Wednesday 22nd April 2015 - Stagecoach West Region Super League Division One
(Report by Peter Ferguson)
Del Esplin starts a first half Glencairn attack.
Glencairn kept their hopes of promotion alive with an incredible comeback against the league's in-form team as the crowd were treated to a topsy turvy goals fest in the sunshine. The results from the evening saw The Glens slip down to 7th place in the table, but only one point behind the 3rd place play-off position, such is the competitive nature of this league every season.
There were two changes to the starting line-up from Saturday's win over Neilston Juniors. Jordan Dalzell returned to the squad and took his place in midfield instead of Ross Ballantyne, and there was a late blow in the warm-up as right back Graeme Brown pulled up with a hamstring strain, so Willie Galloway was promoted from the bench and into the team just as the players were heading out onto the pitch. The Rabs' team included two former Glencairn players, right back Paul Finnigan and central defender David Barr.
The match started in the way it was to continue, with both teams creating chances in the opening minutes. Rob Roy's experienced striker Willie Sawyers held off David Dunnachie after only thirty seconds before firing over the bar from a tight angle. A minute later Glencairn had an even better chance at the other end as Brian Welsh's lobbed pass saw Denis McLaughlin beat the offside trap. McLaughlin lobbed the ball over Rob Roy goalkeeper Jordan Brown, but was very unfortunate to see the ball hit the underside of the bar, bounce down onto the goal line and spin out again.
The visitors should have been in front in the 8th minute when Chris Duff robbed Dunnachie of the ball and ran through on goal, but he fired high and wide with only Glens no.1 JC Hutchison to beat. Rob Roy were well on top, though, and playing the game at a pace that Glencairn's defence seemed to be struggling to cope with. It was no surprise when the deadlock was broken in the 11th minute. A low cross from the right was dummied at the front post by Sawyers and then blocked in front of goal, but Kevin Watt was first to react to the loose ball to fire into the roof of the net from close range to make it 1-0 to Rob Roy.
Rob Roy weren't letting up in their early pressure, and they were gifted a second goal only three minutes later. Galloway was short with a back pass to Hutchison, laying the ball on a plate for Willie Sawyers to pounce and slip the ball under the goalkeeper to double the visitors' lead.
The Glens' players looked shell shocked, but they tried to work their way back into the game, with Dalzell's speculative volley from 20 yards flying a yard wide of goal in the 24th minute.
However, things were to get worse for the home side only seconds later. Watt skipped past Andy Neil and then cut across the defender before going down inside the penalty area, and the referee pointed to the penalty spot. After yellow cards for Hutchison and Neil for their protests, Kevin Watt fired in the spot kick to make it 3-0 to Rob Roy after only 25 minutes. The black and white faithful were now fearing the worst and hoping to avoid a major embarrassment.
Some strong words were heard on the pitch from some of the Glencairn players to each other as they tried to restore their composure and pride after a disastrous opening half hour. Gradually, though, there were signs of The Glens beginning to settle and perhaps Rob Roy taking their foot off the gas a little. McLaughlin fired a shot across goal and wide of the far post, before Ross McNeil was denied in a race for the ball by Brown racing from his line to clear.
The home support were given a spark of hope in the 41st minute when The Glens earned a route back into the match. McNeil was fouled just inside the penalty area by Barr, and the referee pointed to the spot for the second time in the match. Denis McLaughlin stepped up and drilled the ball confidently past Brown to make it 3-1, and suddenly there was just that wee bit of doubt in the away support, as well as renewed hope in the Rutherglen faithful.
Having said that, Rob Roy almost re-established their three-goal lead on the stroke of half time, with Sawyers setting up Watt for a hat-trick opportunity, but he was denied by a brilliant block right in front of goal by Glens' left back Jonny Boal.
Half time 1-3
Glencairn's defence were stretched to the limit in the opening half hour.
Neither team made any personnel changes at the interval, but Glencairn's goal before half time allied to some strong words in the changing room seemed to have completely changed the mind-set of both teams at the start of the second half, as The Glens came roaring back.
McLaughlin had two early efforts saved by Brown, and a surging run by Sean McGuire set up a snap shot by Del Esplin on the run which flew over the bar. It was the same players, but it was a completely different Glencairn side now from the one who started the match. Rob Roy's confidence appeared to be knocked, and that was shown when a free kick from 20 yards in front of goal was sliced almost as far wide of the target.
It was very much "game on again" in the 56th minute when Glencairn pulled it back to 3-2, Esplin's pass with the outside of his foot setting up top goal scorer Ross McNeil for a decisive finish on the volley from 8 yards, keeping up his "goal a game" ratio.
Four minutes later, on the hour mark, the home support were yelling in delight as the unlikely comeback was completed. Dalzell's free kick from the left looked to be drifting out of play until Neil headed back across the face of goal. Dunnachie's close range shot was blocked, but the ball spun into the path of Denis McLaughlin who drilled the ball into the net from six yards.
It was anybody's game now, and Glencairn continued to press as Dalzell broke free on the left and crossed for McLaughlin, whose shot on the turn flew over the bar from 16 yards out.
Rob Roy made the first substitution in the 64th minute as Gary McMenamin replaced Josh Flood, and that was followed soon after by Glencairn's first change, Dean Muir being a straight replacement for Brian Welsh in the holding midfield position.
McNeil sprung the offside trap again on the left in the 69th minute but fired into the side netting under pressure from a covering defender. A minute later The Glens made their final change with Ballantyne replacing Galloway at right back.
Watt was keen to get his hat-trick for The Rabs, but his point blank header was denied by a brilliant parry save by Hutchison in the 73rd minute when a goal seemed certain. Rob Roy made their second change as the injured Finnigan limped off to be replaced by Thomas Collins.
Rob Roy made their final change with 15 minutes remaining, a surprising one for many as dangerman Sawyers was withdrawn and replaced by Steven Aitken. At the same time Glencairn introduced fresh legs up front as Thomas Kilmartin replaced McLaughlin.
Glencairn went close again as Boal pushed forward and linked on the edge of the penalty area with McNeil, the defender firing in an angled shot which Brown saved on the dive to his right.
The chances continued to come at either end as both teams eyed up the boost that an extra two points would make to their promotion ambitions. James Hunter fired an angled shot over the bar for Rob Roy, and then at the other end Brown clutched the ball above Kilmartin's head after a good run and cross by Dalzell.
Watt went close again in the dying minutes as he headed over the bar from close range, and then right on the 90th minute McNeil held off a challenge by Barr inside the penalty area but couldn't get his shot away at the near post. McNeil went down under Barr's block challenge, but the referee wasn't interested in pointing to the penalty spot for a third time.
The final chance fell to the visitors in the 92nd minute as a long throw from the left broke off Muir into the path of Hunter, but he pulled his shot wide of the target from 20 yards.
The referee brought the match to a finish after just under three minutes of stoppage time, and both sets of fans applauded warmly after a fine evening's entertainment from both sides, played in a great spirit.
Rutherglen Glencairn :- Hutchison, Galloway (Ballantyne), Boal, Neil, Dunnachie, Welsh (Muir), Dalzell, McGuire, McNeil, McLaughlin (Kilmartin), Esplin. (Subs not used - Irvine, Donaghy.)
Kirkintilloch Rob Roy :- Brown, Finnigan (Collins), Mackenzie, Brogan, Barr, Hunter, Flood (McMenamin), Duff, Sawyers (Aitken), Watt, Martin. (Subs not used - Davidson, Tiffney.)
Man of the match - (chosen by Peter Ferguson) Joint award - Andy Neil & Denis McLaughlin.
Andy Neil and Denis McLaughlin