Saturday 16th April 2016 - McBookie.com West Region Super League Division One
(Report by Peter Ferguson)
Alan Muir battles for first half possession.
Glencairn finally recorded their first home league win of the season as they fired five goals past Cumnock Juniors in an all action match at The Celsius Stadium. The visitors came to Rutherglen full of confidence on the back of an 18-game unbeaten run in all competitions, but that record came to a shuddering halt as The Glens deservedly earned all three points to move up to ninth place in the league table.
With four players still missing through injury, Willie Harvey gave a vote of confidence to the starting eleven from the match against Maybole two weeks previously, with captain Brian Eadie shaking off an injury to take his place in the team. Under 21 players Danny Salah and Paul Ross Caughey filled out the substitutes' bench.
There was an interesting match-up in the centre of midfield, with last season's joint Glencairn Players of the Year facing up against each other, Sean McGuire and Del Esplin, while last year's Glencairn top goal scorer Ross McNeil had to be happy with a place on the Cumnock bench.
The referee courted controversy as early as the second minute of the game by awarding a free kick to Cumnock on the edge of the Glencairn penalty area, with no obvious offence having taken place. Josh Watt fired the ball into the strong defensive wall and the threat was cleared.
It will have come as no surprise to Esplin when he was met by a strong tackle from McGuire in the fifth minute, showing that there would be no quarter given despite the two players' continuing close friendship. The Glens were showing no fear of their opponents, and seemed confident in themselves that they would keep their recent run of improved results going. Graeme Brown found Mark Batchelor with a quick throw in the 10th minute, and he almost caught out Cumnock goalkeeper Graeme Shepherd with a snap shot which brushed the outside of the post and into the side netting.
Aiden Malone's threat for Cumnock was clear to see, and some clever footwork earned his side a corner in the 14th minute, and from the resulting cross Malone headed inches over the bar. Owen Ronald was next to go close for the visitors when he pounced on a defensive slip, but he fired wide from 18 yards.
The hard work of lone front man Mark Duffy almost paid off in the 23rd minute when he nicked the ball away from his marker and was chopped down on the edge of the penalty area. Alan Muir drove the angled free kick into the wall, but two minutes later Muir's delivery was much more productive. A curling free kick from the right was met by the rising head of Mark Duffy, and he nodded the ball firmly past Shepherd at his near post to put Glencairn 1-0 in front. It was the big striker's sixth goal in seven games since joining the club.
Glencairn continued to go at their opponents, and excellent link play on the right between Muir and Brown ended with a cross being cut out at the near post for a corner. The lead was doubled in the 32nd minute with a delightful goal. Batchelor worked his way to the bye line and crossed at full stretch. The ball came over Esplin into the path of Sean McGuire, who took a touch on his chest before placing a precise left foot volley from 20 yards into the corner of the net past the outstretched arms of Shepherd.
Cumnock seemed unable to cope with the fluid system that Glencairn were adopting, with Duffy playing the perfect lone striker role and supported from behind by four willing midfield runners. Batchelor's reverse pass in the 35th minute almost set up Del McNab, but there was just too much pace on the pass and Shepherd thwarted the danger.
The visitors were unfortunate not to pull a goal back in the 37th minute when Watt's corner from the left was met by the head of James Lundie, but his close range effort smacked off the bar and bounced fortunately into the arms of Glencairn no.1 JC Hutchison. A couple of minutes later saw another close thing as Keiran Woods pounced on a defensive slip and ran in on goal on the angle of the penalty area, but smashed his shot high, wide and out of the stadium.
There were gasps from both sets of supporters in the 43rd minute when Cumnock defender Stevie Crawford tried to clear a cross for a corner, but succeeded only in hitting the ball against his own post, and ball rolled along the goal line into the grateful hands of Shepherd.
The referee added on two full minutes of stoppage time at the end of the first half for no apparent reason, but The Glens were happy to take their two-goal lead into the changing room.
Half time : 2-0
David Dunnachie keeps his eye on the ball as he thwarts striker Aiden Malone.
There was an unsurprising change for Cumnock at the start of the second half as Ross McNeil was brought on to play alongside Malone, midfielder Raymond Montgomerie being withdrawn. Glencairn stuck with their starting XI, and the question now was whether they would build on their lead or try to consolidate what they had earned.
We didn't have to wait long, as Glencairn went back on the front foot quickly, and the lead was increased to 3-0 in the 50th minute. Tony Fraser's corner was cleared back out to him, and he fired in a low shot which was blocked back to Fraser again. This time, though, he produced a clever pass to set up Duffy to fire the ball across goal, and defender Jonathon Lindsay slid in to deflect the ball into the roof of his own net.
The home fans were in dreamland at this stage, as many had turned up for this game more in hope than in expectation. Cumnock naturally had to throw caution to the wind now, but they were being met by a determined Glencairn rearguard, marshalled well by the impressive Ryan Docherty. When the defence was breached, they were comforted by the form of Hutchison behind them, and the big stopper produced a stunning double save to deny Malone in the 55th minute to keep the three-goal lead intact.
The more Cumnock pushed on, the more Glencairn were finding spaces to break on them at pace, and McNab tried to set up Batchelor in one of the breaks but mis-cued his final pass. The home fans were jumping about again in the 57th minute when the referee pointed to the penalty spot after McGuire was upended just inside the area, but Duffy spurned the chance to kill the match by pulling his shot just the wrong side of the left hand post (pictured below).
Mark Duffy pulls his penalty kick wide of the target.
Cumnock sensed a psychological swing at that point, with the heads of the home support dropping slightly in dread of a dramatic comeback after the missed chance to tie up the points. Andy Scott was brought off the bench to replace Crawford immediately after the spot kick, and the visitors immediately started to try to use that lucky break to open the door back into the match for them.
A cross from the left was deflected right onto the head of McNeil right in front of goal, but the normally deadly finisher nodded the ball straight into the arms of Hutchison on his goal line.
The tension in the match was still clear, despite the scoreline, and yellow cards started to be flashed about, although sometimes needlessly. Muir and Duffy of Glens were joined in the whistler's notepad by Esplin and Scott of Cumnock.
Cumnock were getting closer, though, and Fraser headed off the goal line after Malone's shot had been deflected over Hutchison in the 66th minute. A minute later the comeback was on for real as 'Nock pulled a goal back. Glencairn's defence failed to clear the ball in the air, and a header for goal was initially held by Hutchison and then fumbled as he fell, leaving the goal open for Aiden Malone to tap into the net from a yard out to make it 3-1.
The whole flow of the game had changed since the missed penalty, and now Glencairn were hanging on. Brian Eadie headed clear from under the bar in the 70th minute, and McGuire was shown yellow, followed by Batchelor and Eadie as the pressure mounted on the home back line.
Glencairn made their first change with Muir taken off and replaced by Danny Salah, with the experienced Fraser moving into the midfield anchor role. Shortly afterwards Paddy Cullen came on to replace Duffy, who left the field to generous applause for the hard shift he had put in.
The pressure continued to build, with Watt the main dangerman, running half the length of the park before crossing accurately and forcing Eadie into conceding another corner. A minute later Hutchison had to kick clear in front of goal as Cumnock couldn't force the ball over the line due to the determination of the home players to keep the ball out.
McNab had the opportunity to set up Batchelor again on another breakaway in the 78th minute, but his cross came halfway up Batchelor's leg and he could only knee the ball into the arms of Shepherd, and the ball quickly moved back towards the Glencairn goal again.
It was really "game on" in the 80th minute when Cumnock scored an excellent goal to make it 3-2. Ronald's corner from the left was cleared only as far as Josh Watt, and he cut in from the right before firing a low curling shot which flew past Hutchison and into the bottom corner.
Glencairn's supporters were now watching the game through their fingers, and their hearts skipped a beat when Watt's cross was headed wide on the dive by Ronald.
Both teams made their final throw of the dice with only a few minutes remaining, Paul Murphy replacing Esplin for Cumnock, and Paul Ross Caughey replacing Brown for The Glens.
As the match moved into stoppage time, Glencairn tried to run down the clock by holding the ball in play at the corner flag. That resulted in a tangle of players, during which defender Jonathon Lindsay took a wild swipe at Batchelor, and the referee produced a straight red card for the own-goal culprit.
If anybody left the game at that point thinking that it was "game over", they missed a closing treat from Glencairn. Salah broke on the left and then fed the ball across the penalty area. Cullen cleverly back-heeled the ball into the path of Sean McGuire, who produced his trademark chip into the far corner of the net, a goal he has scored several times for Glencairn.
This time the points were well and truly secured, but the action still wasn't over, and The Glens put some icing on the cake in the 94th minute as Caughey released Del McNab clean through on goal, and he slipped the ball past Shepherd to make it 5-2 and send the home support home absolutely delighted.
Rutherglen Glencairn :- Hutchison, Brown (Caughey), Eadie, Docherty, Dunnachie, Batchelor, McNab, McGuire, Duffy (Cullen), Alan Muir (Salah), Fraser. (Subs not used - Borland, Thomson (gk).)
Cumnock Juniors :- Shepherd, Woods, Crawford (Scott), Lundie, Lindsay, Montgomerie (McNeil), Ronald, Esplin (Murphy), Malone, Burns, Watt. (Subs not used - Sampson, Johnson (gk).)
Man of the match - (chosen by Mark Batchelor snr) Ryan Docherty.