Rutherglen Glencairn Football Club

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Larkhall Thistle 4 Rutherglen Glencairn 5

Saturday 16th September 2017 - McBookie.com West Region Super League Division One

(Report by Peter Ferguson)

Larkhall Thistle 2

Liam Gormley is congratulated on scoring Glencairn's 2nd goal just before half time.

This was a quite incredible match, and huge credit should go to both teams for serving up such great entertainment as they both went full throttle for the three points. In the end, though, it was The Glens who had the last laugh as, after coming from behind four times, they scored the winner with literally the last kick of the ball deep into stoppage time.

Unsurprisingly it was "as you were" for the Glencairn starting line-up after last week's 5-1 win over Kilsyth Rangers, while Larkhall's team included former Glencairn goalkeeper Jonny Duncan.

There was a hint of the open attacking nature of the match right from the kick off as Glencairn went straight on the offensive, Jamie Hamilton setting up Liam Gormley for a shot which he pulled wide of goal after only eight seconds. A long throw from the right by Jay McKay in the 5th minute caused some concern for the Thistle back line, the ball rebounding fortunately off the head of defender Billy Robb and into the waiting arms of Duncan.

Thistle's first threat came moments later as a cross from the left found its way to Graham Gracie whose volley was blocked out only as far as Mark Canning, but his square pass across goal was hooked well clear by Rhys Donaldson. Both sides were looking threatening as they attacked, and Duncan had to be alert to thwart a couple of half chances inside the penalty area for Gormley, while the home defence did well to block away a spectacular hook volley attempt by Hamilton.

Match referee Craig King has been no stranger to baffling decisions in several matches over the past year or so, and he had everybody in the ground scratching their head in confusion as he whistled for a penalty kick to Larkhall in the 20th minute, when nobody on either side had even contemplated such an outcome. The ball appeared to be cleared cleanly in the penalty area by the Glencairn defence, but the whistler blew for a mystery foul, and Mark Canning gratefully sent goalkeeper Jack Baker the wrong way from the penalty spot to put Thistle 1-0 ahead.

Glencairn responded immediately, however, as they equalised only a minute later. Ryan McArdle found space on the left flank and his cross to the back post was met by a sweet right foot volley by Del McNab, the ball flashing past Duncan and into the net for a quickfire response.

Del McNab

The non-stop nature of the match continued with chances at both ends, and it was Larkhall who edged in front again in the 29th minute with a quite brilliant strike. Mark Canning found space on the edge of the penalty area and placed his shot into the postage stamp corner of the net, with Baker beaten from the moment the ball left Canning's foot.

Glencairn tried to respond quickly again, and Gormley worked his way to the bye line before crossing towards McKay, with Robb diving in to head behind just as the striker looked set to score. A couple of minutes later a free kick from 25 yards by McKay was fired far too straight and it was an easy save for Duncan on his goal line.

Jordan Leyden tried his luck with a shot from 30 yards in the 38th minute which flew narrowly past the junction of crossbar and post. The Glens were doing most of the pressing at this stage, and McArdle's cross from the left looked to be coming onto the head of McNab at the back post until Leyden's effort to get there first diverted the ball away from McNab and wide of the target.

Another diving header attempt by McKay was blocked out for yet another corner as Glencairn pressed hard for an equaliser before the interval. The pressure paid off as The Glens got their reward right on the stroke of half time, McKay's precise pass releasing Liam Gormley through on goal and he stabbed the ball past Duncan from 16 yards out.

Liam Gormley

That wasn't the end of the first half action, as Baker was called on to make a really good punch clear under pressure from a Thistle corner kick in stoppage time, but the teams finally went into the dressing rooms all square at the interval.

Half time : 2-2

Larkhall Thistle 1

Liam Gormley takes on defender Billy Robb during the first half.

Both teams were unchanged for the start of the second half, and Glencairn continued their momentum from the end of the first half as they were first to threaten after the restart. McKay's long throw from the right was flicked on in the air by McNab and met by McArdle's half-volley, only for defender Andrew Brown to get his head in the way of the goal-bound shot. Gradually, though, Thistle started to work themselves back into more threatening positions, and Leyden made a good block to deflect Ryan Innes' shot wide for a corner in the 48th minute.

Innes was the first man into the referee's notebook as he was shown yellow for deliberately blocking an attempted quick free kick. He was joined shortly afterwards by his team mate Gracie for a nasty and unnecessary stamp on Baker's foot as the 'keeper raced out to smother the ball.

Duncan made an excellent save on the hour mark as Gormley's cross from the left was met by McKay's diving header, the home no.1 tipping the ball over the crossbar at full stretch. The topsy turvy nature of the match continued as Thistle edged in front for the third time after 62 minutes. A cross from the left came over the head of the stretching Leyden, and in behind him ghosted Mark Canning who took a touch on his chest and then fired past Baker to complete his hat-trick.

Glencairn stuck to their game, though, and continued to try to pass through the home defence despite the bumpy surface making the ball difficult to control at times. Hamilton fed the ball towards Leyden who tried to feed the ball through to Gormley, but the ball bounced fortunately off defender Robb and Duncan gratefully grabbed the loose ball.

There was a real let-off for Glencairn in the 66th minute as Thistle went close three times inside a few seconds, Canning's shot being blocked and Innes' looping header rebounding from the crossbar before a final shot was sliced high and wide. The Glens took full advantage of that good fortune as, instead of being two goals behind, they went straight back up the field and equalised for a third time. It was the same combination as the first equaliser as well, as McArdle's cross from the left hit both the crossbar and the post before Del McNab somehow forced the ball over the line with his head, despite Duncan's attempts to claw the ball back out.

Larkhall made the match's first substitution in the 71st minute as David Reid replaced Mark McKeever. Glencairn went close to taking the lead a minute later as McArdle's cross from the right was met by a bullet header by Craig McGregor, but defender Brown once again got his head in the way to deflect the ball out for another corner.

Having been ahead three times and being pegged back three times, you could have understood if Thistle's heads had gone down at this stage, but they were having none of it and were still looking to take all three points. The match took another twist in the 73rd minute as Larkhall went ahead for a fourth time. McNab was caught in possession on halfway and Matthew Clarke darted up the left flank before mis-hitting a shot across goal. The ball slid fortuitously to the back post where Jonathan McStay had stayed switched on, and he slid in to convert from close range to make it now 4-3 to the home side.

Now the question marks about character were being asked the other way round. Wounded for a 4th time, would The Glens have the ability to come roaring back yet again ? We didn't have to wait long for an answer. Glencairn manager Willie Harvey set the tone by withdrawing midfielder Leyden and throwing on striker Alessandro Savarese in the 77th minute, a clear signal of further attacking intention.

Only seconds after coming on, Savarese fed the ball into the penalty area to Liam Gormley, who took an excellent first touch away from his marker before spinning and firing a shot which flew like a bullet past Duncan into the bottom corner of the net to incredibly make the scoreline 4-4.

That was Gormley's final contribution to the match as he took a slight knock in scoring, and he was replaced by Craig Young as Glencairn reverted back to their original formation. Stewart Hall replaced McNab on the right wing shortly after this as Glencairn played their final substitution card. There were still nine minutes left to play, and you felt there were still more twists and turns to come in this incredible match.

Brown was shown yellow for a deliberate handball only inches outside the penalty area, the referee hesitating to check with his assistant as to whether the foul was inside or outside the box. McKay fired the free kick low and straight into the defensive wall. It seemed now, though, that the fourth equaliser had finally broken Thistle's belief in winning the game and they were now holding on, McStay next to see yellow for time wasting.

Duncan kept his side level in the 87th minute as Hamilton drilled in an on-target free kick past the defensive wall, the goalkeeper diving full length to his right to beat the ball away to safety. Any chance Larkhall had of winning the game ended in the 88th minute as Innes was shown a second yellow card for a late challenge on Andy Neil. Incredibly the referee initially didn't seem to realise he had already cautioned Innes, and it was only the player autonatically making his way to the changing room and then stopping in confusion which made Mr King check his book again and then produce the red card.

If there was going to be a winner now, it was only coming at one end as Glencairn threw the kitchen sink at Larkhall as the match moved into stoppage time. The referee added on a full five minutes of stoppage time and, as the clock ticked into the 95th minute, McKay went down inside the penalty area, and Mr King whistled and pointed to the penalty spot. This was it, the defining moment of the match, no question about it. Up stepped Jay McKay to send Duncan the wrong way (pictured below), sparking wild scenes of celebration amongst the travelling black and white supporters as well as on the pitch, which included Glencairn supporter Stuart Brown in the middle of a celebration pile-up ! 

Larkhall Thistle 3 Jay McKay

The referee didn't even re-start the match, as his allocated added time had now elapsed, and he blew the full time whistle while the goal celebrations were still going on. Both teams left the field to well deserved applause from the supporters, followed by loud booing for the referee from both sets of fans as he left the pitch.

Willie Harvey was obviously delighted at the outcome of the match, and he commented, "Thank goodness that's over, I don't think my heart could have taken much more of that ! I have to say well done to the players for their resilience in coming back from behind so many times, and they got their reward in the end. We have scored five goals in both of our last two games, but the goals we've conceded are a concern, so we'll need to have a look at that. But we'll enjoy this result for tonight and then we'll think about next week's Scottish Junior Cup game tomorrow morning." 

Larkhall Thistle :- Duncan, Brown, Nicol, Canning, Robb, Forbes, McKeever (Reid), Innes, Gracie, McStay, Clarke. (Subs not used - Mushet, Jack, Doyle, Thomson (gk).)

Rutherglen Glencairn :- Baker, McGregor, Neil, Donaldson, Leyden (Savarese), McGuire, McNab (Hall), Hamilton, Gormley (Young), McArdle, McKay. (subs not used - Palmer, Brannigan, McAllister (gk).)

Man of the match - (chosen by Bobby Sinclair) Jay McKay.

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