Rutherglen Glencairn Football Club

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Rutherglen Glencairn 2 Larkhall Thistle 2

Wednesday 11th April 2018 - McBookie.com West Region Super League Division One

(Report by Peter Ferguson)

Larkhall Thistle 3

Gary Smith scores from the penalty spot for his 18th goal of the season.

Glencairn were left to rue a string of missed chances as they let slip a two-goal lead to only draw with Larkhall Thistle, with two potentially important points dropped in the race for promotion. The result meant The Glens remained in 6th place in the league table, but missed a chance to close in on  three of their promotion rivals who also dropped points on the night.

After the comeback win in the Central League Cup on Saturday, manager Willie Harvey made no fewer than seven changes to the starting line-up as they returned to league action. There was a first team debut for under 21 goalkeeper Chris Truesdale, with Jack Baker suffering from a minor knock from the previous game, while top goal scorers Gary Smith and Jay McKay were restored to the front line. Larkhall's team included former Glencairn goalkeeper Jonny Duncan, and the Croftfoot boy was about to make a sizeable contribution to the match.

Larkhall Thistle 1

The match started at a furious pace with both teams playing at a tempo which suggested an entertaining evening was on the cards. Glens' defender Rhys Donaldson showed his awareness to intercept some early danger from a powerful diagonal run by striker Graham Gracie. The response at the other end was Sean McGuire setting up McKay for a shot which was blocked in front of goal by the Thistle defence.

Truesdale's first save was a confident one in the 11th minute as he held David Reid's angled shot from just inside the penalty area. Moments later McKay appeared to be pushed from behind in the penalty area as he tried to get on the end of Ryan McArdle's cross, but the referee wasn't interested.

Play continued to flow from end to end in the opening quarter of an hour, and a fine defensive header by Del McNab cleared the danger for Glencairn as Gracie threatened again. McArdle's pass in the 20th minute released McKay in space on the right edge of the penalty, and he fired a firm shot narrowly wide of the far post.

The deadlock was broken in the 24th minute, and it was Glencairn's in-form goal scorer who did the business again. Craig McGregor burst out of defence up the left wing past a few challenges, before slipping the ball infield to Gary Smith. The big striker took a touch before unleashing a low shot which skidded past Thistle goalkeeper Jonny Duncan at his near post to make it 1-0.

Fine link play between Smith and McArdle in the 28th minute ended with McArdle's acute angle shot being saved down low by Duncan. The Glens were now well on top, and Duncan did well to parry McKay's shot before Smith's lob on the rebound was headed off the line by Niall Reynolds.

McArdle's corner from the right was headed off target by McGregor in the 33rd minute, before Thistle started to exert some pressure of their own in the build-up to half time. A series of corners ended with an angled shot by Gracie which hit the side netting, Truesdale having the shot covered had it been on target. A minute before the interval Glencairn captain Tony Fraser made a fine clearance over his own crossbar while facing his own goal to deny Gracie again.

Half time : 1-0

Larkhall Thistle 2

Ryan McArdle links with Sean McGuire in the first half.

Thistle made a change at the interval with defender Billy Robb replaced by Brian Jack. Glencairn were unchanged, and were looking to increase their lead early in the second half.

McKay went close in the 48th minute as he threw himself towards McArdle's cross, but he didn't connect cleanly and Duncan smothered the ball on his goal line. McKay was never far from the action and he earned Glencairn the chance to double their lead  in the 50th minute as his pace won him the race to a loose ball inside the penalty area, and he was clipped from behind, the referee this time pointing to the penalty spot.

There was never any doubt about who was going to take the spot kick, and Gary Smith duly stepped up to confidently send Duncan the wrong way for his 18th goal of the season.

Gary Smith

It seemed at this point that The Glens would win the game comfortably, and they should have gone further ahead only moments later as McKay found space in behind the defence, but the chance was spurned.

Only moments later the match turned on a moment of quality as Thistle pulled a goal back. The ball was fed into the penalty area where Mark Canning had found space to shoot, and he lifted a fine effort into the top left hand corner of the net past the outstretched arms of Truesdale.

Glencairn tried to re-establish their two-goal advantage and McGregor went close with a stabbed effort from close range, before Jordan Leyden curled a low shot inches wide of the post from 20 yards out. The chances kept coming and, just after the hour mark, Smith's shot broke into the path of McKay who only had Duncan to beat, but the goalie stuck out his leg to deflect the ball for a corner.

Duncan made another fine save in the 64th minute to deny McKay's back post header, not knowing that the striker had been flagged for offside. You felt the missed chances would come back to haunt Glencairn, and so it proved in the 66th minute. Thistle made a substitution immediately before their own corner kick, striker Jonathan McStay replacing namesake Garry McStay. Perhaps that disturbed the concentration of the Glencairn defence, as Thistle equalised instantly from the corner, and the new man made an immediate impact.

The cross came in low and appeared to go straight into the net with nobody touching it, although substitute Jonathan McStay claimed the finest of near-post touches and was credited for the goal by the referee.

Glencairn immediately replaced McArdle on the right flank with the fresh legs of Stewart Hall, and Thistle's second change saw Matthew Clarke replace Josh Payne.

A vital defensive header for Thistle denied Smith the chance of a hat trick as he tried to latch on to McNab's deep cross from the left. The resulting cross from the right was met by McNab's head in front of goal, but once again Duncan was in the right place to smother the ball on his goal line.

Thistle thought they had taken the lead in the 72nd minute as McStay forced the ball over the line from close range, but he was flagged for offside by the assistant referee, to the relief of the now nervous home support.

Sean McCall replaced Leyden in Glencairn's second change in the 74th minute, but the pattern remained the same as Duncan continued to frustrate, tipping Fraser's inswinging corner over the bar. Glencairn's final substitution saw Liam Gormley replace McKay with twelve minutes left on the clock.

Larkhall fancied their chances of grabbing a late winner as the light rapidly disappeared from the sky, and McStay's powerful run ended with a pass to Gracie which produced an excellent block by Truesdale, once more not realising that the striker had been flagged for offside as well.

Glencairn switched to a 3-4-3 formation to try and make the difference and McCall tried an ambitious but impressive shot from 25 yards which Duncan beat away on the dive to his left.

As the sky got darker it was hard for both sets of players to have any form of cohesion about their play in the closing minutes, and the match faded out to a stalemate after a couple of minutes of stoppage time.

Rutherglen Glencairn :- Truesdale, Kerr, McGregor, Donaldson, Fraser, McGuire, McArdle (Hall), Leyden (McCall), Smith, McNab, McKay (Gormley). (Subs not used - Palmer, Grier.)

Larkhall Thistle :- Duncan, Robb (Jack), Reyolds, Brown, Mushet, Canning, Payne (Clarke), Innes, Gracie, Garry McStay (Jonathan McStay), Reid. (Subs not used - Doyle, Cuthbertson.)

Man of the match - (chosen by Eddie Burns) Gary Smith.

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