Jason king for one night after Glentoran victory against Linfield
The next time there’s a Big Two final, Jason Hill will have a pretty strong case for claiming the captain’s armband.
On Tuesday night he accepted the honour for the first time in a competitive match, leading his Glentoran side out for a titanic tussle against Linfield in the County Antrim Shield decider.
The Blues were expected to get their hands on the famous old trophy, but instead it was Hill’s muscles which were called into action as his merry band of heroes tore up the script and triumphed by three goals to one.
Hill was the Glens captain in a few pre-season scraps, but there’s nothing like leading your men to a victory over the old enemy — and in a Shield final to boot!
The 28-year-old, who was the oldest man in a Glentoran jersey sent into battle, had every reason to smile as he proudly lifted the giant trophy. The famous east Belfast club have a bigger fight away from the bright lights of football grounds but the players have shown that it can be business as usual on the pitch.
“It was my first competitive game as captain and it was a huge honour,” said Hill.
“To take on that responsibility in a Big Two final is very special and I enjoyed it. I’ll happily give the armband back to Paul (Leeman) when he wants it but I’m proud to have played a part in a great team performance because that is what we needed to produce to beat Linfield in a final.
“I think the captain’s role and the significance of the result didn’t really hit me until the day after when people were writing nice things about me and texting me.
“Beating Linfield at Windsor Park in a final is quite an achievement, especially when you consider how young the team was, but from the first whistle I think we earned the right to win the game.”
Few punters would have placed a bet on Glentoran winning the Paddy Power County Antrim Shield but in a one-off final, particularly one involving fierce rivals like the Big Two, nothing can be taken for granted.
Scott Young’s men seem to relish the underdogs tag, keeping the pressure on the Carling Premiership champions.
Goals from Andrew Waterworth and Matty Burrows fired the Glens 2-0 ahead by the 22nd minute and the shell-shocked Blues never recovered.
Grant Gardiner placed the icing on the cake after Billy Joe Burns set up a tense finish.
“We got the goals at the right time and that gave us extra belief and confidence,” said Hill.
“It was important to have the clean sheet at half-time and we knew Linfield would throw the kitchen sink at us in the second half but we had something to hold onto. We knew we could hit them on the break and no-one was going to start panicking. From defence to attack, it was a great team performance with everyone playing their part.
“The young lads were fantastic and David Howland, playing at centre-back for the first time, did a superb job. People talked about Paul Leeman and Colin Nixon being out of the team but we were without Sean Ward as well and four young lads on the bench aren’t 20 yet.
“We were happy for Linfield to be massive favourites for the game because we could go into it and express ourselves without being under pressure.”
The Glentoran players won the Big Two battle at Windsor Park but the club’s bosses are still facing the fight of their lives in the boardroom.
“I don’t know what is happening with regard to the club’s future and I never think about it when I’m on the pitch because I’ve a job to do,” added Hill.
“All that has been left to the board to sort out and everyone is hoping things can be resolved. The players are not letting the uncertainty affect performances and now the challenge for us is to be consistent because we know how well we can perform. Linfield remain favourites for the league title but we’ll keep working hard and fight against the odds.”