Rutherglen Glencairn Football Club

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Rutherglen Glencairn 4 Ardeer Thistle 2

Saturday 15th November 2014 - Stagecoach West Region Super League Division One

(Report by Peter Ferguson)

Ardeer Thistle 2

Kris Irvine takes on his marker in one of Glencairn's many first half attacking moves.

The Glens got back to winning ways and moved up to 5th place in the league table as Ardeer Thistle visited New Southcroft Park for the first ever league meeting between the sides.

It was an afternoon which saw Glencairn start the match on fire, in particular new striker signing Ross McNeil, before a ten-minute blast from the visitors made it a close contest again, with The Glens regaining their composure in the second half to secure the points.

Glencairn manager Willie Harvey made only one change to the team after last week's defeat, and there was a return to the line-up for winger Kris Irvine, replacing defender David Dunnachie. The ever-versatile Ross Ballantyne moved to left back, with Andy Neil moving into central defence.

The Glens made a positive start to the game, and they were in front with the first clear cut chance of the game in the 3rd minute. A long ball from the back was flicked on in the air by Thomas Kilmartin, and Ross McNeil reacted quickly to nick the ball away from defender Michael Holden which sent him clean through on goal, and McNeil fired a clinical finish past the helpless Thistle keeper Paul McCann. It was McNeil's first competitive goal for the first team, but he was in no mood to stop there.

Ross McNeil Ross McNeil

Having scored early in the previous two matches but gone on to lose the games, The Glens seemed keen to build on their lead this time, and Irvine's cross from the right was just out of the reach of the strikers in the 4th minute.

Ardeer's first big chance came in the 7th minute as they broke forward and had three players bearing down on only two home defenders, but indecision between Scott Reid and Joe Young saw the chance fizzle out on the edge of the penalty area. Scott Reid had another chance a couple of minutes later as he was picked out in space on the left side of the penalty area, but Glencairn no.1 JC Hutchison made himself big and blocked away the attempted lobbed finish.

McNeil seemed certain to score in the 10th minute when Keiran Donaghy's cross from the left picked out the Glens no.9 right in front of goal, but he seemed to slip as he tried to finish and the ball stuck on the surface in front of goal, with Thistle defenders scrambling the ball away.

The Glens doubled their lead in the 12th minute, and it was a goal that fans of Glencairn under 21s will have seen many times in the past. Del Esplin surged forward in the centre of the field and then slipped a pass through the defence into the path of Ross McNeil's run, and the striker stretched to clip the ball over the diving McCann from eight yards out.

Glencairn were now well in control of the game, and Esplin could have increased the lead in the 18th minute when he found space to shoot, but his shot was partially blocked by his marker Arnault Bembo and was saved down low by McCann. The pressure continued as Ballantyne curled a shot which McCann tipped over the bar before Donaghy shot wide from the resulting corner. Jordan Dalzell was next to try his luck with a dipping and curling shot from distance which was on target, but once again McCann was a match to the shot.

It seemed that the match was effectively over as a contest when The Glens went 3-0 up in the 24th minute. Again it was the same combination, a surging run by Esplin from his own half and a perfectly timed pass which released Ross McNeil through on goal on the left side, the striker calmly slotting the ball past McCann for an impressive quickfire hat-trick.

A minute later Irvine's cross from the right just had a little too much pace for both Kilmartin and McNeil, and at this stage it seemed that Glencairn could score any amount of goals in this game.

However, the game turned on its head dramatically in the ten minutes leading up to the interval. There was a hint of what was to come when Bembo's low shot in the 32nd minute was saved down low by Hutchison.

Glencairn had a chance to make it four in the 35th minute as McNeil was released again on the left and tried to curl for the far corner instead of setting up Dalzell or Kilmartin who were in clear positions in the centre.

Ardeer were right back in the game only seconds later, though, as they pulled a goal back. Young started the move with a clever nutmeg on Willie Galloway, before setting up Francis Kilpatrick for a shot which Hutchison saved, but the ball broke loose to Stephen Reid who fired into the net from 12 yards to make it 3-1.

Glencairn tried to re-establish their three-goal lead quickly, with McNeil slipping as he shot on the edge of the area before Andy Neil volleyed just over the bar from 12 yards a minute later.

Thistle showed they hadn't given up on the game, though, and they pulled another goal back in the 41st minute, capitalising on a defensive error. Mark Bishop was caught in possession 35 yards from goal, and two passes later Craig McIntosh was through on goal. Hutchison made an excellent block to the first shot, but the ball bounced back out to Craig McIntosh, who made no mistake with his second effort, firing into the roof of the net.

It looked like the game was turning against The Glens again, unbelievably after the lightning opening half hour. There was a further blow when captain Ross Ballantyne was carried off after a brave clearance saw him caught late by Stephen Reid. He was replaced by midfielder Sean McGuire, with Dalzell slipping into right back and Galloway switching to the left back role.

The stoppage meant that four minutes of injury time were added to the first half, and Bishop had a great chance for Glencairn as he headed over the bar from six yards after Donaghy's corner from the right had picked out the big defender.

Half time : 3-2

Ardeer Thistle 1

Del Esplin and Kris Irvine in first half action.

Perhaps the half time whistle came at a good time for Glencairn, as it allowed the management to get the players calmed down and organised again, and it also seemed to take some of the momentum away that had been building for the visitors.

The second half started in positive fashion again for The Glens, Donaghy skinning his marker on the left but crossing just behind McNeil and Kilmartin. The 51st minute saw an outstanding save by McCann, tipping a fierce deflected shot by Esplin over the crossbar at full stretch, bringing applause from both sets of supporters. Thirty seconds later McCann saved again, this time from Kilmartin's curled effort from 20 yards.

The Ardeer support were shouting for a penalty in the 53rd minute when Stephen Reid went down in the box under a challenge by Neil, but the referee wasn't interested. A minute later an excellent diagonal pass by Neil picked out Irvine in space on the right, but Ardeer got defenders back to put enough pressure on the shot and McCann saved comfortably.

The visitors made their first change in the 59th minute with Lee Munro replacing 2nd goal scorer McIntosh, but it was goalkeeper McCann who was continuing to keep his side in contention. A free kick by McNeil from 20 yards (pictured below) was heading for the postage stamp corner of the net, before McCann stretched again to tip the ball over the bar.

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Ross McNeil fires in a free kick which produced a fine save by Thistle keeper Paul McCann.

Thistle's supporters were up in arms again in the 61st minute when they were denied another penalty claim, Young the man going to ground this time, but once again the whistler said no.

The McNeil v McCann battle continued in the 66th minute as the striker drilled a low free kick from 20 yards which the stopper smothered on his goal line.

The substitutions continued in the 71st minute as Ardeer brought Ross Stewart on to replace 1st goal scorer Stephen Reid, while Glencairn responded a minute later with Jamie MacLeod replacing Kilmartin up front.

Glencairn finally gave themselves some breathing space again in the 74th minute, and there were to be no prizes for guessing who would apply the finish. Donaghy did brilliantly to keep the ball in play on the left and he then picked out Irvine at the back post. The winger skipped to the bye line before lifting a cross which McCann could only get his fingertips to, and the ball dropped right in front of goal for Ross McNeil to head into the net for his fourth goal of the game.

Ardeer immediately made their final change with Toni Paton replacing Bembo, but that goal had effectively killed their chances of completing a remarkable comeback which had seemed impossible after 24 minutes. Glencairn also made their final change with 11 minutes remaning, Nicky Sullivan replacing Kris Irvine, with Donaghy switching from the left to the right wing.

To the visitors' great credit, they never stopped trying to get back into the game and were cheered on by an enthusiastic travelling support right to the end. The 93rd minute saw a header by George Bonner headed off the line by Esplin, before The Glens broke again and McNeil had a chance for a 5th goal, only to be denied again by the impressive McCann.

That was the end of the goalmouth action, and the referee blew for time after an extra four minutes, and The Glens had secured their third win out of four home matches so far this season.

Willie Harvey was pleased with another home win, although he felt his side had made hard work of the game. He commented, "I thought we played very well at times and scored some good goals, but we still contributed to the goals we lost and we need to work in that department. If we stop losing stupid goals we will do ok."

Rutherglen Glencairn :- Hutchison, Galloway, Ballantyne (McGuire), Bishop, Neil, Dalzell, Irvine (Sullivan), Esplin, McNeil, Kilmartin (MacLeod), Donaghy. (Subs not used - Dunnachie, Al Naeme (gk).)

Ardeer Thistle :- McCann, Ramsay, Tan, Bonner, Holden, McIntosh (Munro), Bembo (Paton), Scott Reid, Young, Stephen Reid (Stewart), Kilpatrick. (Subs not used - Gregory, Smith (gk).)

Man of the match - (chosen by Tam Symon) Ross McNeil.

Ross McNeil Ross McNeil

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