Saturday 30th August 2014 - Stagecoach West Region Super League Division One
(Report by Peter Ferguson)
Jamie MacLeod fires in a first half shot for The Glens.
The Glens made the best possible start to the league season with a 1-0 away win against the bookies' 2nd favourites for the league title as the team extended its unbeaten run in competitive matches this season to five matches.
There were three changes to the starting line-up from last week's win over Vale of Clyde. The defence who had kept a clean sheet were unchanged but, with Kris Irvine unavailable due to work, there was a recall on the right of midfield for Jamie MacLeod. Paul Thomson started on the left at the expense of Keiran Donaghy, while Steven McClung was selected up front with Thomas Kilmartin on the bench. Both of the trialists who had impressed last week were given another chance to catch the eye from the start.
Largs were clearly motivated to make a positive start in their first match since being relegated from the top league last season, and Glencairn were pinned back in the early moments, without any clear cut chances being created. Gradually, though, Glencairn found their feet in the game and the early pressure from the hosts subsided.
Largs went close in the 14th minute when Allan Frizzell's initial shot was blocked by a ruck of Glens players and the ball rebounded back to him, but the second effort flew high over the crossbar. Jamie McDonald of Largs was the first man into the referee's notebook when he deliberately handled the ball while lying on the ground to stop a threatening Glencairn attack.
The match was lacking in major incident in the opening half hour with neither goalkeeper tested, and both sides adjusting to a gusty wind despite the bright sunshine. The referee was at the centre of controversy in the 31st minute, though, as he failed to show McDonald a second yellow card, despite the Largs man taking out MacLeod as he darted at the heart of the defence in a major Glencairn attack. The whistler gave the foul, but opted not to produce the card that would have meant reducing the home side to 10 men with an hour still to play. Trialist no.9 curled the free kick on target, but Largs no.1 Grant Weir moved to his left to save at the post.
Jamie MacLeod in first half action.
Glencairn were now on the front foot, and Mark Bishop's headed clearance in the 34th minute was so decisive that it released Trialist no.9 through on goal, but his shot was blocked away for a corner. Five minutes later saw a great chance for Thistle, though, as both Glencairn central defenders were pulled out of position and a cross came over covering full back Jordan Dalzell into the path of Euan Lindsay, but the midfielder sclaffed his effort and JC Hutchison saved gratefully down low on his goal line.
McClung was working hard up front for Glencairn with little reward, but he linked well with Trialist no.9 in the 42nd minute which ended with a shot which rose well over the target from 20 yards. Hutchison denied Lindsay again on the stroke of half time as he reacted quickly to Dalzell's clearance being blocked, the big goalie racing from his line to block at Lindsay's feet.
Del Esplin in the thick of the first half midfield battle.
Half time : 0-0
Largs sensibly made a change at the interval, taking off McDonald who had been walking a red card tightrope and replacing him with Barri Stanton. The Glens made a positive start to the second half, McClung being fed on the left side of the penalty area and holding off his marker before firing across goal and wide of the far post.
All of the big chances for Largs seemed to be falling for Lindsay who just didn't seem to have the killer instict today, and he spurned another great chance in the 49th minute. A diagonal pass saw Dalzell at full stretch unable to stop Lindsay running in on goal, and he slipped the ball past Hutchison only to see Glencairn captain Ross Ballantyne race back to clear off the goal line.
Thirty seconds later the home side had another chance as they started the second half quickly, just as they had the first, Stanton cutting the ball back into the path of Graham Muir who fired over the crossbar from 18 yards. The home support were shouting for a penalty in the 50th minute when Frizzell went down under a challenge from Trialist no.5, but the referee wasn't interested and waved play on.
Once again, though, the early enthusiasm by the home side couldn't be sustained and Glencairn worked their way back into the match. The Glens broke the deadlock in the 57th minute with some real persistence. McClung laid the ball back to Trialist no.9 whose shot across goal was off target. Largs' defence didn't clear properly, though, and Del Esplin controlled the ball before working his way past three challenges and then placing his shot precisely into the corner of the net past the outstretched arm of Weir.
Del Esplin is congratulated by his team mates after scoring.
Largs tried to respond immediately, as Iain Fisher's long throw found its way through to Stanton, but the substitute sliced his shot over the bar from 14 yards out. Three minutes later at the other end Trialist no.9 fired a shot a couple of yards wide after his initial head flick had been cleared straight back to him.
The referee once again showed a reluctance to give a big decision in the 65th minute. Esplin drove at the defence and then slipped a perfect pass through to Trialist no.9 who was clearly tripped in the act of shooting. It looked like a textbook penalty kick and red card, but the referee gave neither and waved play on yet again, to the bemusement of the travelling support.
The mid point of the second half saw the moment that probably broke the belief of the home side that they were going to score an equaliser. A cross came in from the right and was flicked on into the path of Lindsay, who was right in front of goal with his volley, but somehow Hutchison managed to get some of his body in the way to deflect the ball wide for a corner to keep his side in front.
Thistle's frustration was beginning to show more clearly, and Creag Little was shown a yellow card for kicking the ball away and then showing an aggressive attitude to Trialist no.5. Thistle continued to lift high balls into the Glencairn defence, but just about every one of them was dealt with by Bishop or Trialist no.5 heading clear, or Hutchison coming to punch clear decisively.
Glencairn made their first change with 16 minutes remaining, Keiran Donaghy replacing the tiring MacLeod on the right and tasked with giving energy, workrate and defensive cover for Dalzell.
The referee's patience finally broke in the 76th minute as Largs were finally reduced to 10 men. Donaghy's dribble on the right was ended by a scything challenge by Barri Stanton, and this time there was no hesitation from the man in black as a straight red card was produced.
Thistle made an immediate defensive change, with Barry McLaughlin replacing Alan Gilbride, and with 11 minutes remaining Glencairn made their second change, Thomas Kilmartin replacing Trialist no.9 who left the field to good applause from the appreciative black and white followers.
Largs continued to launch high balls into the Glencairn area, and Kevin Struthers got ahead of Bishop in the 82nd minute but couldn't direct the ball on target, the ball flying over the crossbar. Another threatening high ball three minutes later saw Hutchison come and punch the ball clear again, taking the pressure off the defence again.
The referee somehow found six minutes of stoppage time to add, and Thistle continued to lift crosses in, all of which were dealt with by the Glencairn defence, and the referee finally blew for full time to give The Glens a great three points to start the season with.
Glens manager Willie Harvey was clearly delighted with the result, and he commented, "We got what we deserved today, the whole team performed and worked hard for that, and I'm delighted for them and the supporters who travelled down today. We need to build on that now."
Largs Thistle :- Weir, Fisher, Gilbride (McLaughlin), McDonald (Stanton), Little, Jamieson, Lindsay, Muir, Struthers, Thomson, Frizzell. (Subs not used - Kyle, Nixon (gk).)
Rutherglen Glencairn :- Hutchison, Dalzell, Ballantyne, Bishop, Trialist, McGuire, MacLeod (Donaghy), Esplin, Trialist (Kilmartin), McClung, Thomson. (Subs not used - Dunnachie, Neil, Trialist (gk).)
Man of the match - (chosen by Andy Handlin) Mark Bishop.