Sunday 26th July 2015 - James Glen Memorial Trophy Final (Kilbirnie tournament)
(Report by Peter Ferguson)
Glencairn's players celebrate with the James Glen Memorial Trophy.
Glencairn brought the James Glen Memorial Trophy back to Rutherglen for the 6th time as they defeated hosts Kilbirnie Ladeside in a penalty shoot-out in the final of the annual pre-season tournament. Remarkably all four matches in the tournamrnt ended in draws, meaning all four games were decided by spot kicks.
The starting line-up was shuffled from the previous day's match against Largs Thistle due to the unavailability of some players and a few niggling injuries, so three of the under 21s were called up to fill out the squad alongside a couple of trialists.
The Super Premier League side, who were defending the trophy after a shoot-out victory over The Glens in last year's final, were on the front foot from the start of the match, and the pace and movement of the front three of Richie Barr, Adam Forde and Graham Boyd were giving the Glencairn defence some early headaches.
Forde went close with a curling free kick from 20 yards in the 4th minute, and then Glens no.1 JC Hutchison made a good block to deny Forde again when he was allowed to run clear despite looking a couple of yards offside.
Kilbirnie continued to come forward and Glencairn were struggling to get out of their own half never mind threaten the opposition goal. A cross from the right saw Boyd get in front of Paul Doyle but he flicked his shot over the bar from 10 yards out. The 15th minute saw Forde spin away from his marker and fire in a shot which Hutchison saved comfortably on his goal line.
The Glens' first sniff of a chance came in the 16th minute when the ball was laid off to Sean McGuire on the edge of the penalty area, but he fired his shot high and wide. Play swung back to the other end and Hutchison had to be on his toes again to save a glanced header by Steven Meechan.
Glencairn's hard-pressed defence clear their lines as Kilbirnie pressurise.
Glencairn's back line were holding out well, but they were undone by a slice of good fortune which gave Kilbirnie a deserved lead in the 20th minute. The ball was fed in to Adam Forde, and he turned away from his marker before firing in a shot which took a big deflection on its way past the helpless Hutchison to make it 1-0.
There was a further blow for The Glens in the 26th minute when captain Dean Muir limped off injured, and he was replaced in midfield by Adam Shaw.
Some beautiful link play by the Kilbirnie front three set up a chance for Richie Barr, but once again Hutchison was quick off his line to deny the normally deadly front man. Boyd had the ball in the net for Kilbirnie in the 32nd minute, but the goal was correctly disallowed for a clear offside offence.
For all of the home side's territorial domination in the opening half hour, they only had one deflected goal to show for it, and Glencairn were still very much in the contest because of that. The game turned on its head as it moved towards half time, as Glencairn came roaring back into the match.
Ryan Bennett's corner from the right in the 36th minute was met by a flashing header by Shaw which was headed off the line and over the bar for another corner. Kilbirnie clearly didn't heed the warning, as the next cross found the head of Graeme Brown at the back post, and his firm header beat home goalkeeper Kieran Hughes at his near post. The referee ruled that the ball had crossed the goal line before the stopper clawed it back out, and The Glens were level.
The turnaround was complete only four minutes later as Glencairn took the lead with a quite stunning goal. A throw-in from The Glens' own half was flicked on to Chris Zok, who turned and fired in a shot from fully 40 yards out and, with Hughes well off his line, the ball dropped perfectly into the empty net for a very early "Goal of the Season" contender.
Ladeside were stunned and tried to respond immediately, Barr getting free on the left edge of the penalty area but being denied by an excellent block by u21 defender Anthony Dempsey.
Half time : 1-2
There was a double change for The Glens at half time, with strikers Zok and Tait withdrawn and replaced up front by Denis McLaughlin and Paddy Cullen. Kilbirnie retained their starting line-up for the start of the second half.
The changes almost made an immediate impact as a lovely passing move ended with Cullen's firm shot being turned round the post by the diving Hughes.
Kilbirnie got back on level terms again with a well-worked goal in the 51st minute. Ian Gray got to the bye-line and squared for Graham Boyd who fired into the net from close range.
Glencairn made an immediate double change in midfield before the restart, with u21 midfielder Craig Young replacing Mark Batchelor and Mark McCarry replacing Bennett. Kilbirnie made a triple change with Kieran Brannan, Michael O'Byrne and Shaun Gallacher replacing Meechan, Simon Marriott and Barr respectively.
Hutchison came to the rescue again with a strong hand denying a swerving free kick by Forde, with Paul Doyle completing the clearance as Boyd threatened on the rebound.
Just after the hour mark both sides made a further change, with Kyle Rafferty replacing Liam McGuiness for Ladeside and trialist Jim Smith replacing trialist David Craig for Glencairn. Kilbirnie's threat at free kicks was obvious, and Hutchison made another excellent full stretch save to turn Matthew Bennett's curler round the post in the 67th minute.
Ladeside had now re-established their territorial domination, and Boyd should have hit the target in the 71st minute when he was set up by clever play on the left by Forde, but he fired over the crossbar. Kilbirnie made their final two changes in the 75th minute, with Ryan Haxton replacing Bennett and Connor Ramsay coming on for David Anderson.
Clever footwork by Denis McLaughlin almost re-established Glencairn's lead when he flicked the ball past his marker and volleyed just over the crossbar from 20 yards. Both teams were going for the win now, and Hutchison saved yet another free kick effort, Brannan this time testing the Glencairn no.1 with a curler from 20 yards.
An excellent defensive block by Shaw was enough to halt Ramsey in his tracks after he had been released by a clever reverse pass, and Hutchison snuffed out any danger from the loose ball. Play swung to the other end and it was Ladeside's turn to show a strong defence as efforts by McLaughlin and McCarry were blocked before Young pulled his shot wide of the target.
There was plenty of commitment on display from both sides as the match moved into its closing minutes, with a few meaty tackles resulting in the referee flashing yellow cards to Cullen and Young. However, there were to be no more goals and, as was the case for the previous year's final and all the matches in this year's tournament, the result would be decided by a penalty kick shoot-out.
Kilbirnie were first to go, and the Player of the Tournament Adam Forde continued his excellent performance with a fine finish, which was equalised by Mark McCarry for Glencairn. Kieran Brannan was next to score for Kilbirnie, and Denis McLaughlin levelled it at 2-2 with the next effort for The Glens.
Shaun Gallacher was next up for the hosts, but Hutchison dived to his right to tip the ball round the post and give The Glens the first advantage. Adam Shaw reinforced the advantage by scoring the next kick to put Glencairn 3-2 ahead. The pressure was now on Kilbirnie to keep the competition alive, and Graham Boyd did exactly that, but Paddy Cullen re-established the lead for Glencairn with the fourth effort.
Kilbirnie's fifth kick had to be scored, but Hutchison dived to his right to parry the shot away (pictured below) and win the trophy for Glencairn.
JC Hutchison saves Kilbirnie's final penalty kick to win the competition for Glencairn.
Kilbirnie Ladeside :- Hughes, Gray, Bennett (Haxton), Donnelly, Marriott (O'Byrne), McGuiness (Rafferty), Anderson (Ramsey), Meechan (Brannan), Barr (Gallacher), Forde, Boyd. (Sub not used - Fahey (gk).)
Rutherglen Glencairn :- Hutchison, Brown, Craig (Smith), Doyle, Dempsey, Muir (Shaw), McGuire, Batchelor (Young), Zok (McLaughlin), Bennett (McCarry), Tait (Cullen). (Sub not used - Kerr (gk).)
Man of the match - (chosen by Tam Bennett) Anthony Dempsey.