We were brilliant last week against Ballinamallard, but we just lack a little cutting edge to win the game -- we need a killer instinct.”
Patterson’s strike forced has been strengthened by the return of suspended Mark Miskimmin, who was brought in from Donegal Celtic, and the recent capture of Aaron Boyd, formerly with Linfield, Coleraine and Lisburn Distillery.
“I’ve known Aaron practically all my life,” added Callacher. “He’s a great player. He’s a strong boy. I’ve no doubt, he’ll score goals.
“Miski is now back from suspension. If you give him a chance in the box, nine times out of 10, he’ll bury it.
“Our midfield is as good as any in the league. We are also solid at the back. We’ve played in four competitive games and conceded only two goals -- it’s not a bad ratio.
“Even the league leaders are conceding . . . Cliftonville conceded six goals in their opening three league games.
“Goals win games and clean sheets win leagues. There is a lot of competition for places. Eddie Patterson has built a good squad. I think we are not too far away from being a team that can challenge at the top end of the table.”
Miskimmin and Richard Clarke both picked up injuries in the League Cup win against Ballyclare, but should be in the squad.
“Richard’s ankle was badly swollen, while Miski picked up a little calf problem,” said Glens boss Eddie Patterson. “Stephen McAlorum also received a kick in the ankle, but hopefully, all three will be available for the weekend.
“Mark Clarke comes back into the squad. He didn’t feature against Ballyclare because his hamstring felt a little bit tight, and after Saturday’s game. We didn’t want to take a chance with him.
On the plus side, Jay Magee is now back after a hamstring strain . . . he got a bit of a workout against Ballyclare.
“If all those niggling injuries clear up and, with all the suspensions out of the way, this will be the first time I’ve a full squad to pick from, so it will give me a few problems.”
Linfield manager David Jeffrey is waiting a fitness update on striker Peter Thompson and midfielder Jamie Mulgrew.
“Both are still rated very doubtful after picking up injuries against Crusaders last week,” he said. “Peter is suffering from an Achilles problem, while Jamie had to come off early on with a ‘dead leg’.
“Philip Lowry, who was injured in our opening match against Cliftonville, will also not be available. When you add Andrew Waterworth, Mark Haughey and Alan Blayney, to the list it reflects on how hard we’ve been hit by early-season injuries.
“But I don’t want it to sound as an excuse as we have only one point on the board. Things have gone against us in every game, including what appeared clear-cup penalty appeals. In terms of performances, last week against Crusaders, was the first time that I’ve really been disappointed with the display.”