Saturday 24th February 2018 - McBookie.com West Region Super League Division One
(Report by Peter Ferguson)
Glencairn earned what could turn out to be a valuable point at home against 4th placed Largs Thistle as they closed the gap to the play-off positions to only two points. The Glens remain in 7th place in the table but, with the top six all getting a chance of promotion to the new West Region Premiership, they are now only 2 points behind 6th place with three games in hand.
There was a surprise for the black and white supporters as they looked at the team board as they entered the turnstiles, with 47-year-old goalkeeper Allan Colquhoun making the journey from his retirement home to replace regular no.1 Jack Baker who was ill. There were two other changes from last week's defeat to Kilsyth Rangers, with Craig Palmer returning in defence to replace Craig McGregor, and Del McNab coming in to left midfield with Ryan McArdle injured.
It took some time for the game to get into full swing, and the closest either side came to creating a chance in the opening minutes was a cross by Jay McKay which bounced awkwardly off Liam Gormley and straight into the grateful arms of Largs goalkeeper Blair Cousar.
Despite having plenty of possession, Thistle hadn't threatened the goal at all until the 15th minute when Alex McWaters' free kick was headed across goal and wide by Creag Little, under good defensive pressure by Ryan Kerr. Glencairn responded with a free kick of their own at the other end only a minute later, and Tony Fraser's dangerous delivery (pictured below) was turned out for a corner by defender Nicky Jamieson.
A long throw from the left by McKay in the 20th minute dropped at the feet of Jordan Leyden who flicked the ball backwards towards goal but over the crossbar. Glencairn were pressurising well at this stage, and McKay's cross from the left picked out Leyden who missed his kick from 20 yards, but Stewart Hall latched on to the loose ball to fire in an angled shot which was deflected wide for a corner.
Hall and Leyden combined again in the 23rd minute to set up another chance for The Glens but, instead of setting up McKay for a shot, Leyden chose to shoot himself and pulled his effort wide of goal from 18 yards. Rhys Donaldson had a rare burst out of defence a minute later and went past a few challenges before being brought down by Little which earned the big defender the game's first yellow card. Palmer curled the resulting free kick half a yard over the crossbar.
Colquhoun hadn't had a save to make in the opening quarter of the game, but the veteran stopper showed his concentration and agility in the 26th minute as he beat away McWaters' curling free kick, and Kerr completed the clearance as the ball rebounded in front of goal. Largs were beginning to threaten now, and a lovely flick released Adam Scott on the left, only for him to be stopped by a brilliant piece of defensive anticipation by Donaldson.
Scott showed good honesty in the 34th minute as he appeared to be clipped inside the penalty area by Leyden's challenge, but the big striker stayed on his feet to get a shot on goal instead of going to ground to win the penalty. The eventual shot was blocked, but it was good to see a player not taking a tumble when he didn't need to.
Thistle were having their best spell in the game at this point, but Glencairn almost capitalised on the break from a corner at the other end, Gormley and McKay linking well before McKay's cross was cut out for a corner at the other end. More fine defensive positioning by Donaldson saw him deny Martin Orr as the Thistle wide man burst into the penalty area and fired in a shot.
McWaters' inswinging corner from the left in the 40th minute was a real test for Colquhoun, but "Cat" confidently punched clear under all sorts of pressure. A minute later Glencairn went the closest yet to scoring. Fraser's free kick skimmed off the head of a Thistle defender and hit the crossbar, the ball spinning up and then back down towards goal where Cousar grabbed it before McNab or Gormley could pounce (pictured at top).
Glencairn continued to press as the half time whistle approached, and Hall was unfortunate to see his angled shot bounce of his team mate McKay and fly wide of goal in the 42nd minute. There were yellow cards for McWaters and Glencairn captain Fraser for a minor off-the-ball incident before the referee brought the first half to a close.
Half time :- 0-0
Jay McKay was a handful for the Thistle defence as usual.
The sides were unchanged for the start of the second half, and the match had barely restarted when it was stopped again for a few minutes after a clash of heads between Palmer and Little. Both players were able to resume after treatment.
Leyden almost turned the key for an opening goal in the 55th minute as he won possession in the centre circle and drove forward before setting up Gormley for an angled shot which was tipped over the crossbar by Cousar. Palmer became the second Glencairn player to see yellow for one foul too many.
The first substitution arrived on the hour mark as Graham Muir replaced Gary Fleming for Largs. Muir came close to making a quick impact as he drilled a shot narrowly wide from 16 yards only two minutes after coming on.
Jamie Hamilton made his return from injury as he came off the bench in the 64th minute, replacing Leyden in the centre of the park as he moved in beside the energy of Sean McGuire. There were shouts for a penalty for Largs when Ryan McKie skinned Palmer on the right and then went down under a challenge by McNab, but the referee was happy to wave play on.
With Palmer probably only one more foul away from a second yellow card, he was replaced on the left side of the defence by Andy Neil at the mid point of the second half. Thistle made their second change at the same time, with John Carter replacing McKie.
A goal seemed certain for Largs in the 68th minute as Colquhoun could only parry a shot by Jamie Campbell, but the rebound effort hit the crossbar and bounced back out from goal to the relief of the home contingent. Three minutes later Little headed over the bar from 6 yards as he latched on to McWaters' corner from the left.
Glencairn made their final change as Alessandro Savarese replaced McKay up front, the striker still feeling the effects of an ankle knock.
Jamieson let himself down in the 73rd minute as firstly he fouled Hamilton, then squared up to the midfielder before falling dramatically to the floor to try to get Hamilton into trouble with the referee. Fortunately the whistler saw through the big defender's histrionics and told everybody to get on with the game.
A minute later Jamieson showed his better side as he stretched his neck muscles to head clear just as Gormley looked to latch on to Savarese's hooked cross from the right. Glencairn were having another good spell at this stage, and McNab's cross from the left found the head of Hall at the back post, but his effort looped up and over the crossbar. Good play on the left by Gormley and Hamilton set up McNab for a shot in the 81st minute which was blocked away.
There was no lack of effort from either side to break the deadlock, even into stoppage time as a cross from the right seemed to be coming through to McWaters, with Fraser making a vital hooked clearance just in time. As if it was in the script, the last word went to Colquhoun as he raced out from goal to smother the ball at the feet of Carter in the 93rd minute to ensure his umpteenth comeback ended with a clean sheet.
Glencairn manager Willie Harvey was reasonably happy with the performance, and the defence in particular. He commented, "The team worked really hard all afternoon, there wasn't really any great football from either side, but I was pleased for our defence to keep a clean sheet and for Allan Colquhoun in particular. I thought a draw was a fair result, and all in all it's not a bad point to have gained."
Rutherglen Glencairn :- Colquhoun, Kerr, Palmer (Neil), Donaldson, Fraser, McGuire, Hall, Leyden (Hamilton), Gormley, McNab, McKay (Savarese). (Subs not used - McGregor, Grier, Hutchison (gk).)
Largs Thistle :- Cousar, Fisher, McMaster, Jamieson, Little, Fleming (Muir), Orr, Campbell, Scott, McWaters, McKie (Carter). (Subs not used - Gilbride, McVey, Graham (gk).)
Man of the match - (chosen by John Sinclair) Rhys Donaldson.