Saturday 20th September 2014 - Stagecoach West Region Super League Division One
(Report by Peter Ferguson)
Jamie Gilmartin (no.10) celebrates scoring the opening goal inside the first minute.
Glencairn go into the September holiday weekend break on top of the league table after this win over Greenock Juniors extended the unbeaten run in all competitive matches this season to eight games. The result was all the more satisfying as The Glens had to play for an hour of the game with a man less than their opponents, but they still comfortably earned all three points.
There were three changes to the starting line-up after last week's draw at Thorniewood United. Kris Irvine returned to the team in place of Keiran Donaghy, with Paul Thomson switched from the right of midfield to the left. Sean McGuire returned in central midfield, with Ross Ballantyne on holiday, and Jordan Dalzell dropping back into the right back berth. Central defender Marc Russell was ill, so David Dunnachie came in to partner captain for the day Mark Bishop. Glencairn's supporters were also delighted to see Denis McLaughlin named on the substitutes' bench, the talented striker returning to the squad after 18 months out with a bad knee injury.
The Glens exploded into the life in the game as they took the lead with their very first attack after only 45 seconds. Del Esplin burst forward and fed the ball to Irvine, who in turn played the ball first time into the path of Jamie Gilmartin, and the in-form striker took a touch before chipping the ball beautifully over Greenock goalkeeper Mark Monk from 18 yards out to score his fifth goal in five games since joining the club.
It was a dream start for the Glencairn supporters, but Greenock were almost level in the 4th minute when a corner from the left was met by the head of Allan Docherty on the six yard line, but his effort under pressure flew over the crossbar.
Gilmartin was troubling the visitors' back line with his strength and trickery, and he almost doubled his tally in the 6th minute as he cut in from the right and went past two challenges before firing in a shot which Monk dived full length to his left to tip round the post for a corner.
Glencairn no.1 JC Hutchison was called into the action for the first time in the 10th minute as Dalzell slightly mis-directed a header back to the 'keeper, allowing Allan Docherty a chance to pounce, but Hutchison raced to his line and blocked at the striker's feet. A minute later Greenock had the ball in the net as Martin Orr's shot fell kindly for Craig Brown to control and fire into the net, but he was correctly flagged for offside.
Play was swinging from end to end at this point, and McGuire cleverly turned away from two markers in the centre of the park before firing in a shot which was too staright at Monk. The 15th minute saw Monk mis-hit a kick out and Esplin tried to launch the ball back over the goalie, but he didn't quite catch the shot correctly and Monk got back to save his blushes.
The Glens doubled the lead at the mid point of the first half. Once again the move was started by driving play from Esplin as he fed the ball wide to Andy Neil, and the full back's low cross was flicked by Gilmartin into the path of a supporting run by Sean McGuire, who slipped the ball under Monk from close range to make it 2-0.
Greenock once again tried to respond quickly as Brown fired in a dipping volley on the turn which Hutchison blocked on his goal line. The nature of the game changed two minutes later as The Glens were reduced to ten men. A pass through the Glencairn defence rebounded off Dunnachie towards Brown who was running onto the ball on the edge of the penalty area when he was brought down from behind by Mark Bishop. The referee ruled that it was a clear goalscoring opportunity, and showed a straight red card to the big central defender. Neil Docherty curled in the resulting free kick over the defensive wall, but Hutchison saved comfortably above his head.
This obviously gave the visitors some hope and encouragement, although Glencairn were comforted by the cushion of a two-goal lead. Del Esplin was asked to tuck into a makeshift central defence alongside Dunnachie, while Gilmartin was pulled into central midfield and Steven McClung left as the lone striker in a 4-4-1 formation.
Kevin McKay was the man catching the eye for Greenock, and he almost pulled a goal back as he skipped past two challenges inside the penalty area in the 34th minute, only to be met by the formidable barrier of Hutchison diving at his feet to block again. Four minutes later more clever footwork by McKay set up a great chance for Brown, but a brilliant block by Esplin kept The Glens' lead intact.
Just as the visitors were sensing the game swinging in their direction, they were dealt a hammer blow as they gifted The Glens a third goal in the 40th minute. A kick out by Hutchison was aimed at Gilmartin but, as the ball bounced over the striker's head, there was a mix-up between defender Thomas Docherty and goalkeeper Monk and, with the Greenock left back under pressure from Kris Irvine, he headed the ball into his own net past the stranded goalie who had come out to claim the ball.
The Glens left the field at the interval to generous applause from a happy home support, many of whom felt that the three points were already in the bag despite the one-man disadvantage.
Half time : 3-0
Jamie Gilmartin was a constant threat to the Greenock Juniors defence in the first half.
Glencairn were unchanged for the start of the second half, but Greenock surprisingly withdrew dangerman McKay and replaced him with striker Jamie McKenna as they went with three men up front in an attempt to get back into the match.
The first half chance of the second half fell to Greenock as McKenna's cross from the right almost fell into the path of Brown, but the ball struck the striker's hand and Irvine cleared the ball from in front of goal. A minute later the threat of Gilmartin was evident again, as Dalzell's free kick picked out the big striker's head, but Monk saved down low to his left and held the ball well despite McClung waiting to pounce on any rebound.
There was a determination about the Glencairn defending and, after Hutchison clawed away a dangerous cross, Paul Thomson threw himself in front of a shot by Allan Williams to make a good block. Greenock claimed in vain for handball, but it was never going to be given.
Greenock made their second change in the 57th minute. Williams, who had just been booked for dissent and was showing further signs of frustration, was replaced by Gary Fleming. Brown went close for Greenock in the 59th minute as he fired over the crossbar from 18 yards under pressure from a sliding challenge by Thomson.
Just as Greenock had gifted Glencairn the third goal, The Glens repaid the compliment on the hour mark as the visitors were given some hope of a comeback. A long punt up the park by Monk was left in the air by Esplin to run through to Hutchison. Dunnachie tried to help the ball on its way, but succeeded only in heading it over Hutchison, and Allan Docherty was left with an open goal to roll the ball into from a yard out to make it 3-1.
The visitors naturally had their tails up now, and Allan Docherty went close again in the 64th minute as he latched onto a reverse pass, but his stabbed shot was straight at Hutchison.
Glencairn made their first change in the 65th minute, as the hard-working McClung was replaced by Keiran Donaghy who moved to the right wing, with Irvine switched to the left, Thomson to an advance central midfield role and Gilmartin back up front in a 4-3-1-1 formation.
David McGarrigle went close for Greenock in the 67th minute as he got his head on the end of a corner from the right, but his effort flew two yards wide of the target.
Gilmartin was rested in the 74th minute and replaced up front by Thomas Kilmartin, and Greenock made their final change as Luke Murray replaced Thomas Docherty.
The two Glencairn substitutes almost combined to increase the lead in the 74th minute as Donaghy pounced on a defensive mistake and set up Kilmartin, but his effort was blocked in front of goal as was the rebound effort by Irvine. Donaghy was the architect again in the 82nd minute as his cross from the right picked out the head of Irvine, but the effort was deflected wide.
Glencairn's final change came in the 84th minute as the tiring Thomson was replaced by the fresh legs of Gavin Ross, with Kilmartin dropping into Thomson's role behind the front striker. Hutchison was called into the action again in the 85th minute as McKenna rose to power in a header which the Glens no.1 saved above his head on the goal line.
Greenock were running out of time and hope, but they were given another lifeline in the 88th minute when they were awarded a penalty kick, the referee deeming Dalzell's sliding tackle on McKenna to be illegal. There was a slight delay before the kick was taken due to treatment required for Dalzell, and when the spot kick was finally taken McKenna rattled it off the base of the post to end any chance of a Greenock comeback.
Willie Harvey was very pleased with the afternoon's entertainment. He commented, "I thought the whole team did well today, and that's encouraging as we still have important players to come back. I said if we get to the beginning of October unscathed we would be on course. It was great to see Denis McLaughlin back in the squad today and he was even asking me for some game time, but the circumstances weren't right. But hopefully it's all coming together."
Rutherglen Glencairn :- Hutchison, Dalzell, Neil, Bishop, Dunnachie, Esplin, Irvine, McGuire, McClung (Donaghy), Gilmartin (Kilmartin), Thomson (Ross). (Subs not used - Hollis, McLaughlin.)
Greenock Juniors :- Monk, Orr, Thomas Docherty (Murray), Jamieson, McGarrigle, Williams (Fleming), Beattie, Neil Docherty, Brown, Allan Docherty, McKay (McKenna). (Subs not used - Lee Docherty, McWilliams (gk).)
Man of the match - (chosen by Stuart Brown) Del Esplin.