Saturday 9th August 2014 - Euroscot Engineering Central Sectional League Cup Grp 4
(Report by Peter Ferguson)
The Glens got their season underway with a hard-fought draw away to Blantyre Victoria in the Central Sectional League Cup, and ultimately it was hard to grumble at the final result despite Glencairn leading for the vast majority of the match.
Both sides were short of players for this match, particularly in defence, and it was makeshift back lines which started the match. With manager Willie Harvey and coach Joe Pryce on holiday, assistant manager Rab Torrance was a lone figure in the dugout area, and he didn't have his problems to seek as his planned 16-man squad of Saturday morning was whittled down to a squad of only 12 players at kick off time.
Torrance had actually picked his team and formation, when midfielder Sean McGuire received an emergency call-out to work just before kick off time, so striker Thomas Kilmartin was called into the starting line-up and the shape of the team changed to 4-4-2 from the planned 4-3-3. This left Jamie MacLeod as the only remaining substitute, so Torrance also named himself on the bench in case of an emergency.
Despite the pre-match disruption, the season started in sensational style for The Glens, as they took the lead with their very first attack. Keiran Donaghy was released in space on the left, and he cut past his marker before rolling the ball across goal where Thomas Kilmartin was waiting to fire into the net across the balance of Vics' goalkeeper John Mullen, and Glencairn were 1-0 up with only 28 seconds on the clock.
Glencairn's fans rubbed their hands in anticipation of potentially more to come, but it was the home side who were next to go close in the 8th minute. A slipped pass through the defence saw trialist right back Dom Green at full stretch and only get a toe to the ball, allowing winger Alan Christie in to slip the ball past Hutchison but, as some of the Blantyre players started to celebrate a goal, the ball slipped wide of the target by the width of a coat of paint.
As if Glencairn didn't have their selection troubles to seek, they were forced into using their only genuine substitute in the 15th minute as Willie Galloway was forced off with a calf injury. Jamie MacLeod came on into an advanced midfield role, with Dean Muir dropping back to sweeper. The Glens would now have to see out the game with the eleven players they had, while Vics still had the choice of three out of five substitutes left.
David Kirkwood went close for Blantyre in the 19th minute when he got on the end of a low free kick from the left, but he scuffed his shot across goal and wide of the far post. There were loud shouts for a penalty kick from the home players in the 27th minute when Muir brought down Craig Smith and he fell into the box, but the referee deemed the offence to have taken place inches outside the area. The set piece came to nothing for the home side.
Glencairn hadn't really threatened the home goal since the lightning start to the game, but a long kick by goalkeeper JC Hutchison in the 32nd minute fell nicely into the path of Kilmartin. As the striker pulled his leg back to shoot, a home defender got a foot to the ball to knock it off Kilmartin and out for a goal kick.
A delightful move by Glencairn involving Kilmartin, Kris Irvine and Steven McClung ended with MacLeod through on goal. The substitute tried to place his shot, but Mullen got the slightest of touches to the shot to deflect the ball wide for a corner.
Smith tried a spectacular overhead kick in the 42nd minute which flew narrowly wide, but Hutchison seemed to know it was going wide. A minute later Christie made space for himself to fire over the bar from 20 yards.
Half time : 0-1
Blantyre made no personnel changes at half time and, while Glencairn had no substitutes left to use other than Torrance, there was a slight tactical change with Irvine moving to the left and Donaghy to the right flank.
Despite Blantyre having plenty of the ball, Hutchison hadn't had a save to make in the game until the 53rd minute, when he won a battle of wills as Smith ran through on goal, the big stopper standing up long enough to make the striker fire the ball straight at him.
The Glens had a great chance to increase their lead a minute later as Irvine linked with Kilmartin and then rolled the ball across to McClung, but defender Alexander Amos got his toe to the ball to deny McClung a clear shot and took a whack from the striker instead.
As the game moved into the final half hour, Vics started to press Glencairn back in search of an equaliser. Andy Sinclair's cross from the left was cut out for a corner by Muir at the near post, before Blantyre made their first change with Billy Davies replacing Christie.
Smith found himself clear on goal again in the 71st minute, but David Dunnachie got back to put enough pressure on the striker and Hutchison completed the job by turning the ball round the post. The equaliser that Blantyre deserved on the balance of play arrived in the 72nd minute. Smith released Davies on the left and he cut along the bye line before seeing his cross blocked away by Green. The ball fell into the path of Andy Sinclair, and he drilled the ball into the net through the legs of Hutchison.
David Galt had a great chance to put Blantyre ahead shortly afterwards as he ran clear on goal, but once again Hutchison stood up and won the battle, making himself big and blocking the shot. Thirty seconds later a cross from the left found the free head of Kirkwood, but he was always stretching for the ball and couldn't direct it on target from right in front of goal.
Blantyre made their second change with seven minutes remaining, with Kyle Lochhead replacing Ryan McGarry. Kirkwood went close again with a header in the 85th minute, but again he couldn't direct it on target and the ball flew across goal and wide. It wasn't Smith's afternoon, and he missed a great chance in the 90th minute as Maxi Neossi's cross was headed back into the path of the striker, but he missed the target from close range.
Glencairn looked to nick the win in the 91st minute as Kilmartin fed Del Esplin and he fired in a shot from 25 yards, but it was too straight at Mullen and the home no.1 saved comfortably. As the match moved deep into stoppage time tempers flared when Smith went shoulder to shoulder with Muir and then went down in the penalty area. Muir was displeased at what he saw as an attempt to con the referee, and Smith and Eadie of Blantyre were booked as well as Muir.
The referee added on a full five minutes, but neither side could find a winner and both had to settle for a point to start the League Cup section. Rab Torrance was fairly pleased with what he had seen and commented, "In the circumstances it was a decent result. Given the pre-season we've had and the selection issues today, a point is not bad. A lot of teams treat the groups like an extension to pre-season, and we normally don't like doing that, but in our current situation we probably have to do just that."
Blantyre Victoria :- Mullen, Eadie, Sinclair, Amos, Neossi, McGarry (Lochhead), Galt, Green, Craig Smith, Kirkwood, Christie (Davies). (Subs not used - Ross Smith, Goodall, Barrett.)
Rutherglen Glencairn :- Hutchison, Green, Ballantyne, Galloway (MacLeod), Dunnachie, Muir, Irvine, McClung, Esplin, Donaghy, Kilmartin. (Sub not used - Torrance.)
Man of the match - (chosen by Alan King) Dean Muir.