Monday 30th April 2018 - McBookie.com West Region Super League Division One
(Report by Peter Ferguson)
Josh McCorry battles for first half possession.
Glencairn kept their promotion hopes on track with a narrow 2-1 win away to Maryhill as the crazy schedule of matches continued. With both sides idle this coming Saturday, it was strange that this match was scheduled for a Monday evening with both sets of players and supporters rushing to get there in time, and it was The Glens' sixth match out of seven in a 15-day spell.
With little in the way of recovery time due to the scheduling, Glencairn had to do without sweeper Rhys Donaldson who was still feeling the effects of a knock late in the win over Renfrew on Saturday. He was replaced by under 21 defender Josh McCorry, while the only other change was Stewart Hall being chosen on the right of midfield, with Ryan McArdle dropping to the substitutes' bench.
There was a curious twist of fate in the team sheets, with both sides fielding former goalkeepers of the other club, Jack Baker of Glencairn and KP McAllister of Maryhill both playing their old friends.
The Glens started the match as if they intended to get their business done quickly, and they took the lead with their first real attempt on goal in the 3rd minute. Tony Fraser lifted a free kick into the penalty area where he picked out the run of McCorry, and the ball broke into the path of striker Jay McKay who lashed an angled shot into the net off the underside of the bar.
Both sets of players were having to work hard to control even short passes on the bumpy surface, with many misjudging the bounce and pace of the ball in the early stages. Maryhill striker Ciaron Smith tried a speculative volley in the 13th minute which flew high and wide, before Sean McCall fired off target at the other end a minute later.
Maryhill threatened an equaliser around the mid point of the first half as Ciaron Smith pulled a shot on the turn wide of the target, and then a back header by Nick Emsley had Baker worried before it dropped onto the roof of the net.
Glencairn should have been two goals ahead on the half hour mark when McCall's good work set up the normally deadly Gary Smith for a shot in front of goal, but the ball appeared to bobble as Smith prepared to shoot, and it got caught between the striker's legs instead of flashing into the net.
A near post glancing header by Ciaron Smith flew narrowly over for Maryhill, before Emsley showed good honesty to stay on his feet inside the penalty area instead of tripping over a defender's outstretched leg.
The Glens made an unusually early tactical substitution as McCorry, who had picked up an early booking, was replaced by McArdle. Hall dropped into the centre back role vacated by the young defender. Hall quickly made an impact in that role as he made a vital headed clearance from in front of goal as the ball took an horrendous bounce inside the penalty area.
Only moments later Hall made another crucial clearance as he hooked the ball out from under the crossbar, and it proved to be very important as, instead of being level, Glencairn doubled their lead shortly before half time. McCall's ball over the defence saw Jay McKay anticipate the pace of the ball, and he slid in to stab it past McAllister to make it 2-0.
'Hill defender Alex McFarlane had to be substituted due to injury before the restart and was replaced by Anthony Marenghi, but Glencairn now had a comfortable lead to try to hold onto for the second half.
Half time : 0-2
Jay McKay's pace and close control was a problem all night for Maryhill.
Gary Smith almost put the game to bed right at the start of the second half as he chased a lost cause towards the corner flag and won possession from defender Kyle McQueen, before racing along the bye-line and forcing a save out of McAllister at the near post shot.
The home side were now clearly fragile defensively and, having already lost McFarlane to injury, their woes mounted as McQueen and captain Andy Banks both went down injured at the same time. McQueen was able to come back on straight away, but Banks needed a spell of treatment on the sidelines while the game continued.
McKay continued to threaten and he spun away from his marker before trying to set up Gary Smith, but McAllister smothered the ball well at his near post. Moments later Smith ran through on goal and rounded McAllister but was forced too wide to get a shot away and McAllister also raced out wide to block Smith's attempted cross. Craig McGregor headed over the bar from the resulting corner kick as The Glens had 'Hill pinned in their own penalty area.
Banks' had returned to the action by this point, but he was clearly unable to operate properly and was forced to limp off in the 52nd minute, being replaced by Martin McNicol.
It seemed only a matter of time before Glencairn killed the match off with a third goal, but they continued to be wasteful in front of goal as firstly McArdle hooked the ball over the crossbar from right in front of goal, and then Gary Smith fired in a rare off-target free kick.
The home defence continued to live a charmed life as Gary Smith pulled another close range effort wide of goal, before a minute later McKay passed up a golden chance for his hat trick as he ran through on goal but sliced his shot wide from 18 yards.
Maryhill's final change in the 74th minute saw defender McQueen replaced by striker Ryan Tiffney as they clearly sensed a chance to get back into the game with all the missed Glencairn chances. At the same time McKay limped off with an ankle knock and was replaced by Jamie Hamilton.
Glencairn continued to press and McCall's cross in the 75th minute was met by a looping header by Gary Smith which had McAllister beaten but rebounded from the crossbar and bounced down in front of the line, no attacking player able to get to the loose ball to force it into the net. It really was wall to wall chances now, and McAllister managed to block Gary Smith's close range header with his legs.
Having managed to somehow stop The Glens scoring in the second half, Maryhill got some encouragement as the match moved into the final ten minutes, and they knew that one goal would set up a nervous end to the match for the visitors. Marenghi's free kick from the right in the 83rd minute picked out the head of Emsley at the back post and his effort rebounded from the base of the post, but Baker probably had it covered had the ball been on target.
Maryhill's revival hopes were confirmed in the 85th minute as they pulled a goal back in a rather lucky manner. A ball in behind the defence picked out Ryan Tiffney, who sliced his shot up in the air accidentally, the ball spinning over Baker and into the corner of the net.
Suddenly the travelling support were anxiously looking at their watches every few seconds as this "must win" match which could have been out of sight half an hour previously was now on a knife-edge. For no apparent reason the assistant referee didn't flag despite Tiffney appearing to be yards offside in the first minute of stoppage time, but Hall got over to make a fine clearance.
The Glens' supporters all had their arms in the air in expectation in the 93rd minute as McCall burst clear on the left with only the goalie to beat, but he tripped over the ball in "You've been framed" style and the nerves continued on the terracing.
The referee seemed to want to play until Maryhill scored an equaliser, adding just a few seconds short of a ridiculous seven minutes of stoppage time, but The Glens held strong to secure another vital win and keep on track in the promotion race.
Maryhill :- McAllister, Beckley, McQueen (Tiffney), McFarlane (Marenghi), Banks (McNicol), Crawford, McKay, McGillion, Smith, Clark, Emsley. (Subs not used - Bannerman, Mailey (gk), Anderson, Shearer, O'Brien.)
Rutherglen Glencairn :- Baker, Grier, McGregor, McCorry (McArdle), Fraser, McGuire, Hall, McCall, Smith, McNab, McKay (Hamilton). (Subs not used - Ferrier, Dunsmore, Trialist (gk).)
Man of the match - (chosen by Graeme Brown) Alex Grier.