Saturday 26th May 2018 - McBookie.com West Region Super League Division One
(Report by Peter Ferguson)
The Glens' hard-worked defence in action during the first half.
Glencairn will play in the 16-team West Region Championship next season, the new 2nd tier of the West Region, after the promotion dream died on the final day of the league season. The Glens needed a win at home to Irvine Meadow XI to secure a place in the promotion play-offs, but they slipped to a narrow defeat to end the dream of top league football for another season.
There was a hammer blow to the team before kick off as influential striker Jay McKay was ruled out of the match as he was still feeling the effects of concussion after a head knock sustained in the away win at Troon last weekend. That meant the prolific front partnership with Gary Smith was broken up, and McKay was replaced up front by Liam Gormley in the only change from the side who had performed so well only seven days previously. Meadow's team contained two former Glencairn players in striker Graham Boyd and midfielder David Mackay, with former Glencairn captain Stevie Aitchison also now the assistant manager at Meadow Park.
A very healthy crowd gathered at The Celsius Stadium in the afternoon sunshine, boosted by a fine travelling support, many neutrals and numerous well-wishing former Glencairn players, as well as some Ruglonians responding to the club's appeal for local support for this crucial match.
The match took some time to really get going, with Meadow looking the more likely side in the early stages. Calum Gow headed over the crossbar in the 9th minute from close range after a cleverly worked corner by Meadow.
Having lost McKay's services pre-match, there was another enormous blow for Glencairn as sweeper Rhys Donaldson had to be replaced after sustaining a nasty ankle injury when making a block tackle on Boyd. He was replaced by Craig McGregor in what was now a very young home back line.
Meadow's tactics were not difficult to spot as they repeatedly launched high balls towards strikers Boyd and Darren Miller and fed off the second balls. The visitors seemed physically stronger and sharper than their hosts, and the delivery from set pieces by Mackay was causing a concern for the Glencairn rearguard. Miller or Boyd should have converted from one of these crosses in the 15th minute as they both had opportunities, but Jack Baker made a fine save with his feet to keep the scoreline blank. The next corner came over Baker but was headed off the line by Ryan Kerr.
The Glens were struggling to get any form of meaningful possession in the opposition's half, with the tireless running and "out" ball of McKay not an option to help get the team upfield.
Meadow goalkeeper Shaun Newman saves comfortably in a rare Glencairn attack.
Meadow's pressure looked to have paid off just after the half hour mark when they were awarded a penalty kick for a foul on Boyd. It seemed a very harsh decision, but perhaps justice was done as Baker dived to his left to parry away Ben Carson's spot kick.
The home support were hoping that the penalty save would be a turning point in the game, but Meadow kept pressing and a diagonal cross was just out of the reach of Miller at the back post. The pressure continued as half time approached, Carson firing high and wide when well placed to shoot, before McKay's free kick in stoppage time was deflected off the defensive wall and looped over the crossbar.
Half time : 0-0
Sean McGuire and David Mackay battle for possession in midfield.
The Glens were now shooting down the slope and had the wind at their backs, but the second half started in similar fashion to the first. Miller headed off target in the 51st minute after another dangerous set piece delivery by Mackay.
It was slightly better stuff now from Glencairn, though, and Del McNab cut in from the left in the 54th minute and fired an angled shot which flew a yard or so high and wide of the far post. Two minutes later Jamie Hamilton fed the ball into the penalty area, and the ball broke for Smith, who turned his marker and fired a shot on the stretch just over the crossbar.
The hour mark saw the first substitution as Hamilton was withdrawn by Glencairn and replaced by Jordan Leyden. Glencairn were having their best spell in the match at this point, and Sean McGuire fed Smith who in turn set up McNab for a shot which was sliced well wide of the target. A minute later Tony Fraser had a chance to shoot but he also sliced his effort off target.
The deadlock was broken by Meadow right on the mid point of the second half, and the creation came from probably the best player on the pitch this afternoon. Mackay broke free on the left edge of the penalty area, and his cross was flicked on to the back post where Ben Carson was waiting to head the ball back across Baker and into the net.
Meadow made their first change almost immediately as Boyd was withdrawn and replaced by Stuart Hannah. Glencairn huffed and puffed but rarely looked like blowing down Meadow's defence. McCall was replaced by a trialist winger with 15 minutes remaining as manager Willie Harvey searched for something different to open up the Meadow back line. The changes continued as Meadow brought on Rhys Devlin to replace Grant Dickie.
A shot on the turn by Gormley in the 80th minute had Meadow no.1 Shaun Newman scrambling across goal, but the ball slipped narrowly wide of goal. Meadow's final change saw Ben Black replace Jordan McGuire.
Meadow looked like doubling their lead when another cross picked out the free head of Miller, but Fraser cleared from in front of his own goal line. Meadow needed a two-goal win to secure automatic promotion, and they thought they had it when Jared Willet fired into the net, but the offside flag had gone up well before he fired into the net.
As the match moved into stoppage time Glencairn went close as Smith skipped past his marker and fired an angled shot over the crossbar. It was all too little too late from Glencairn, though, as the promotion hopes were clearly over and you could see that the players knew it as well.
The referee blew for full time after four minutes of added time, leaving the black and white support disappointed and having to accept a season in the new West Region Championship next year. Meanwhile the Meadow support headed home happy at having secured at least a play-off place, but somewhat frustrated as one more goal would have secured their top league status.
Rutherglen Glencairn :- Baker, Hall, Kerr, Donaldson (McGregor), Fraser, McGuire, McCall (Trialist), Hamilton (Leyden), Smith, Gormley, McNab. (Subs not used - Grier, McLellan (gk).)
Irvine Meadow XI :- Newman, Boyd (Hannah), Willet, Gow, Begley, Mackay, Carson, Spence, Miller, Dickie (Devlin), McGuire (Black). (Subs not used - Gemmell, Bannister (gk).)
Man of the match - (chosen by Mark Bishop) Del McNab.