Saturday 27th January 2018 - Friendly match
(Report by Peter Ferguson)
Jamie Hamilton was in fine form on his return after a recent illness.
Glencairn's positive start to 2018 continued as they defeated Super Premier League 5th placed side Kilbirnie Ladeside in this hastily-arranged friendly match at Glasgow Green Football Centre. With both sides' respective Scottish Junior Cup matches falling to the weather for the second week in a row, the sides took advantage of a noon vacancy on the pitch that The Glens use for their midweek training, and it turned out to be an excellent match despite the blustery wind.
With a full squad of 18 players to choose from, The Glens' management team opted for a strong starting line-up. Craig Palmer returned on the left side of defence, and there was a starting place in attack for Liam Gormley who partnered top goal scorer Gary Smith. Also returning to the side was playmaker Jamie Hamilton after missing the last two games through illness.
The match took some time to burst into life after some tidy passing from both sides without any real penetration. The first clear chance arrived in the 8th minute when Glencairn goalkeeper Jack Baker had to look sharp to beat away an angled shot by Jon Scullion after the lively front man had twisted his way past marker Tony Fraser.
Glencairn's first serious sight of goal came in the 15th minute as Fraser's clever pass found Smith in space (pictured below). Smith fired in a shot which was slightly deflected and blocked out by Ladeside no.1 Kieran Hughes, and defender Ross Mackinnon slid in to make a goal-saving clearance as Gormley looked set to pounce on the rebound.
Scullion was the clear danger man with most of Ladeside's attacks involved him at some stage, and he fired narrowly wide from eight yards out in the 17th minute. A minute later The Glens almost took the lead as Smith pounced on a short passback by Robbie Halliday and dribbled round Hughes, but could only hit the post with his shot from a very tight angle.
Two minutes later Glencairn went close again as Ryan McArdle's accurate cross from the right picked out the head of Gormley, but Hughes made a fine save to deny the close range header. Hughes had to be on his toes at this stage as Gormley pounced on another defensive slip, the goalkeeper racing out to block with his legs this time.
Ladeside went close again at the mid point of the first half as Scullion was given space to fire in a shot which Baker did well to palm over the crossbar. Chances were coming at both ends now as the teams were getting used to the conditions, and Hamilton's incisive pass set up Gormley for a shot which he pulled wide of the far post.
The best chance of the game so far arrived in the 35th minute as James Finlay ran through on goal with only Baker to beat, but his attempted shot seemed to lack belief that he would score and the ball rolled tamely wide of goal. Kilbirnie were on top at this stage with the wind having freshened at their backs, and Peter McGill was brought down right on the edge of the penalty area. Scullion curled the free kick over the wall but once again the effort was off target.
Half time : 0-0
Jay McKay fires Glencairn into the lead from the penalty spot early in the second half.
There were six changes to the Glencairn team at the interval as the management tried to keep the squad on its toes. The front pairing of Smith and Gormley were replaced by Jay McKay and Alessandro Savarese, while defenders Palmer and Craig McGregor made way for Andy Neil and Ryan Kerr respectively. Stewart Hall replaced McArdle wide on the right, while Sean McGuire came on for Jordan Leyden in central midfield.
Kilbirnie went close to opening the scoring right from the start of the second half as Arnault Bembo worked his way into the right edge of the penalty area, but he fired across the face of goal with no player in yellow able to apply a finish.
The deadlock was broken in the 48th minute as The Glens were awarded a penalty kick. There were two opportunities for the referee to give the award, one for a handball by Bembo, and a couple of seconds later the same player tripped McKay as the livewire striker tried to latch onto the loose ball. It was unclear which foul the spot kick was awarded for, but Jay McKay wasn't waiting to ask as he got off the floor quickly and grabbed the ball, before sending Hughes the wrong way from twelve yards to put Glencairn 1-0 ahead (pictured above).
Savarese had the chance to double the lead a few minutes later as he latched onto a pass over the top by Hamilton, but he was off balance as he shot and fired high and wide from an angle. Baker's concentration at the other end was proving to be excellent as he kept the door closed with a terrific save to deny Scullion's close range effort at the back post in the 54th minute.
Despite the match being a low scoring affair in awkward playing conditions, it was nonetheless excellent entertainment for the small crowd who had learned about the match in time to get there, and chances kept coming at both ends. Hall cut in from the right in the 57th minute and fired in a low shot on the stretch which Hughes dealt with comfortably, before a minute later that man Scullion curled a free kick from 20 yards on target, forcing another save from Baker.
Ladeside clearly weren't happy with the scoreline and tried to haul themselves back into the match. Scullion pulled yet another effort off target, before he linked well with David Crerand to set up John Sweeney for a shot which was excellently thwarted by fine defensive work by Kerr.
Glencairn responded with Del McNab's whipped cross from the left being headed over the bar from close range by Savarese in the 74th minute. Hamilton's battling qualities to add to his fine individual skill were evident in the 77th minute as he dug in to win possession and then fired a shot which was deflected inches wide of goal.
Two minutes later Hamilton was at the heart of things again as he broke quickly and played a fine pass wide to McKay, who cut past his marker and curled a shot for the far corner, only for Hughes to get his fingertips to the ball and touch it onto the post to deny what would have been a brilliant breakaway goal. Hughes denied Glencairn again a minute later as Hamilton fired in a fizzing free kick (pictured below), the goalkeeper saving above his head on the goal line.
Kilbirnie kept plugging away to try and get an equaliser, but they were being met with stern resistance from a determined Glencairn rearguard which was once again being well marshalled by sweeper Rhys Donaldson. The final chance of the game fell to former Glencairn under 21 midfielder Gavin Stokes who pulled his attempted whipped shot a couple of yards wide of goal.
The referee was clearly keen to get home as he blew for full time after only 88 minutes, but nobody in black and white was complaining as another win was marked on the board for 2018. Hopefully next week the Scottish Junior Cup tie will go ahead and the winning run will continue.
Rutherglen Glencairn :- Baker, McGregor (Kerr), Palmer (Neil), Donaldson, Fraser, Leyden (McGuire), McArdle (Hall), Hamilton, Gormley (Savarese), Smith (McKay), McNab. (Sub not used - Grier.)
Kilbirnie Ladeside :- Kieran Hughes, Halliday, Mackinnon, Bembo, Juskowiak, Cory Hughes, Burbidge, Roberts, Finlay, Scullion, McGill. (Subs - O'Byrne, Crerand, Sweeney, Stokes, Tuohy, Wilton (gk).)
Man of the match - (chosen by Peter Ferguson) Jamie Hamilton.