Sunday 29th April 2018 - Archie Sharkie Memorial West Scot. U21 League Cup Final
(Report by Peter Ferguson)
Chris Truesdale and Anton Phinn lift the Central League Cup for Glencairn u21s.
Rutherglen Glencairn Under 21s secured their first silverware of the season with a gutsy win over Johnstone Burgh u21s in the League Cup Final, despite playing for an hour of the match with only ten men. The triumph kept up the young Glens' chances of a double triumph this season, with the team still very much on the trail of the league title.
The young Glens didn't have their troubles to seek in terms of team selection, with captain and playmaker Anton Phinn sidelined with a knee injury, and Eoghan McKeown failing a pre-match fitness test on a groin strain. The captain's armband was given to goalkeeper Chris Truesdale who was playing his 150th match for the u21s, an incredible achievement for that age group.
Glencairn were first to threaten as they pounced on some slack passing in defence by Burgh, and Michael Lone set up Paulross Caughey for a shot in the second minute which he pulled across goal and wide of the far post.
The injury problems increased as Michael Lone pulled up with what looked like a dislocated shoulder and he was clearly having problems breathing. The referee sensibly allowed time for treatment, and the midfielder was able to return to the action but was clearly still hampered by the injury.
It was like Emergency Ward 10 on the sidelines for Glencairn at this stage, as Caughey was next to pull up with a calf injury in the 10th minute, and his cup final was over at that stage as he was replaced up front by Jordan Davidson.
Burgh hadn't really threatened the Glencairn goal until the 19th minute when a ball over the defence gave a chance for Brendan Sharp to try to lob Truesdale, but the angle was too tight and the ball dropped harmlessly behind the goal.
Tommy Lone wasn't holding back early in the match.
Harry Mitchell tried his luck from distance at the mid point of the first half, his shot taking a slight deflection on its way to missing the target by only about a yard. Michael Lone's normal powerful running game was still being clearly hampered by his injury, and he was shown a yellow card in the 23rd minute for his second late challenge in a short space of time.
A ball over the top of Burgh defender Jack McDougal in the 27th minute saw Mitchell race through and fire in a shot which flew narrowly past the junction of crossbar and post. McDougal tried his luck at the other end five minutes later as he cut in from the right and fired in a low left foot shot, but it was an easy save down low for Truesdale.
Michael Lone's afternoon went from bad to worse in the 35th minute as he dived into another late challenge, and the referee had no option other than to send the young midfielder off. The straight red card he was given seemed harsh, but it was unquestionably worthy of a second yellow card, so the outcome was the same.
Burgh now sensed the cup was there to be won for them with the extra man, but in the ten minutes leading up to half time they barely troubled Truesdale, a low trundler in the 40th minute by Matt Sutherland being the closest they came to a goal. Just before the half time whistle Glencairn forced a corner and Ryan Clark pulled a shot wide of goal from 20 yards, but it's fair to say that the 0-0 scoreline at the interval was a fair reflection of the match so far.
Half time : 0-0
Jordan Davidson keeps his eyes on the ball as Glencairn pressurise.
The ten men had obviously formulated a team plan during the interval, and the shape looked like 4-2-2-1 with Mitchell and Murray Loudon supporting lone striker Davidson from wide areas as often as possible. The Glens went closest to scoring in the match in the 49th minute as Mitchell's cross from the left saw the smallest player on the park Loudon rise above the defence to loop a header over goalkeeper Jack Dunlop, with David McCallum heading clear from under the crossbar.
Chances came at both ends in the 53rd minute, firstly a corner for Glencairn from the left which bounced the wrong way off Davidson in front of goal, then Burgh broke to the other end where Darren Kennedy was slipped through on goal, but scuffed a tame shot straight at Truesdale.
Glencairn were on top at this stage despite their man disadvantage, and Loudon went close with a hook shot on the turn after being picked out again by Mitchell's cross from the left. Loudon continued to threaten as he darted at the defence on the right edge of the penalty area before going down under a challenge, but the referee wasn't interested in awarding a penalty.
Burgh's first substitution in the 65th minute saw Liam McNamara replace Andrew Skinner, and they started to push the ten men deeper into their own half as the match moved into its final quarter. A sweeping move from left to right picked out Cammy Armstrong in space on the right edge of the penalty area, but Ross Young got over to make an excellent block.
Truesdale still hadn't really been called on to make a meaningful save, but he showed his ability in the 70th minute as he dived low to his right to palm away a skidding shot by Kennedy. Burgh made their second change a minute later as Coll McCallum replaced McDougal, but you could sense the frustration building in the Burgh ranks as they continued to struggle to break down the resolute Glencairn defence, with Josh McCorry particularly impressive.
The Glens' injury woes returned as Clark limped off, but Kyle Chrystal was an able replacement in central defence. Kennedy threatened again for Burgh as he was allowed to run 30 yards with the ball before shooting, but his effort flew high and wide to add to his team mates' frustration.
Conor MacLaughlin almost caught Dunlop by surprise with a dipping shot on the turn which dropped just over the crossbar, before Davidson was the next Glencairn player to limp off with Aaron McGinlay taking his place. Loudon was now being employed as a lone striker with support from McGinlay and Mitchell, and Mitchell went close as he headed Tommy Lone's cross wide of goal in the 81st minute.
A great near-post interception by McCorry denied Sharp what looked like a certain goal in the 82nd minute after good work on the right by Armstrong. Glencairn had the ball in the net a minute later as Loudon lobbed the ball over Dunlop from Truesdale's quick kick out, but the offside flag kept the cup final heading in the direction of a penalty shoot-out.
Burgh pressed forward trying to make the extra man count as tired legs started to be a factor, and Armstrong's back header looped over the crossbar with Truesdale appearing to have it covered. A dangerous inswinging corner from the left saw Truesdale confidently punch clear from underneath the crossbar.
The Glens almost grabbed a winner with the last kick of the ball as McGinlay got to the bye line and lifted a cross which was met on the volley by MacLaughlin, but the shot was blocked and the referee blew immediately for full time, setting up the dramatic shoot-out to win the cup.
Glencairn were first to shoot, and Murray Loudon confidently sent Dunlop the wrong way to make it 1-0. Burgh's first kicker was striker Dylan Blair, and he missed the target completely to give The Glens an early advantage. The advantage was emphasised as Conor MacLaughlin once again sent Dunlop the wrong way to make it 2-0, although Matt Sutherland pulled one back for Burgh to make it 2-1.
Ross Young ignored some unsporting goading by Sutherland as he stepped up to confidently fire past Dunlop to make it 3-1. The pressure was now on Burgh's next taker Coll McCallum, but Chris Truesdale dived to his left to parry the ball away, leaving Glencairn one kick away from winning the cup.
The responsibility was resting on Josh McCorry, but there appeared to be no nerves as he fired past Dunlop (pictured below) to secure the trophy's return to Rutherglen.
Josh McCorry fires in the winning penalty kick.
The delight of the players was obvious from the celebrations, given the circumstances of the match with players missing, early injuries and a red card. It was a triumph for the character of the young Glens players, and they had every right to enjoy their moment in the sunshine. There was a nice touch as injured captain Anton Phinn was asked to join Truesdale in lifting the trophy (pictured at top).
Johnstone Burgh u21s :- Dunlop, McDougal (Coll McCallum), O'Brien, David McCallum, Geddess, Kennedy, Skinner (McNamara), Sutherland, Blair, Sharp, Armstrong. (Subs not used - Law, Gemmell, Climson.)
Rutherglen Glencairn u21s :- Truesdale, Dunsmore, Clark (Chrystal), Young, McCorry, Michael Lone, Loudon, MacLaughlin, Caughey (Davidson (McGinlay)), Tommy Lone, Mitchell. (Subs not used - McGinty, Fraser.)
Website Man of the match - (chosen by Stephen McArthur) Josh McCorry.
Sponsor's Man of the match - Murray Loudon.