Saturday 24th January 2015 - Stagecoach West Region Super League Division One
(Report by Peter Ferguson)
Ross Ballantyne scores Glencairn's first goal from the penalty spot.
Glencairn stumbled to a second successive away league defeat, five weeks apart, as the first competitive match of 2015 ended in frustration for the visitors through a mixture of missed chances, individual errors, goalkeeping brilliance by the home goalkeeper, and some questionable refereeing decisions.
Andy Neil, Mark Bishop and Marc Russell all returned in defence for Glencairn after missing the previous match away at Neilston, and Sean McGuire also returned in central midfield.
The nature of the game was set in the very opening seconds as Ross McNeil was released with a ball over the top after only 10 seconds but, as he lobbed the ball over Greenock goalkeeper Ryan McWilliams, the ball dropped wide of the target. McNeil went close again in the 6th minute with a header from Jonny Boal's cross which dropped half a yard over the crossbar.
Greenock took the lead in the 8th minute when they were awarded a penalty kick. A throw in from the right saw Martin Orr back into his marker and then tumble to the ground. The referee hesitated slightly and then pointed to the penalty spot after appeals from the Greenock players. Martin Orr picked himself up and sent Glens no.1 JC Hutchison the wrong way to make it 1-0.
Glencairn set about getting back on terms, and McWilliams saved well from Del Esplin's shot in the 18th minute, and 30 seconds later McNeil rattled the crossbar after beating the offside trap, and Esplin fired wide after Thomas Kilmartin had rescued the loose ball.
Craig Brown fired over the bar for Greenock under pressure from two Glencairn defenders on the edge of the penalty area at the end of a good flowing move by the home side. The crowd gasped in disbelief in the 20th minute as McNeil latched onto Kilmartin's flick and dribbled round McWilliams, before missing the empty net target with his left foot shot from 16 yards.
The Glens were level in the 28th minute, however. A long ball by Russell picked out Boal on the left, and his pace got him to the ball just before a challenge took him down inside the penalty area, and the referee once again whistled for a spot kick. Ross Ballantyne stepped up to fire into the corner of the net to make it 1-1 (pictured at top).
Greenock striker Alan Docherty was fortunate not to be shown a yellow card for a late challenge on Hutchison, the referee deciding only a warning was necessary on this occasion.
Barry Stanton fired over for Greenock in the 32nd minute when well placed, before The Glens should have been in front in the 40th minute. Good link play between Kilmartin and McNeil ended with Esplin through on goal, but he scuffed his shot and McWilliams saved down low to his left. Boal went close in first half stoppage time with a curled effort which flew just wide.
Half time : 1-1
Ross McNeil threatens the Greenock defence in the first half.
Glencairn made a change at half time, with striker Denis McLaughlin replacing Kilmartin.
The chances kept coming for Glencairn at the start of the first half, and McWilliams continued to be the star of the show for the home side between the sticks as he firstly blocked out McNeil, and then McGuire was denied on the rebound.
Alan Docherty finally saw a yellow card for another boisterous challenge on Hutchison, after his first half warning from the referee appeared to have gone unheeded.
The home side were gifted the lead again in the 57th minute when Craig Brown went down under a challenge from Hutchison, and the referee pointed to the penalty spot for the third time in the match. It was doubtful if there was much contact with the striker, but he needed no invitation to fall to the ground. Martin Orr once again sent Hutchison the wrong way to make it 2-1 to the home side.
McWilliams produced another terrific save in the 61st minute to deny a goal-bound header by McNeil, but he was helpless only seconds later when Glencairn levelled for the second time. Andy Neil's forward pass saw Ross McNeil beat the offside trap, and this time he made no mistake by firing under McWilliams to make it 2-2.
Greenock made a double change in the 65th minute, with Ryan Craig and Barry McLaughlin replacing Barry Stanton and Ryan Begley, and three minutes later it seemed that the match was swinging in Glencairn's favour when the home side were reduced to ten men. Allan Docherty once again lifted his feet too high for the referee's liking and was shown a second yellow card followed by the red card which saw him head for an early bath.
Nobody saw what was about to come, though, as Greenock were gifted the lead yet again in the 73rd minute. A seemingly harmless diagonal high ball was launched into the penalty area and Hutchison came to claim the ball unchallenged. The big stopper fumbled the ball, however, and first to react was Kenny Munro who couldn't believe his luck as he fired into the empty net to put the home side in front for the third time.
The Glens immediately gambled at this point, as striker Jamie Gilmartin was thrown on in place of defender Bishop, and Glencairn changed to a 3-4-3 formation. The moment that the Glencairn fans knew it wasn't their day arrived in the 75th minute, as McWilliams made a simply outstanding save to beat away a point blank drilled shot by McLaughlin. It seemed an impossible save to make, but he made it.
The more Glencairn pushed on, the more exposed they became at the back, and Greenock made it 4-2 in the 78th minute with a two-on-one clinical breakaway. Craig Brown did the damage on the left as he set up Kenny Munro in the centre for a decisive finish with Glens caught upfield.
To be fair to Glencairn, they never gave up and kept pressing. There should have been a fourth penalty kick when Gilmartin was toppled in the penalty area in the 80th minute, probably the clearest penalty of the game, but the referee chose not to give it. Greenock made their final change with nine minutes remaining, Jamie Cunning replacing Kenny Munro.
McWilliams continued to frustrate the black and white supporters, tipping over a goal-bound header by Gilmartin in the 86th minute, but the game still wasn't over as a contest. Glencairn made it 4-3 in the 87th minute as Marc Russell produced a beautiful curled finish to the end of a mazy dribble by McLaughlin, setting up a frantic finish.
McWilliams saved again from McNeil in the 89th minute, and Russell volleyed just wide in the 92nd minute as The Glens threw the kitchen sink at Greenock. The Glens' players were furious in the 93rd minute when an offside flag denied what looked like a clear cut penalty kick for a foul on Russell, but they just couldn't find an equaliser and the refere blew for time after four minutes of injury time.
Glencairn manager Willie Harvey was obviously disappointed after the game, but was pleased with the attitude of the players and felt his side are not getting any luck. He commented, "We can't miss that amount of chances, we could have won that game 10-4. Our attitude was superb, we never gave up, but things are just not going for us just now."
Greenock Juniors :- McWilliams, Thomas Docherty, Doherty, McGarrigle, Begley (McLaughlin), Jamieson, Orr, Stanton (Craig), Brown, Alan Docherty, Munro (Cunning). (Subs not used - Murray, Monk (gk).)
Rutherglen Glencairn :- Hutchison, Brown, Neil, Bishop (Gilmartin), Russell, Esplin, Ballantyne, McGuire, McNeil, Kilmartin (McLaughlin), Boal. (Subs not used - Stokes, Donaghy, Dalzell.)
Man of the match - (chosen by John McKeown snr) Ross McNeil.