Wedneday 1st June 2016 - Euroscot Engineering Central League Cup Quarter Final
(Report by Peter Ferguson)
Mark Duffy in action early in the match.
Glencairn's season came to an end with a disappointing home defeat to Larkhall Thistle in the quarter final of the Euroscot Engineering Central League Cup. In truth it was a game too far for The Glens' squad who were stretched to the absolute limit, with several players playing through injuries out of necessity after a schedule of fourteen games in just over six weeks.
The referee and the visitors generously allowed the kick off to be delayed by five minutes to allow Glens striker Mark Duffy to arrive a couple of minutes before kick off, having been delayed in heavy traffic heading to the Bruce Springsteen concert at Hampden Park. Duffy took his place in the starting line-up without a proper warm-up, and he was joined up front by Paddy Cullen in a 4-4-2 formation, with Del McNab returning after holiday and the versatile Tony Fraser employed in central midfield.
It wasn't the ideal preparation for the team prior to kick off, and Larkhall should have taken an early lead when a long throw from the left caught out the home defence. Josh Payne found himself with only JC Hutchison to beat right in front of goal, but somehow the Glens no.1 managed to make an important block and smother the loose ball.
The Glens responded a minute later as Duffy's shot was cleared off the line by David Reid, and Duffy then sliced the rebound effort wide. Larkhall had another huge chance to open the scoring in the 7th minute when Matthew Clarke set up Brian Jack in the middle, but the midfielder chose to take an unnecessary touch before shooting, closing down his options and he curled his eventual shot wide from 8 yards out.
Del McNab fired an angled shot a couple of feet over the crossbar after good set-up play by Cullen in the 9th minute. The chances kept coming at the other end for the visitors, though, and Payne passed up another great opportunity when he mis-directed a free header from seven yards in the 11th minute. Graeme Brown was unfortunate for Glencairn at the mid point of the first half when some neat footwork took him away from two challenges, but his shot was deflected narrowly wide of goal.
The first goal arrived in the 29th minute, and the Glencairn defence will be disappointed in the simplicity of its nature. A long kick out by Thistle goalkeeper Stewart Thomson was flicked on in the air, and Graham Gracie was first to react as he raced away from the defence and fired past Hutchison to put Larkhall 1-0 ahead.
Hutchison had to react well to keep the deficit to just one goal in the 39th minute as he got down low to deny Jack's shot on the stretch after good set-up play by Gracie. The Glens almost got back on level terms just before half time when Danny Salah's run and pass set up McNab for a shot, but the effort was deflected over the crossbar, and Thistle took their lead into the changing rooms.
Half time : 0-1
Del McNab in first half action.
Glencairn made a half time change as Cullen was withdrawn and replaced by under 21 captain Ryan Bennett, as the shape changed back to the 4-1-4-1 that The Glens had been employing of late, with Fraser now playing the holding midfield role.
There were shouts for a penalty kick right at the start of the second half when McNab went down under a challenge, but the referee wasn't interested. Fraser's free kick picked out the head of Sean McGuire in the middle in the 47th minute, but McGuire was stretching as far as he could and the ball flew half a yard wide of goal.
Thistle threatened on the break a minute later as Payne got free on the right and squared for Gracie, but Hutchison anticipated well and smothered at the striker's feet. Thistle had clearly been intent on running down the clock as often as possible since their goal, and Scott Nicol was shown a yellow card for blatantly kicking the ball away. Only moments later, Jordan Marshall did exactly the same, but this time the officials chose not to act, despite the ball ending up 50 yards away from where the offence took place, adding to the frustration of the home players.
Nicol almost caught Hutchison out just after the hour mark by shooting from a free kick from just over halfway, with Hutchison anticipating a cross, but the ball dropped just over the bar with the home no.1 scrambling back across goal. Hutchison saved down low from a dipping shot by Payne as the visitors looked the more likely to score again at this stage.
Glencairn made their second change at the mid point of the second half, with midfielder Colin Kemley replacing right back Brown, and the shape changed to a 3-5-2 with McNab now deployed as a striker alongside Duffy. This seemed to give the home side some impetus, and it seemed that an equaliser was close when Duffy's cross was deflected off Marshall and over Thomson onto the face of the crossbar and back out.
The momentum was now with Glencairn, and McGuire went close with a run and shot which Thomson did well to tip round the post. Reid was next into the referee's notebook for more time wasting, blocking Hutchison's quick goal kick. It seemed to escape the referee's notice that the time it took to show the yellow card gave Reid the delay that he had intended in the first place.
Bennett was next to go close with a shot which was deflected wide for a corner, as the Thistle defence continued to defend with commitment. The equaliser that Glencairn deserved on the balance of the second half play arrived in the 80th minute. A free kick was awarded on the edge of the penalty area, and Ryan Docherty curled the ball round the defensive wall. Thomson blocked on his goal line but couldn't hold the ball, and David Dunnachie won the race of several players to the loose ball to stab it over the line from close range.
It seemed that a penalty shoot-out could be on the cards to decide who would play Pollok in the semi final, but any ideas of that were blown away only a minute later as the referee awarded Thistle a penalty kick. A cross from the left was misjudged in the air by Docherty, and he accidentally headed the ball onto his own arm. It was impossible for there to be any intent, but the referee disregarded that obvious point and awarded the spot kick, and Graham Gracie sent Hutchison the wrong to re-establish Larkhall's lead at 2-1.
Glencairn threw everything forward to try to rescue the match, and McNab should have equalised in the 84th minute but sent his free header over the bar from six yards out. A minute later Bennett drove forward on the break but snatched at his shot and pulled it wide of the far post. With three minutes left on the clock the ball fell to the feet of Salah at the back post, but he took a touch instead of shooting first time and the chance to score was lost. Dunnachie's glancing header from Kemley's cross flashed wide of the far post in the 89th minute, before Fraser limped off with a recurrence of his hamstring problem, replaced by under 21 defender Anthony Dempsey. But there were to be no more chances and The Glens' season came to an end on a frustrating note.
Willie Harvey was philosophical after the match, and he commented, "There's no way on this earth that that's a penalty kick, but we can't do anything about it now. We had a few players out there tonight that probably wouldn't have played in normal circumstances, and we were down to the bare bones. That's the season over now and we can all rest up. We'll freshen things up with a few squad changes, and then get ready to go again."
Rutherglen Glencairn :- Hutchison, Brown (Kemley), Eadie, Docherty, Dunnachie, McGuire, McNab, Fraser (Dempsey), Duffy, Cullen (Bennett), Salah. (Sub not used - Thomson (gk).)
Larkhall Thistle :- Stewart Thomson, Reynolds, Nicol, Marshall, Brown, Jack, Payne, Kelly, Gracie, Clarke, Reid. (Subs not used - McKeever, Doyle, David Thomson.)
Man of the match - (chosen by Ronnie Starritt) Sean McGuire.