Wednesday 9th May 2018 - McBookie.com West Region Super League Division One
(Report by Peter Ferguson)
Gary Smith fires in a free kick which was deflected over the crossbar.
Glencairn's promotion hopes suffered a dent with this defeat away to rivals Irvine Meadow XI, with The Glens leaving themselves too much to do to rescue the match after a nightmare opening quarter of the match. Despite a second half fightback during which Glencairn pretty much dominated the match, it was the home side who ultimately triumphed to secure a vital three points in the chase for a place in next season's newly formed West Region Premiership.
The Glens were without regular goalkeeper Jack Baker due to work commitments, so trialist no.1 Scott McLennan came in for only his second appearance for the side. The defence was also stretched to the limit with injuries continuing to rule out Rhys Donaldson, Craig Palmer and Andy Neil, so for the second match in a row it was a young back line of Ryan Kerr, Alex Grier and Craig McGregor which started the game. Jamie Hamilton was recalled to the midfield instead of Sean McCall who dropped to the bench, while Stewart Hall came in for Ryan McArdle on the right flank in the third change from the side who had defeated champions Petershill seven days previously.
The opening minute was encouraging for Glencairn as striker Jay McKay looked to be impeded by defender Ryan Begley as they tussled for a ball over the top of the defence. It would have needed a strong referee to award a penalty to the away side so early in a match at Meadow Park, but the referee was Mr Tony Fullerton. Enough said.
Unfortunately for the travelling support who had braved the heavy rain and the traffic jams to get to the match on time, that was about as good as it got for Glencairn for the next 25 minutes or so. Meadow started to exert strong pressure on the Glencairn rearguard, and they went very close to opening the scoring when Ben Carson volleyed across goal and former Glencairn striker Graham Boyd couldn't quite get on the end of it to convert, colliding with the post in the process.
A couple of minutes later Jarred Willet's free kick was saved down low by McLennan (pictured below), before Meadow deservedly broke the deadlock in the 10th minute. Carson lifted a free kick into the penalty area and picked out the run of Calum Gow, who met the ball on the volley and lifted it over the helpless McLennan to make it 1-0.
Kerr made a crucial block at the post to deny Boyd only a minute later, before Meadow doubled their lead in the 14th minute as their aerial "route one" approach continued to cause all sorts of problems for Glencairn's back line. A corner from the left picked out the head of Ryan Begley, and he nodded the ball into the corner of the net to make it 2-0.
The Glens' defence seemed like rabbits caught in the headlights at this stage, and Grier almost gifted Meadow a third goal with a short passback in the 17th minute, Eddie McTernan pouncing to knock the ball round McLennan but with a heavy touch which saw the ball run out for a goal kick.
It continued as one-way traffic towards the Glencairn goal as Tony Fraser's defensive header looped up and onto the roof of the net, and then McLennan had to dive to his left to beat away a curling effort by Carson.
There was a hint of the game settling down and Glencairn getting some sort of foothold in the 26th minute as Hamilton's shot from distance was deflected over the crossbar, and the same player pulled a shot wide of goal a few seconds later, The Glens' first proper attempts on goal.
Meadow's threat hadn't gone away, though, and Gow should have done better in the 29th minute when he was given room to turn and shoot inside the penalty area, firing his shot from 10 yards over the crossbar.
It was better stuff from Glencairn now, though, and a lovely passing move ended with Fraser slipping a fine pass through to McKay who pulled a save out of home no.1 Sean Newman. Only a minute later McKay was released down the right and he tried to set up strike partner Gary Smith in the middle, but pulled his cross behind the run of The Glens' top scorer.
Smith's free kick in the 38th minute had to be fired over a defensive wall which was ridiculously allowed to be no more than about seven yards away (pictured at top), and his shot took a nick off a defender's head and looped over the crossbar. But the home side's momentum had now been halted and The Glens were the side in the ascendancy as half time approached.
The Glens were awarded another free kick a minute before half time which Smith shaped to take, but once again the referee allowed the wall to stand way too close. Despite the protests from Glencairn players and the referee's very obvious inability to judge distances, Mr Fullerton insisted that the kick was taken promptly, Smith lifting the ball over the wall but a yard wide of the target.
Half time : 2-0
Glens' trialist goalkeeper Scott McLellan makes a save from Jarred Willet's free kick.
Glencairn needed to strike early in the second half to spark hopes of a comeback, and they did exactly that as the pulled a goal back in the 50th minute. McKay's volleyed pass from the right picked out Jamie Hamilton 22 yards from goal, and the midfielder met the ball sweetly on the drop with his left foot to fire a low shot past Newman.
Suddenly you could see the doubts entering the heads of the home players, and defender Mark McLennan almost headed into his own net with an attempted clearance. A delightfully disguised pass set up Smith who fired into the corner of the net in the 54th minute, but the strike was disallowed by a borderline offside flag.
It was all action around the hour mark as firstly Gow glanced a header wide for Meadow, and then Glencairn went extremely close to an equaliser on two occasions. Hall's angled drilled shot missed the outside of the post by a coat of paint, and then the whole stadium was applauding as Smith's spectacular overhead kick was flying into the top left corner of the net, only for Newman to throw himself up to brilliantly palm the ball round the post.
A clever reverse pass by Smith in the 71st minute released Del McNab down the left, and he squared towards McKay in the centre only for Willet to get back to clear for a corner.
Meadow were the first to make a substitution a minute later, a double change with Peter Gemmell and Ben Black replacing Boyd and Jordan McGuire respectively. Ryan McArdle replaced the injured Hall for Glencairn shortly afterwards.
As Glencairn pressed more men forward to try to rescue the game, spaces started to appear at the back. McTernan was almost released by a through pass in the 80th minute, McLennan showing good awareness to race from his line and kick clear. Meadow's final change saw former Glencairn winger David Mackay replace experienced midfielder Colin Spence as time started to run out for the visitors to find an equaliser.
The black and white contingent thought an equaliser was certain in the 83rd minute when the ball fell at the feet of Smith six yards out in front of goal and he met the shot sweetly, but somehow Newman managed to get his legs in the way to make a quite brilliant block.
Glencairn's second change saw a change of shape as Liam Gormley was thrown on up front beside Smith to replace Sean McGuire in midfield, with McKay dropping in behind the new front pairing. As the match moved into stoppage time, manager Willie Harvey decided to go for broke and brought on midfielder Jordan Leyden to replace defender Kerr, effectively changing the team shape to 2-5-3.
The gamble didn't pay off, however, as Meadow secured the points in the 92nd minute with a breakaway which exposed the lack of numbers in The Glens' defence. A clever back heel flick by McTernan set up David Mackay in space, and he drilled his shot past McLennan to make it 3-1, securing the three points for the home side.
Irvine Meadow XI :- Newman, McLennan, Willet, Gow, Begley, Carnwath, Carson, Spence (Mackay), Boyd (Gemmell), McTernan, McGuire (Black). (Subs not used - Miller, Bannister (gk).)
Rutherglen Glencairn :- McLellan, Kerr (Leyden), McGregor, Grier, Fraser, McGuire (Gormley), Hall (McArdle), Hamilton, Smith, McNab, McKay. (Subs not used - McCall, Hutchison (gk).)
Man of the match - (chosen by Peter Ferguson) Jay McKay.