Saturday 21st April 2018 - McBookie.com West Region Super League Division One
(Report by Peter Ferguson)
Gary Smith pounces to score Glencairn's second equalising goal.
Glencairn let another two precious points slip in the promotion race as they drew 2-2 away to Kello Rovers at Nithside Park in Kirkconnel. The result meant that The Glens have dropped out of the promotion play-off spots and now have some hard work to do to pull themselves back into the top six.
With the playing squad stretched to the limit by injuries and holidays for this trip down into Dumfries and Galloway, there was only one change to the starting line-up from Wednesday night's defeat at Cumbernauld United. Del McNab was restored to the team on the left of midfield, with Ryan McArdle moving to the right and Stewart Hall dropping to the subs' bench.
The match was slow to get up to speed with the dry bumpy surface making it difficult to play any quality passing football. Glencairn were first to have a proper attempt on goal in the 7th minute, as Tony Fraser pulled a shot well wide of goal from 25 yards (pictured below).
Kello took the lead in the 9th minute with what was effectively their first proper chance of the match. A long throw from the right was flicked on into the path of Graeme Ramage with his back to goal, and he swivelled to fire into the net from six yards out.
Glens no.1 Jack Baker was called on to make a fine block to deny striker James Wilson as he ran through on the edge of the penalty area in the 18th minute, before Glencairn had a great chance to equalise only moments later. A long kick out by Baker was misjudged in the air by the home defence, leaving Gary Smith with only goalkeeper Sean Woods to beat, but the normally deadly striker fired an unusually tame effort straight at Woods.
The Glens were beginning to settle into the game better now, and Jay McKay caused danger as he cut into the penalty area and fired across goal, the ball being blocked in front of goal by defender Stuart Bell.
Kello's players were screaming for a penalty kick for handball against Rhys Donaldson in the 25th minute, but the referee was right to ignore the appeals as there was clearly no intent. The strength and pace of striker James Wilson was causing problems for the Glencairn defence, and he held off Donaldson a minute later before being wasteful with his final pass across goal.
Glencairn pulled themselves level on the half hour mark, and there were no prizes for guessing who struck the goal. A ball over the top saw Gary Smith hold off two markers before placing an accurate shot past Woods (pictured below) to make it 1-1, his 21st goal of the season.
It was much better stuff from Glencairn now and, a minute later, Ryan McArdle's corner was flicked on by the head of McNab into the path of Ryan Kerr whose shot across goal was blocked.
The travelling support held its breath in the 35th minute as the referee looked to be showing a yellow card to Smith for an elbow in the air, when the assistant referee entered the pitch to speak to the referee about a separate off-the-ball incident involving Smith and defender Stuart Bell. The result was a yellow card for both players, and thankfully both teams retained 11 men.
McArdle's cross from the right picked out the head of McKay at the back post in the 35th minute but a defender got across just in time to block the goal-bound effort. Glencairn continued to probe and Fraser's inviting free kick flashed wide of goal with no player throwing themselves towards the ball.
McNab's run down the left set up McKay for a shot on the turn which was blocked for another corner, before there was a claim for a penalty for Glencairn just before the interval as McKay appeared to be bundled over as he tried to latch onto a ball over the defence, the referee once again not interested.
Half time : 1-1
Jay McKay battles for first half possession.
Both teams were unchanged for the start of the second half, and Rovers were first to go close as Wilson's strength worked himself into a shooting position and Baker blocked well. A brave goal line clearance by Kerr denied Rovers the lead from the resulting corner, sliding to clear knowing he would take a sore hit in the process.
A late run into the box by Sean McGuire saw him get on the end of Smith's flick in the 55th minute, but he was stretching for his angled shot and fired over the crossbar. A minute later the home side edged in front again as they capitalised on some more defensive slackness. Ramage's dipping free kick was saved on the goal line by Baker, but he couldn't hold the ball, leaving Martin Bell free to run in unchallenged to fire the rebound into the net to make it 2-1.
Sean McCall should have equalised almost straight away as he found himself through on goal, but fired straight against Woods, and McCall clearly hadn't composed himself a few seconds later as the ball fell at his feet again, pulling his shot miles wide of goal from 16 yards.
The Glens thought that they had equalised again in the 58th minute as a cross from the right picked out the head of Smith and he bulleted the ball past Woods, but the celebration was cut short by the assistant referee's offside flag.
The equaliser arrived for real only three minutes later as Gary Smith once again got in behind the defence and headed for goal (pictured at top). Woods parried the initial effort, but Smith was sharp to react to get off the floor and roll the ball into the net from a tight angle, goal number 22 of the season for the club's top scorer.
Jay McKay congratulates his strike partner on his second goal of the game.
Kello's first substitution saw David Frew replace Jordan Quinn in the 64th minute. The delivery from set pieces by Ramage was accurate and a good weapon for the home side, and one cross should have been converted in front of goal but the shot flew wide of goal.
The travelling Glencairn supporters couldn't believe their eyes in the 68th minute when McCall missed an open goal from 12 yards out right in front of goal, after fine set up play by McKay. It seemed impossible to miss, but the midfielder was far too casual and his team paid the price.
A couple of minutes later it was almost disaster at the other end as Baker's attempted quick throw-out rebounded from the back of Donaldson's head straight into the path of Frew, who dribbled past Donaldson but over-ran the ball allowing Baker to make a recovery save. Baker injured his hamstring in the incident, though, and was unable to continue, so 47-year-old goalkeeping coach Stevie Hutchison was thrown on to play the final 20 minutes.
There was an early test for Hutchison as dangerman Ramage cut past two defenders and fired in a low shot, but the experienced stopper did well to block at his near post. It was Kello's turn to be disappointed with an offside flag in the 79th minute as Wilson latched onto a flick and fired past Hutchison, the disallowed goal balancing out Smith's earlier effort at the other end.
Hall was brought off the bench to replace McCall with ten minutes remaining, with McNab moved slightly forward to form a front three with Smith and McKay, and McArdle moving to the left flank. Hall went close to scoring quickly as Smith's flick on found Hall's head and he nodded across goal and wide, but he had also been flagged for offside.
Smith continued to threaten as he outmuscled Stuart Bell before the defender did just enough to deflect the angled shot over the crossbar. A speculative shot from distance by Martin Bell for Kello dipped just over the crossbar, with Hutchison watching it carefully and having it covered.
The Glens' support held their breath in the 2nd minute of stoppage time as Ramage's deflected free kick had Hutchison wrong-footed, but the ball flew wide for a corner. The referee added on a further two minutes but there was to be no winning goal at either end, and both sets of fans left thinking about what might have been.
Kello Rovers :- Woods, Hill, Pagan, Ramage, Stuart Bell, Bennie, Martin Bell, Shaw, Wilson, Fleming, Jordan Quinn (Frew). (Subs not used - Griffiths, Callum Quinn, Miller.)
Rutherglen Glencairn :- Baker (Hutchison), Kerr, McGregor, Donaldson, Fraser, McGuire, McNab, McCall (Hall), Smith, McArdle, McKay. (Subs not used - Grier, Chrystal.)
Man of the match - (chosen by Peter Ferguson) Rhys Donaldson.