Saturday 22nd July 2017 - Meldrum Cup (Pre-season friendly match)
(Report by Peter Ferguson)
Gary Smith and Ryan McArdle combine to threaten the home defence in the first half.
Glencairn continued their pre-season schedule as they travelled deep into the heart of Ayrshire to take on the current undisputed best team in junior football on their own patch. It's less than two months since Glenafton Athletic completed an impressive treble of trophy wins, and the Scottish Junior Cup, the West Region Super Premier League trophy and the Evening Times Champions Cup were all proudly on display this afternoon for everybody to see in the Glenafton social club.
It's fair to say that Glencairn won't meet many sides of this quality this season, with Glenafton impressive in their physical strength throughout their squad as well as their excellent technique and workrate. However, there were several encouraging signs throughout the match for the travelling Glencairn supporters as the new players continue to be integrated into the squad. This trip was more about squad bonding as the players all travelled together with the supporters, and then the players went on to a potentially "interesting" team night out in Glasgow on their return.
Glencairn started the match in a very positive fashion, with Jamie Hamilton slicing a shot wide of the target after only 25 seconds. Glenafton's first attempt on goal came in the 3rd minute as Cameron Marlow fired in a low shot which goalkeeper KP McAllister saved well down low. Alan Cairns was next to try his luck for the home side but shot off target as they started to exert an authority on the match.
The referee raised eyebrows on the pitch as he was heard very clearly to swear unnecessarily at a Glencairn player who had only asked him why a free kick was allowed to be taken 15 yards from the where the foul took place. This set the tone for the afternoon for the whistler who it's fair to say did not leave either set of supporters with a good impression.
Tricky footwork by Hamilton and Jay McKay almost opened up the home defence in the 14th minute but the Glenafton defence were solid and snuffed out the chances to shoot. Glenafton took the lead in the 19th minute as they pounced ruthlessly on Glencairn conceding possession, with Ryan Borris making space to angle a shot past McAllister from 16 yards out.
Jamie McKernon went close to doubling the lead two minutes later with a dipping angled free kick which slipped just wide of the target, with McAllister scrambling across his goal to try and cover.
Persistent play on the left by McKay almost created a chance for Glencairn as the striker's quick feet took him into a threatening area before crossing towards Gary Smith, but home goalkeeper Brian McGarrity pulled the ball off the striker's head before grabbing it at the second attempt.
The impressive McKernon tried his luck again at the other end in the 23rd minute but lifted his shot over the crossbar from 20 yards. Two minute later an incisive pass by Borris released John Carter on the edge of the penalty area, but McAllister made an excellent parry to the rising shot.
The lead was doubled in the 33rd minute and it was once again a gift. Fraser's passback to McAllister was closed down by Cameron Marlow, and McAllister's attempted kicked clearance rebounded off Marlow and rolled straight into the empty net. The nature of the goal was suitably greeted by an embarrassed silence from the home players and support.
There was a hint of a repeat at the other end a few minutes later as Craig Menzies was slightly short with a back pass which almost allowed McKay to pounce, but McGarrity was fortunate to slice his kick out of play instead of hitting it against McKay.
McAllister made an excellent save again to parry away Marlow's effort after persistent play down the right by the midfielder. It was McAllister to the rescue again in the 44th minute as he raced out to make a block with his body to deny Carter as the striker raced through onto a fine pass.
Half time :- 2-0
Jamie Hamilton runs at the defence early in the second half.
There were three changes for Glencairn at the interval, with Njabulo Ndlovu replacing Sean McGuire in midfield, Fraser Team replacing McKay up front, and Trialist no.19 on the left instead of Ryan McArdle. In a similar fashion to the first half, Glencairn were positive from the restart and Hamilton once again tried his luck with an early shot which he pulled a yard wide of goal.
It didn't take long for Glenafton to threaten again, though, and McAllister did well to palm the ball off the head of substitute striker Chris Dallas after Ally Park's cross had been deflected into the striker's path. More good link play by Glenafton in the 50th minute saw former Glencairn striker Joe Andrew fire in a shot which McAllister saved comfortably on his goal line.
Glencairn should have pulled a goal back in the 52nd minute, but were denied by some incredibly determined defending. Tony Fraser's cross to the back post was headed back across goal by the trialist, and Smith seemed certain to score only to have his effort blocked by Menzies, and the same defender also got in the way of Team's rebound which seemed an even more certain goal.
That was Smith's last contribution to the game as he was substituted immediately after, with Alessandro Savarese coming on. Alex Grier also entered the action, with Craig McGregor the man making way. Andy Neil was the next player to leave the field after taking a slight knock, and no chances were taken as Anthony Dempsey replaced him on the left side of defence. The hour mark saw Glencairn's final change as Craig Young replaced Fraser in central midfield.
Glenafton had just changed their goalkeeper in the 64th minute and Glencairn tested the new man almost instantly. A fine pass by Savarese released Stewart Hall on the edge of the penalty area (pictured below), but his low shot was well held on the goal line new stopper Scott Watson.
Glencairn were having their best spell in the match at this point, but Glenafton almost scored with an incisive breakaway in the 67th minute. Andrew found himself one on one with McAllister, but the goalkeeper stood up well and forced the striker to try to pass, allowing Rhys Donaldson to make a goal saving interception in front of goal. The resulting corner wasn't effectively cleared, leaving Dallas with a free header from six yards which McAllister impressively managed to palm onto the crossbar.
Watson matched that save at the other end a couple of minutes later as an impressive flowing move involving Savarese, Team and Hamilton ended with the midfielder's shot heading for the top corner, only for Watson to acrobatically tip the ball round the post for a corner. The resulting cross seemed to be coming straight onto the head of Ndlovu, only for Alan Cairns to make a brilliant defensive block for another corner. The pressure continued from Glencairn, with Hamilton pulling his shot wide from 18 yards only a few seconds later.
It wasn't an afternoon for goalkeepers to deal comfortably with passbacks, and Watson sliced his kick in the 72nd minute allowing Team to nick the ball round him, but the ball ran wide of goal to the relief of the home stopper. Dallas was next to go close for Glenafton as his low skidding shot had McAllister diving full length, the ball slipping narrowly wide of the far post.
Glenafton tried to bring striker Carter back into the action to replace Andrew, with the blessing of the Glencairn bench as it was only a friendly match after all, but the referee was having none of it and insisted that Andrew (who had already left the field) return to the action. This resulted in an unnecessarily long lecture from the referee to the Glenafton dugout, with the crowd keen to see the action restarting instead.
Only moments later, in the 81st minute, Glenafton made it 3-0. Joe Andrew couldn't believe his luck as he was allowed to control the ball and lift it over McAllister into the net, despite looking to be offside.
Glencairn almost responded straight away with Team setting up Savarese for a near post shot which he scuffed badly, allowing Watson to save. Team and Savarese linked well again moments later with Savarese's shot well saved by Watson on the dive to his left.
The home crowd were laughing in embarrassment again in the 85th minute as the referee awarded them a penalty kick. A cross from the left saw Dallas and Dempsey challenge for the ball, and the ball bouncing away from Dallas. Nobody claimed for anything, but the referee blew for a mysterious foul resulting in him pointing to the spot, and Chris Dallas fired confidently past McAllister to make it 4-0.
To their credit, Glencairn kept trying to play football on the floor throughout the game, sticking to their pattern of play. Hamilton almost scored a consolation goal in the 90th minute with a curled free kick which was parried out by Watson, with Young firing the rebound into the side netting.
That was just about the last kick of the ball, and Glenafton's own Meldrum Cup was awarded to the home side after the match. It was noted, however, that the referee and his assistants did not have the courtesy to stay on the pitch for the presentation, unlike the full squads of both teams who did.
Glenafton Athletic :- McGarrity, Park, Cairns, Menzies, McAusland, Marlow, Borris, McKernon, Andrew, Carter, McGill. (Subs - Dallas, Gray, Moore, McKnight, Potter, Watson.)
Rutherglen Glencairn :- McAllister, McGregor (Grier), Neil (Dempsey), Donaldson, Fraser (Young), McGuire (Ndlovu), Hall, Hamilton, Smith (Savarese), McArdle (Trialist), McKay (Team). (Sub not used - Hutchison (gk).)
Man of the match - (chosen by Alan Thomson) Rhys Donaldson.