GLENTORAN Seconds’ boss Spike Hill delivered a Christmas Day miracle that even George Bailey would have been proud of.
The wee Glens stunned heavy favourites Ards at Seaview in the final of the Steel & Sons Cup, out-manoeuvring the experienced Championship One side, to win 3-0 thanks to a brace from Richard Gibson either side of an 85th minute strike from Newtownards based midfielder Steven Gordon.
Up until Christmas morning Ards boss Niall Currie has had a wonderful life at Ards, but he was left furious after his side were humbled by a Glentoran team full of teenagers.
Currie said: “For the first 25 minutes of the game we were fine. Ross Arthurs and Neil Dougan both had good chances to give us the lead.
“Then you’ve got Ben Browne on the edge of the box, trying Platini passes when he should be pulling the trigger.
“We need three or four clear cut chances before we score a goal and that’s not good enough. That’s got to change and it will change.”
True to his word, Currie reacted by confirming that former Glentoran striker Matty Burrows has agreed to join Ards from Glenavon, when the transfer window opens next week.
Ards currently lead the promotion chase by five points and are yet to be beaten in Championship One, but this humiliating defeat will raise questions about Ards’ mentality.
Currie said: “The bottom line is some of our players didn’t show up in the final.
“When we’re going into the last stage of the season and we need to win big league games, we need to know we’ve got boys to fight for us in the trenches.
“And that’s not what happened in the final – we threw the towel in.
“We’ve got ability all over the park, but there are question marks over our strength of character.”
Glentoran’s troubles have been well documented this season, but the success of Spike Hill’s young reserve side have been a pleasant distraction during a difficult period.
The Seconds’ victory over Ards was no freak result – Hill and his coaching staff studied Ards over a number of matches and tailored their formation and tactics to damage Ards.
The plan worked – Ards were suffocated by a well discipline Glentoran defence and vulnerable to their incisive counter-attacks.
After Ards dominated the opening half an hour, Glentoran Seconds sprung into life in the 38th minute when Steven McCullough’s powerful cross-come-shot was diverted home by Richard Gibson.
The second goal arrived in the 85th minute a came courtesy of some good team-work that left Steven Gordon to complete the job with a low drive into Graeme McKibbin’s net.
Glentoran Seconds scored their third goal of the game two minutes from time when captain Samuel McIlveen’s corner was headed in by the dominate Gibson at the back post.
Reflecting on his success Spike Hill said: “All week in the media I played the underdog card, but in reality I always knew we had a very good chance. We have some superb young players and they performed superbly well today and I’m delighted for them.
“Richard Gibson was one of only two contracted players out their and he played like a true professional. Five of the Ards team came through Glentoran’s books, so in many ways it was always going to be a victory for us. We knew it would be a good game of football.”
Man of the match Gibson hopes his performance can catapult him back into the Glentoran first team.
“I’m delighted for the young boys – many of them will never get the chance to play in this final again as they’ll be playing first team football in the near future.
“In this team, I’m a senior player, so I have a responsibility to encourage the boys and help them out where I can and I do that to the best of my ability.
“I just hope Eddie Patterson was watching today. Perhaps I’ve played better but I scored two goals and you can’t really argue with that.”
While Spike Hill’s dynamic young Glentoran Seconds side can bask in their Steel & Sons Cup success, Ards must prepare for Saturday’s crucial north Down derby against Bangor at Clandeboye Park.