Saturday 21st February 2015 - Stagecoach West Region Super League Division One
(Report by Peter Ferguson)
A minute's silence was held prior to kick off in memory of former Glencairn committee men and lifelong supporters Davie Belshaw and Ian Guthrie.
Glencairn's winter woes continued with a home defeat to Irvine Victoria which leaves the side just one place above the dreaded 4-team relegation zone in this cut-throat competitive league. It's fair to say that it's now "roll your sleeves up time" for the squad, as the promotion hopes which had looked so bright in the early weeks of the season now continue to fade.
There were four changes to The Glens' starting line-up after the previous week's unfortunate defeat at Kilsyth. Ross Ballantyne returned at right back in place of the injured Graeme Brown, while Mark Bishop dropped to the bench to be replaced in central defence by a trialist. Jordan Dalzell came into midfield in place of the injured Keiran Donaghy, while there was a starting place up front for Denis McLaughlin as he continued his fight back to full match fitness after 18 months out with a serious knee injury, Ross McNeil the man dropping the bench this time.
After a fairly even start to the match, The Vics were first to seriously threaten. A free kick was awarded on the edge of the penalty area, and Callum Davidson's low shot was well saved by Glens no.1 JC Hutchison, diving to his right to palm the ball round the post. The opening goal was only delayed by a minute, though, and Victoria took the lead when a corner from the left was headed towards goal by David Wilson and flicked into the net from close range by striker Kevin Adam.
Glencairn tried to respond immediately and McLaughlin's clever feet created a shooting chance for himself which was deflected just wide of the target. The Glens' fans didn't have to wait much longer for the equaliser, though. The 14th minute saw Andy Neil's forward pass mis-controlled by defender Wilson, and Denis McLaughlin was onto it in a flash to produce a delightful chipped finish over helpless Irvine goalkeeper Chris Lamb. The home support were pleased to see Denis getting his first competitive goal since December 2012.
The Glens should have been in front in the 25th minute when Kris Irvine's corner from the left picked out the free head of Dalzell right in front of goal, but the midfielder nodded the ball over the bar to the frustration of the black and white faithful (pictured below).
Jordan Dalzell heads over the bar from close range.
The match was opening up now and, at the other end, a clever flick released Scott Chesney through on goal, but Hutchison reacted quickly to race out and block at the striker's feet. Thirty seconds later Hutchison came to the rescue again with a terrific block to deny Ricky Allan after indecision in the home defence.
Del Esplin fired a tame shot straight at Lamb in the 28th minute after a good head flick set up by Thomas Kilmartin. Many of the home supporters thought their side had taken the lead for a brief moment in the 40th minute when patient build-up play ended with a snap-shot by McLaughlin which flew inches wide and rippled the side netting.
McLaughlin was at the heart of most of Glencairn's threatening moves, firing a shot on the turn wide of the post in the 42nd minute, before dancing past four defenders a minute later and crossing for Kilmartin who couldn't squeeze the ball into the net at the near post.
The sides went in level at the interval, but with the home support optimistic that they would eventually break down a resiliant Irvine defence in the second half after having the bulk of the clear goalscoring chances on the opening 45 minutes.
Half time : 1-1
Kris Irvine in first half action.
The Vics' players hadn't read that script, however, and they took the lead again early in the second half in similar fashion to the first. Another corner caused the danger, this time driven in low from the right, and David Wilson was first to react to divert the ball on target and into the corner of the net.
Once again The Glens had it all to do and, as he had done in the first half, Vics defender Wilson seemed to want to gift the home side an opening back into the match. A long high ball saw Wilson duck under it, allowing the ball to run right through to Irvine, but the winger could only stab his shot on the stretch straight at Lamb. Two minutes later more lovely skill by McLaughlin saw him skip to the bye-line and fire across goal, Lamb this time parrying the ball away before Irvine could convert behind him.
Glencairn's hopes took a huge blow in the 61st minute when Del Esplin received two yellow cards in the space of two minutes. The first caution was for dissent at a foul given against Glencairn, but a minute later came a moment that Glencairn could feel somewhat aggrieved about. Esplin was clearly fouled by Scott Chesney as he broke upfield but, as the play stopped, Chesney reacted to Esplin as he ran past him lying on the ground.
The referee ran over to separate the players as a potential flashpoint was obvious, and then Chesney was shown a yellow card for the foul and his aggressive reaction. The assistant referee then advised the man in the middle that Esplin had flicked out with his boot as Chesney ran past him, and Esplin was shown a second yellow and the inevitable red. So, from a position where Glencairn were breaking upfield and a Vics player had committed a clearly deliberate foul to stop that move, Glencairn ended up with a man sent off. There seemed something badly wrong with the justice of it all.
Del Esplin was at the heart of the action as usual before his red card.
There was no changing the decision, however, so The Glens were left to try to come from behind with a man less. Victoria made an almost immediate change, with Eddie Ablorh replacing first goal scorer Adam in the 63rd minute. Glencairn reacted as well, withdrawing the trialist defender and throwing on striker Ross McNeil into a 3-3-3 formation, with Sean McGuire tasked with doing the work of two central midfielders.
McGuire has never lacked for effort and attitude, and he proceeded to be everywhere on the park for the remaining half hour, snapping into tackles and driving the side forward when in possession. With 20 minutes remaining, Irvine made their second change with Bobby Colligan replacing David Adams.
Colligan almost made an immediate impact as he beat the offside trap on the left hand side and raced towards goal, but Hutchison stood up long enough to win the battle of wills and made a good block to keep his side in the game.
McNeil fired high and wide under pressure in the 74th minute, before under 21 striker Chris Mallon replaced the tiring McLaughlin in the 78th minute. Glencairn continued to huff and puff but they just couldn't blow down the Vics' defensive house. Ballantyne's long throw from the right was flicked on by Kilmartin and Lamb fumbled the ball in front of goal, but no player in black and white was close enough to take advantage and the ball was hooked away after a brief moment of panic for the travelling supporters.
Glencairn's last real opportunity came with four minutes to go as Mallon spread the ball wide to Kilmartin, and he tried to fire for the far corner but missed the target by a few yards.
So it ended as another disappointing and frustrating afternoon for the Glencairn support, and their team have now only taken one point from the fifteen on offer since the end of November, leaving them in 10th place in the league table.
Willie Harvey commented after the game, "It's very frustrating, but we just have to deal with it and go again. We're playing well enough, we're just not taking our chances when they come and our opponents are punishing us for our mistakes. We just need to keep working hard, I can't fault the players for their effort and attitude."
Rutherglen Glencairn :- Hutchison, Ballantyne, Neil, Trialist (McNeil), Russell, Esplin, Dalzell, McGuire, McLaughlin (Mallon), Kilmartin, Irvine. (Subs not used - Bishop, Welsh, Strapp.)
Irvine Victoria :- Lamb, Brown, Gregory, Wilson, Burgees, Hannah, Chesney, Davidson, Adam (Ablorh), Adams (Colligan), Allan. (Subs not used - McMaster, McKay, Singleton.)
Man of the match - (chosen by George Ferguson) Sean McGuire.