Saturday 26th August 2017 - McBookie.com West Region Super League Division One
(Report by Peter Ferguson)
Andy Neil slides into a first half challenge.
The Glens' poor start to the season continued as they went down to a 4-2 home defeat to newly promoted Darvel Juniors at The Celsius Stadium. It was the first ever league meeting between the sides, and Vale's first visit to Rutherglen for competitive action for 33 years, but they made sure their fans headed back to Ayrshire delighted as they moved to the top of the league table.
After last week's defeat away to Renfrew, the decision was made by the Glencairn management to change to a back four in an attempt to shore up a defence which had been leaking far too many goals. There were four changes to the starting line-up as Anthony Dempsey, Andy Neil, Ryan Bennett and Fraser Team were brought back in.
Things looked very positive early in the match as Jay McKay's incisive run in the first minute earned a free kick on the edge of the penalty area and a yellow card for defender Martin Findlay's crude tackle. Gary Smith fired the free kick into the defensive wall.
The Glens were in front in the 8th minute, and it's fair to say that it was a touch of good fortune. Stewart Hall lifted a high ball from the halfway line aimed for the run of Team but, as Darvel goalkeeper David Markey came out to try to intercept, the ball bounced straight over his head and into the empty net.
The lead wasn't to last long, though, as the Glencairn defence's vulnerability to cross balls came back to haunt them yet again only two minutes later. A cross from the left saw Jamie Henderson rise to head the ball past home no.1 Jack Baker to make it 1-1.
All of the early optimism for Glencairn was quickly disappearing as Vale struck again in the 16th minute to take the lead. A ball over the top of Dempsey was controlled by Mark Armour, and he cut inside before curling a fine finish beyond the outstretched arms of Baker.
Smith was released on the left edge of the penalty area for Glencairn in the 20th minute and he tried to square for strike partner Team, but over-hit the ball and Markey raced out to smother. There was controversy in the 24th minute when Markey caught the ball outside of his penalty area as it dropped out of the sky, denying Team the chance to pounce. The referee deemed it only to be a yellow card offence, and Jamie Hamilton fired the free kick against the defensive wall.
Baker made a fine save to deny Henderson a second goal in the 26th minute, diving to his right to beat the ball away for a corner. Play swung back to the other end, and Hamilton's delightful pass released Team on the edge of the penalty area, but he sliced his shot wide of goal.
The industry of McKay on the left was creating opportunities, and Markey had to punch clear from a cross which was heading towards Smith's head. The chances were coming at both ends, and Armour had two attempts in the 29th minute, one blocked by Neil and the other by Baker.
Both goalkeepers were doing well at this point, and Markey produced a terrific save to deny McKay's close range volley after Team's cross from the left had been cushioned into the striker's path by Smith's clever header.
Darvel increased their lead in the 33rd minute, and once again it was a cross and header which breached the Glencairn defences. Craig McGregor was pulled out of position to the right, and Armour's cross picked out the head of Kenny Parris who placed his header beyond Baker to make it 3-1 to the visitors.
Baker had to make a good save to deny Henderson's back post header as Vale continued to threaten the home defence, and every Vale attack looked like it could produce a goal at this point. Glencairn's frustration was summed up by a spell of passing in front of the defence ending with Hamilton firing a shot from distance straight down Markey's throat. A neat flick by Team released Smith on the left edge of the penalty area in the 38th minute, but Darvel got defenders in his way and crowded him out before he could get his shot away.
The game seemed to be over as a contest in the 41st minute as Darvel made it 4-1, a neat flick inside the penalty area creating space for Jamie Henderson to fire past Baker for his second goal of the game.
Half time : 1-4
Top goal scorer Gary Smith keeps his eye on the ball.
The shell-shocked Glens emerged from the dressing room with a two substitutions and a slight change of shape. Sean McGuire replace Bennett and Ryan McArdle replaced Team as they moved to a conventional 4-4-2 formation, McKay now joining Smith up front with McGuire and McArdle in the wide roles.
The home fans were given immediate hope of an unlikely comeback as Glencairn pulled a goal back with their first attack of the second half. McGuire found his way to the bye line before crossing to the near post where Gary Smith produced a quite excellent volleyed finish to reduce the deficit to two goals.
A minute later it was almost a carbon copy and another goal as McGuire's cross from the right once again picked out Smith at the near post, but this time the big striker couldn't make a clean connection with the ball and the chance was lost.
Baker made an excellent stop to deny Murray Johnston right in front of goal after the ball had come through a crowd of players, neither playing realising that Johnston had been flagged offside. The match was a contest again now, though, and Robert Boyd was let off with just a warning for a sliding foul on McKay before Tony Fraser was given the same grace by the referee only moments later for a hefty challenge on Johnston.
The Glens looked as if they had the ideal opportunity to get right back into contention in the 65th minute as Darvel were reduced to ten men and Glencairn were awarded a penalty kick. McKay was released through on goal and was deliberately brought down from behind by Boyd on the edge of the penalty area, the referee producing a straight red card for the defender. McKay dusted himself down and chose to take the spot kick himself, but Markey dived to his left to palm the ball away and maintain his side's two-goal lead.
Instead of being only one goal behind with a man extra going into the final 25 minutes, Darvel now had a psychological boost from the penalty save and also still had their cushion to lean on. Glencairn continued to pressurise, and Smith's near post flick was begging for somebody to stab it over the line, but nobody was able to apply the finish.
Glencairn changed to three at the back as they continued to chase the game, striker Alessandro Savarese replacing defender Dempsey. Darvel also made their first change at this point, striker Greg Vernon replacing Johnston. Glencairn continued to push forward with Darvel happy to sit in and absorb the pressure with their lead. McKay's cross from the right picked out McArdle at the back post, but Callum Walsh got his body in the way to clear.
Jackson Biggar replaced double goal scorer Henderson for Vale with nine minutes remaining, and their final change came two minutes later as Adam Wales replace another scorer in Armour.
You could tell from the body language of the players and fans that the hope of the early second half comeback had been sucked out of them by the penalty miss, although to be fair to the Glencairn players they kept trying right to the end of the match. Several chances to score were created as the match moved into stoppage time, but Darvel's strong defence stood tall with Walsh particularly impressive.
Neil should have scored with a free header at the back post from McArdle's corner in the 92nd minute, but his effort missed the target by some distance. McArdle then pulled a save out of Markey with an angled shot from close range, and Markey also did well to dive to his left to deny Savarese's glancing header in the 93rd minute.
Vale held on to their two-goal lead to earn the three points which continued their momentum from last season's Ayrshire District League championship win, as they moved to the top of the Super League Division One table with two wins from two games.
Rutherglen Glenairn :- Baker, Hall, Dempsey (Savarese), Neil, McGregor, Fraser, Bennett (McGuire), Hamilton, Smith, Team (McArdle), McKay. (Subs not used - Grier, Ndlovu, McAllister (gk).)
Darvel Juniors :- Markey, Findlay, Gilmour, Boyd, Walsh, McCreadie, Armour (Wales), Henderson (Biggar), Parris, Davidson, Johnston (Vernon). (Subs not used - Calder, Orr,)
Man of the match - (chosen by Alan Maxwell) Jay McKay.