Wednesday 18th April 2018 - McBookie.com West Region Super League Division One
(Report by Peter Ferguson)
Glencairn on the attack towards the end of the first half.
Glencairn's promotion hopes took a dent with defeat away to rivals Cumbernauld United as the hectic schedule of midweek matches continued. Despite a resurgence from The Glens in the final quarter of the match, the home side had built up a convincing lead early in the match to leave the visitors with just too much to do to rescue the game.
There were three changes to the starting line-up from Saturday's win over Shettleston. Ryan Kerr replaced Craig McGregor in defence, and Ryan McArdle came in for Del McNab on the left side of midfield. The other change saw Sean McCall replacing injured Jordan Leyden in central midfield.
The match was an even contest in the early stages, with Glencairn having the first attempt on goal after only 24 seconds, McCall firing high and wide after being set up by tenacious play by his central midfield partner Sean McGuire. United responded with a tame header by Paul Murphy which was straight at goalkeeper Jack Baker.
The pitch was showing the effects of two home teams playing on it through a long, cold and wet winter, and the ball took an unfortunate bobble off a divot as Baker kicked clear in the 6th minute. The ball was sclaffed straight to United midfielder Mikey McLaughlin on halfway who tried to lob the ball back over Baker, but the big stopper retreated quickly to pluck the ball out of the sky.
Cumbernauld should have taken the lead in the 12th minute as Tony Stevenson's free kick picked out the run of Ross McCabe six yards out in front of goal, but his volley on the stretch flew over the crossbar. A minute later Glencairn were extremely unfortunate not to go in front as Tony Fraser's dipping shot from 30 yards beat goalkeeper David Buchanan but smacked off the face of the crossbar, the ball rebounding out to safety for the home side.
Had that effort hit the net, the outcome of this match could have been very different, however only a minute later the home side started a spell of pressure which resulted in three goals in only nine minutes, leaving the travelling Glencairn support in despair.
The opening goal came from defender Alan Benton who was left unmarked as a corner came in from the right, and his header flew into the postage stamp corner of the net with Baker helpless.
Glencairn tried to respond quickly but McCall's on-target shot lacked any power and was easily saved by Buchanan. The lead was doubled in the 20th minute as Chris Lennon was adjudged to be onside as he ran through on goal, and he stabbed the ball past Baker to make it 2-0.
There were strong shouts for a penalty kick for Glencairn shortly after this as Gary Smith blocked an attempted clearance by Stevenson and burst into the penalty area before going down under Stevenson's challenge (pictured below), but the referee ignored the claims and waved play on.
Things went from bad to worse for Glencairn in the 23rd minute as Cumbernauld made it 3-0. Lennon held off Rhys Donaldson and fed the ball to Paddy McCabe who lifted a shot towards goal. Baker got his fingertips to the ball, but the ball hit the underside of the crossbar and bounced down, the assistant referee immediately indicating that the ball had crossed the line.
The Glens were stunned, and the frustration was clear as McCall was shown yellow for dissent. McGuire pulled a shot wide of goal from 25 yards as Glencairn started to stem the flow towards their goal and exert some pressure of their own. Jay McKay threatened with an incisive run at the defence, but the ball just ran away from him at the wrong time and the chance was lost.
The referee appeared to be in no mood for giving Glencairn anything as he ignored further appeals for a penalty when McKay appeared to be climbed all over by two defenders just inside the area. As half time approached McCall pulled a shot wide of goal after set up play by Smith.
Paddy McCabe pulled a fine save out of Baker in the 43rd minute with a low angled shot, the Glencairn no.1 doing well to get down low to his right to beat away the firm effort. The same player was shown a yellow card for time wasting in first half stoppage time, but there was still time for one final effort by Glencairn before the interval, Stewart Hall rising above his marker at the back post but heading into the side netting.
Half time : 3-0
That was Hall's last contribution to the match as Willie Harvey made a change at the interval to bring on Del McNab on the right side of midfield, while United stuck with their starting eleven.
There was an early second half chance for Glencairn as McArdle ran at the defence with a 3-on-3 situation, but his final pass wasn't as accurate as was needed and was blocked out for a corner. A defensive mix-up in the 52nd minute gave Paddy McCabe the chance to run through on the right edge of the penalty area, but a fine interception by Donaldson stopped any further danger.
McNab's cross from the bye line picked out Smith at the back post in the 53rd minute, but the angle was just too tight to score and the shot flashed back across the face of goal to safety for the home side.
The referee once again ignored furious appeals by Glencairn players as United no.1 Buchanan appeared to handle the ball inside his penalty area before releasing it and then picking it up again. Having had a free kick awarded against them for the exact same incident only a couple of games ago, you can imagine the consternation of The Glens' players at not getting the same outcome.
It seemed that any prospect of a comeback were wiped out on the hour mark as Cumbernauld made it 4-0. Lennon found space on the left edge of the penalty area and, although his shot was well blocked by Baker, the ball broke kindly for United into the path of Paddy McCabe who fired into the net from close range.
Smith's glancing header pulled a save out of Buchanan before United made their first change of the game with Jamie Kennedy replacing the impressive but limping McLaughlin. Shortly afterwards Paul McMenamin replaced Darren Bowie, while Glencairn also made their second change as Jamie Hamilton replaced the injured McArdle, with McCall moving to the left flank.
It seemed no more than a consolation for Glencairn as they pulled a goal back in the 70th minute, Gary Smith taking advantage of hesitancy in the defence to head the ball over Buchanan and then sliding to convert from close range. It was Smith's 20th goal of the season from only 15 starting appearance.
Donaldson showed his defensive awareness with an excellent clearance to deny Lennon as a cross from the right seemed to be set up for the striker to convert at the back post.
The black and white supporters were having thoughts of an unlikely comeback as Glencairn pulled another goal back in the 73rd minute. A ball over the top of the defence saw Jay McKay race away from his marker, and he calmly rolled the ball past Buchanan to make it 4-2, and suddenly the win was nowhere near as certain for Cumbernauld as everybody had thought it was.
It was different game now, and Hamilton's low corner from the left was almost flicked into the net at the near post by Smith, Buchanan doing just enough to keep it out. United were now wasting an unbelievable amount of time at every opportunity with the referee doing very little about it, and Glencairn's frustration at this was shown as captain Fraser was shown a yellow card for dissent. Ross McCabe was finally shown yellow for taking forever and a day to take a free kick, but the referee's paperwork essay for the yellow card simply helped United to run down the clock.
Former Glens striker Fraser Team was a late substitute for United as he replaced Martin Shiels with seven minutes left on the clock. Time was running out fast now for Glencairn, but Smith went close to setting up a dramatic finish as he skipped past his marker inside the penalty area and drilled in a shot which was straight down the throat of the grateful Buchanan on his goal line.
The referee showed great leniency to Lennon in the 86th minute as he produced a yellow card only for kicking out at a Glencairn player, Lennon perhaps being spared a red card by the incident happening immediately in front of the home dugout.
That leniency was compounded in stoppage time as the referee made a ridiculously bad decision, showing a second yellow and a red card to Tony Fraser as he slid in to a 50/50 challenge and very clearly took the ball first. The referee was obviously influenced, however, by the scream from the United player who didn't win the ball, and the fact that the incident was in the centre of the pitch and so was much easier to make. He compounded the error by also showing yellow to Glencairn players Smith and Hamilton for dissent about Fraser's red card.
However, the red card didn't influence the outcome of the match and, despite the time wasting by the home side and five substitutions in the match, the referee added only just under four minutes of stoppage time.
Results elsewhere meant that The Glens remained in 6th place and continued to hold the play-off position, although things have tightened up even further as the season heads to a dramatic finale.
Cumbernauld United :- Buchanan, Benton, Bowie (McMenamin), Stevenson, Ross McCabe, Paul Murphy, Higgins, McLaughlin (Kennedy), Lennon, Paddy McCabe, Shiels (Team). (Subs not used - Winters, Malone.)
Rutherglen Glencairn :- Baker, Kerr, Palmer, Donaldson, Fraser, McGuire, Hall (McNab), McCall, Smith, McArdle (Hamilton), McKay. (Subs not used - Grier, Hutchison (gk).)
Man of the match - (chosen by Jim Keith) Tony Fraser.