Saturday 13th January 2017 - McBookie.com West Region Super League Division One
(Report by Peter Ferguson)
Gary Smith flicks the ball on in a second half attack for Glencairn.
The good start to 2018 continued for Glencairn as they defeated Kello Rovers in the first league match at The Celsius Stadium for over two months. The result solidified The Glens' place in the top half of the league table and opened up a gap on the teams below them, while at the same time closing the gap on some of the teams above who currently hold the promotion positions.
After last week's away win over league leaders Petershill, manager Willie Harvey made only one change to the starting line-up. Ryan McArdle returned to the left side of midfield at the expense of Del McNab, while on the substitutes' bench Craig Palmer returned from suspension in place of Alex Grier. Midfield playmaker Jamie Hamilton remained on the sidelines as he recovers from illness.
After a tentative opening few minutes, the match burst into life in the 4th minute as the visitors were awarded a penalty kick. A cross from the right saw defender Craig McGregor bundle striker Greg Miller from behind, and referee Mr Chris Gentles had no hesitation in pointing to the spot. Liam Fleming stepped up to take the effort, but Jack Baker was the home fans' hero as he dived to his right to parry the shot away to safety.
Glencairn's supporters breathed a sigh of relief, and their mood swing went to the opposite end of the scale only a few seconds later as they watched their team go straight to the other end and take the lead. Jay McKay, who signed a 2-year contract extension during the week, pounced on a defensive slip and showed great calmness as he stroked the ball past Kello no.1 Ryan Dunsmuir to put The Glens 1-0 ahead. It was McKay's tenth goal of the season so far.
You could have forgiven the Rovers players for letting their heads go down at this early blow so quickly after having had the opportunity to go in front, but to their credit they knuckled down and were soon right back in the game as they were awarded a second penalty kick in the 13th minute. Kieran Pagan's run into the box on the left was ended by a late challenge by Rhys Donaldson, and it was another easy decision for Mr Gentles to point to the penalty spot. This time Martin Shaw stepped up and he sent Baker the wrong way to make it 1-1.
The match was a fairly even contest as the mid point of the first half approached, if lacking in any great quality football. McArdle's whipped free kick from the left was punched clear by Dunsmuir just as Gary Smith looked likely to head it into the net, and in the 19th minute Stewart Hall's overlapping run ended with a cut back to Smith who drilled a shot inches over the crossbar.
Gary Smith fires in a first half shot as Glencairn pressurise.
Glencairn defender Ryan Kerr became the first player into the referee's notebook as he saw yellow for a late tackle on Ally Smith, Kerr injuring himself in the process. Sean McGuire quickly followed Kerr into the notebook for diving into a rash challenge on the halfway line. A diagonal crossfield run by Hall on the half hour mark set up a chance for Smith to cut in from the left and fire in a shot which flew a yard high and wide of the target.
The first Kello player to be cautioned was midfielder Declan Hill who stupidly kicked the ball away about 30 yards to stop Glencairn taking a quick free kick, right under the referee's nose. The flow of cards continued as Fleming became Kello's second caution for clattering late into McArdle. The referee continued to flash cards about as McGregor became the third Glens player to see yellow just before the half time whistle.
Half time : 1-1
Craig McGregor launches a second half attack.
Glencairn were forced into a change at half time as Kerr hadn't fully recovered from the knock he took, so he was replaced on the left side of the back three by Andy Neil.
The first chance of the second half arrived in the 49th minute as the ball broke off a defender into the path of Hall, but Dunsmuir reacted quickly to make a fine block to the close range angled shot. The Glens were mostly on the front foot in the early stages of the second half, but they were being met by a stubborn Rovers defence and clear chances were proving hard to create.
Rovers' chances were dealt a huge blow in the 55th minute, however, as they were reduced to ten men. Declan Hill had been booked earlier for kicking the ball away, and he came to regret that as he was shown a deserved second yellow card for a late tackle on Tony Fraser, meaning that the lonely early trudge to the changing rooms was inevitable.
Kello responded with a double substitution as Daniel Jardine and Rhys Griffiths replaced Miller and Smith respectively.
The Glens were obviously enjoying a lot more space and possession now, and they almost took the lead as McKay's dribble and pass set up Smith for a shot which was well blocked again by Dunsmuir, and McGuire fired the rebound over the crossbar.
For once it hadn't quite been happening for top goal scorer Smith, so he was substituted in the 63rd minute and replaced up front by Liam Gormley. Glencairn goalkeeper Baker was a virtual spectator in the match apart from the two penalty kicks, but the chances were now beginning to come freely at the other end. McKay cut in from the left but fired his shot over the bar in the 65th minute, but you could sense a goal wasn't far away for The Glens.
The breakthrough duly arrived at the mid point of the second half, as McArdle's corner from the left was flicked on to the unmarked Andy Neil at the back post, and he looped a precise header back across goal and into the far corner of the net. It was Neil's first goal for Glencairn for almost five years.
Three minutes later The Glens gave themselves some breathing space as another substitute made his impact. McArdle cut in from the left and crossed onto the head of Liam Gormley, and the striker produced an emphatic finish across the balance of Dunsmuir to make it 3-1.
Kello made their final substitution before the re-start, with Jordan Quinn replacing defender Martin Bell. Glencairn also made their final change in the 73rd minute as McKay was wrapped in cotton wool ahead of next week's Scottish Junior Cup tie, with Alessandro Savarese replacing him.
The yellow cards continued as Sean Bennie of Kello was next to annoy the referee with a late challenge on Hall, and Mr Gentles' pencil must have been getting blunt as Jordan Leyden became the fourth Glencairn player to be booked.
Kello had rarely looked like scoring in the second half, but they went close in the 78th minute as Jardine linked on the edge of the penalty area and then fired a shot half a yard over the crossbar. The bulk of the chances were coming at the other end, however, and Dunsmuir did well yet again as he parried away Gormley's shot and then recovered to smother the ball before Savarese could pounce on the rebound.
Dunsmuir saved again from Savarese in the 84th minute, before Ross Costello of Kello became the 10th booking of the match. The chances kept coming for Glencairn as they used the extra man well, and Gormley almost set up Savarese only for a fine interception by Fleming to clear.
The referee added two minutes of stoppage time, but there was never any danger of Glencairn not winning the game after Gormley's goal. The action didn't stop for Mr Gentles at the end of the match, however, as several from the Kello camp aired their opinions on the way off the pitch, resulting in a busy after-match corridor between the changing rooms and the referee's room.
The Glens' players and fans were happy with the result, though, and the team now look forward to the visit of junior giants Bo'ness United in the Scottish Junior Cup.
Rutherglen Glencairn :- Baker, McGregor, Kerr (Neil), Donaldson, Fraser, McGuire, Hall, Leyden, Smith (Gormley), McArdle, McKay (Savarese). (Subs not used - Palmer, McNab.)
Kello Rovers :- Dunsmuir, Bennie, Pagan, Martin Bell (Quinn), Stuart Bell, Smith (Griffiths), Hill, Shaw, Miller (Jardine), Fleming, Costello. (Sub not used - Hampson.)
Man of the match - (chosen by Alison Carruthers) Jay McKay.