Christmas is the time of the year for family, togetherness and presents. However for fans of Irish League football, Christmas Day is also the day before the biggest day in the footballing calendar. Boxing Day sees all the local derby matches from across the country take place with the biggest attendances of the year out in force. As East Belfast tucks into turkey and stuffing tomorrow evening, no doubt Eddie Patterson as well as everyone else associated with the club, will have their minds on the Big Two derby on Boxing Day.
This year, we travel to Windsor Park looking for our first win at Windsor against The Blues on Boxing Day since 1972. Admittedly, there was a 12 year gap from 1977-1989 where the Boxing Day fixture was taken off the schedule, but this is still not a stat that sits well. Our recent Boxing Day history has been poor with just 2 wins since 1989. In 2007 Michael Halliday broke the 18 year hoodoo with a 1-0 win and last year Darren Boyce was the hero by the same scoreline, both at The Oval. Winning at Windsor Park is a task in itself for the team, an 11 year wait for a win there was finally broken last year. But with back to back Windsor victories thanks to Ciaran Martyn's winner in August with Calum Birney's end of season brace, The Glens will be aware that records are made to be broken.
Glentoran are 1 point clear of Linfield with a game in hand currently in the league standings. We sit 3rd, 12 points behind Cliftonville. Linfield lie 5th, with Coleraine sandwiched in between. For Boxing Day's game, Jason Hill and Mark Clarke will miss out through suspension having not served their ban on Saturday due to the game's postponment. Colin Nixon is a major doubt after having surgery on his nose earlier today following the clash with Kevin Braniff at Shamrock Park last weekend.
Linfield have William Murphy as a doubt for the game after picking up concussion against Crusaders on Saturday. The Blues are finally starting to find their feet this year after a poor start. David Rainey's late equaliser for Crusaders on Saturday denied them overtaking us going into the big game. The Blues have been more consistent and expect them to be up for revenge for not having beaten us in the last 5 Big Two league games. But Glentoran will be up for the game too after a recent good run. The lads will be confident and hopefully with a big crowd behind them, we can throw some old records out the window and return to East Belfast with a late Christmas present.
Everyone at Glentoran Football Club would like to wish all Glentoran fans a Merry Christmas and encourage you all to come out in force to ensure a Happy Boxing Day to follow.