Glentoran skipper Leeman up for Big Two challenge
Paul Leeman likes to look at the bigger picture when it comes to the Boxing Day tussle with Linfield as experience has taught him not to read too much into defeat or victory.
Linfield collected the bragging rights in the festive scrap a year ago but it was the Glens who had the final laugh when they went on to lift the Gibson Cup.
The reality is there is little festive cheer among the followers of both clubs as the Big Two struggle to flex their title winning muscles.
Crusaders replaced the Glens at the summit of the Carling Premiership on Saturday after Alan McDonald’s side crashed to a 1-0 defeat to Newry City and the priority for the title holders is to find some consistency and make the Oval a fortress again.
McDonald has questioned whether his players are feeling the weight of expectation on their shoulders at the east Belfast venue but Leeman takes a very different view.
“I certainly don’t feel any added pressure at the Oval,” said the Glens skipper. “I have played there a long time and I love playing there. It’s one of the best playing surfaces in the country and it's only right that we are expected to win matches — that is what we set out to do.”
Linfield’s title challenge may have also hit the buffers but Leeman knows his side are in for another titanic test under the shadow of the Harland and Wolff cranes.
“The Blues may have suffered three defeats but look at the quality in their squad,” he added.
“It’s a massive game for both sides given their recent form but we desperately want to win it.
“I know questions have been raised about our strikers not scoring but form is temporary and class is permanent. Our forwards will soon start finding the net but this is a team game and we play as a team.
“This may not be a title decider but it’s a big game that could have an impact on where the title ends up. Most of these Boxing Day fixtures have given me headaches but hopefully we can win this one.
“It’s been a very up and down season for us but we’d like to get some consistency going, starting with a win over Linfield.”