Saturday 19th September 2015 - West Region Super League Division One
(Report by Peter Ferguson)
Andy Neil was in superb form this afternoon as he deservedly won Man of the Match.
It was more frustration for Glencairn as they drew their third league match out of four, and for the second time in two home league matches they let a valuable lead slip to draw 1-1. The result remarkably saw The Glens rise four places in the league table, having the best goal difference out of six teams in the bottom half of the table who are all tied on three points after four matches.
Willie Harvey made two changes to the side who had lost at Cumbernauld the previous week. Adam Shaw returned at right back replacing Graeme Brown, and Mark Batchelor returned after suspension to replace Adam Nisanci in midfield. Sean McGuire moved to the right side of the midfield four to make way for Batchelor's return, with new signing Alan Muir still out injured.
The first incident of note came in the third minute when Glencairn defender Paul Doyle guided the ball back to goalkeeper JC Hutchison who smothered the ball on the ground. However, Greenock striker Alan Docherty couldn't resist the temptation to flick out his boot towards Hutchison well after the ball had been gathered. It didn't go unnoticed by the referee, but it did go unpunished on this occasion.
The first big chance of the game fell to The Glens in the 4th minute, Greenock goalkeeper Ryan McWilliams sclaffing his kick straight to Sean McGuire who snatched at his shot and fired it over the crossbar from 14 yards. The visitors were having the more of the ball in the opening quarter of the match without creating any chances of note, with Andy Neil particularly prominent in a strong home defence.
A cross from the right for Greenock in the 15th minute saw Kenny Munro find space to get a header in, but his effort flew a long distance off target. Thirty seconds later, at the other end, Mark Tait sprung the offside trap but couldn't shake off his marker to shoot comfortably, and he fired an angled shot under pressure straight at McWilliams.
Greenock captain Alan Docherty was at the centre of the action, and he unsurprisingly found his name being the first into the referee's notebook in the 27th minute, the whistler's patience finally ending after the Greenock captain's fourth niggly foul in the opening half hour. When the ball spun off Doyle's head a minute later, Alan Docherty pounced to fire for goal, but Hutchison blocked and then held the ball.
Greenock had the ball in the net in the 33rd minute, but the whistle had gone for offside well before Alan Docherty knocked the ball into the net. The same man appealed for a penalty kick three minutes when he was simply outmuscled by Doyle, with Docherty going to ground after losing the ball. The claims were rightly ignored by the referee.
Hutchison made an excellent diving save to deny Alan Docherty in the 39th minute after the ball had spun off Neil's head into the striker's path. Glencairn weren't creating much at this stage, but Tait's persistence on the left ended with a cross towards striker partner Denis McLaughlin, but McWilliams gathered the cross to keep the scoreline blank at the interval.
Half time : 0-0
Adam Shaw heads clear from a first half Greenock corner kick.
The teams were unchanged for the start of the second half, and the goalmouth action took some time to get going again, until a touch of brilliance in the 52nd minute from Greenock winger Kenny Munro. The ball dropped from height on the edge of the penalty area, but Munro took a superb first touch to control the ball instantly, before skipping past three challenges and then firing in a shot which hit the outside of the post, with Hutchison diving at full stretch.
Typically persistent play by McGuire in the 54th minute saw him create a chance for Glencairn, his cross from the bye line picking out Tony Fraser whose shot was deflected wide for a corner.
As the hour mark approached the visitors had Glencairn pinned in their own half for a spell, and Munro should perhaps have done better when he was picked out for a header which he directed over the crossbar from 8 yards.
The deadlock was broken in the 59th minute as Glencairn scored a well worked opening goal. Tait was the architect as he took control of the ball and then sent a delightful reverse pass into the path of a trademark run from deep by Mark Batchelor, who produced a calm lobbed finish over McWilliams. It was Batchelor's third goal for the club from midfield, in only three starts and two substitute appearances so far.
There was a blow for The Glens in the 62nd minute when Fraser limped off with a hamstring strain, and he was replaced wide on the left by Mark McCarry. It was a nice sporting touch by the Greenock physiotherapist to bring some ice to the Glencairn dugout for Fraser in the absence of The Glens' physio.
Glencairn didn't hold the lead for long, though, as Greenock fired back level in the 63rd minute. A long ball over the top saw Shaw misjudge the path of the ball as it bounced through, and Kenny Munro took full advantage to nip in and slot the ball past Hutchison from 16 yards.
The visitors' tails were up now, and Paul Scott went close with a shot which dipped just over the crossbar from 20 yards. Tait was the main threat to the Greenock back line, and he once again worked his way to the bye line before cutting the ball back for McLaughlin, but the ball was behind the striker who couldn't pull his shot round enough to hit the target.
Greenock midfielder Simon McBride picked up a yellow card for a late tackle on Batchelor in the centre of the pitch. A flurry of substitutions followed, with Glencairn making their second change in the 68th minute with Paddy Cullen replacing McLaughlin up front. Greenock's first change saw Craig Brown replacing Scott, and finally Adam Nisanci replaced McGuire in midfield for The Glens.
The 75th minute saw Greenock's hopes of an away win dealt a serious blow, as McBride picked up a second yellow card for a dangerous high challenge which left Shaw needing treatment to a head knock, and the visitors were reduced to ten men. Willie Harvey saw the opportunity to push for a winner by moving McCarry further forward as the team took up a 4-3-3 formation.
Greenock were dealt a further blow a few minutes later when central defender Ryan Begley was carried off with what looked like a bad foot injury, and he was replaced by Jamie Lyden. Dean Muir picked up a yellow card for showing his studs in a challenge in the 79th minute.
A long ball into the Glencairn defence saw Alan Docherty almost get on the end of it, but the effort from eight yards flew high and wide. Glencairn pressed for a winner with the extra man, and Neil's clipped pass picked out McCarry on the left edge of the penalty area, but his stabbed shot failed to hit the target.
Greenock's final change saw Darren Paton replace Alan Docherty, as they looked to hold on for what would now be a good point for them in the circumstances. Brown almost turned the key for the visitors in injury time as he turned away from Jonny Boal and squared across goal, but Shaw was on hand to clear.
Glencairn never really looked like scoring again, though, and the referee brought the game to an end surprisingly after only two minutes of stoppage time, despite there having been six substitutions and stoppages for the injuries to Shaw and Begley.
Willie Harvey commented after the match, "It's another frustrating result for us. We are looking strong defensively but we seem to be getting punished in every match for just one slip. Today it was just an error of judgement and we've lost a goal after we'd defended really well all game. We need to be more creative though, and that's something we are looking at. We'll hopefully have Alan Muir back after the holiday weekend, and we had a good chat in the changing room after the game. It's a funny old league at the moment, we've come off the park with our heads down but we've actually climbed four places in the league table."
Rutherglen Glencairn :- Hutchison, Shaw, Boal, Doyle, Neil, Batchelor, McGuire (Nisanci), Dean Muir, McLaughlin (Cullen), Tait, Fraser (McCarry). (Subs not used - Zok, Kerr (gk).)
Greenock Juniors :- McWilliams, McGarrigle, Sean Docherty, McGlauchlin, Begley (Lyden), Tam Docherty, Murray, McBride, Alan Docherty (Paton), Scott (Brown), Munro. (Subs not used - McNeil, Cunning.)
Man of the match - (chosen by Andy Handlin) Andy Neil.