Rutherglen Glencairn Football Club

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Neilston Juniors 4 Rutherglen Glencairn 1

Saturday 20th December 2014 - Stagecoach West Region Super League Division One

(Report by Peter Ferguson)

Neilston Juniors 2

Ross McNeil takes on the Neilston defence early in the match.

There was a definite Christmas theme in the air at Brig O' Lea as hosts Neilston Juniors earned a deserved three points to help them in their attempts to climb out of the relegaton zone. It has to be said, though, that they were helped on their way by the generosity of a Glencairn team who gift-wrapped the two opening goals, and an assistant referee who failed to notice a blindingly obvious offside for the third goal.

The referee was in the festive spirit as well, generously handing out cards all afternoon. The whistler produced a yellow card for seven Neilston players and two Glencairn players, plus three red cards to Glens players throughout the match. There wasn't much "good cheer" for the visiting Glens support, though, as their team ended the match with only eight players and no points for their unquestionable efforts.

Glencairn were missing central defenders Mark Bishop and Marc Russell and midfield dynamo Sean McGuire, so it was a re-shaped starting XI with trialist defender Graeme Brown beside David Dunnachie in the middle, with striker Jamie Gilmartin employed in central midfield beside the ever-present Del Esplin.

The Glens started the match very positively, and top scorer Ross McNeil had two early attempts on goal, both of which flew half a yard over the crossbar from 18 yards out. There was an early warning for Glencairn, though, when Robbie Cameron's reverse pass released Bryan Smith through on goal and he knocked the bal round JC Hutchison who had raced out from goal, but Brown was able to get back to make a clearance.

McNeil was released down the right wing in the 10th minute and he tried to set up his strike partner Thomas Kilmartin, but the ball fell behind Kilmartin and the chance was gone.

The Nightmare Before Christmas started for The Glens in the 11th minute. A cross into the box was headed on by Cameron into the path of Smith, and he was brought down in the act of shooting by Dunnachie. It was an easy decision for the referee to award a penalty kick and show a red card to Dunnachie. Robbie Cameron calmly rolled in the spot kick to put Neilston ahead.

Smith almost doubled the home side's lead a minute later with a snap-shot across the face of goal which flew inches wide with Hutchison at full stretch. Glencairn reverted to a 4-3-2 formation with Gilmartin pulled into central defence and Esplin left with a tough lone role in the centre of the pitch, with wide men Jordan Dalzell and Keiran Donaghy playing slightly narrower.

Matthew Stevenson was the first home player to receive a pre-Christmas card from the referee for a foul on Esplin on the edge of the penalty area, and Gilmartin hit the top of the crossbar with a curled effort from the resulting free kick.

Neilston wide man John Craig was next into the referee's notebook for a foul before he was immediately substituted due to injury and replaced by Barry Tulloch. The substitute's first involvement was a cross into the area towards Cameron and, although Hutchison fumbled the ball in the air, he had done enough to put off the striker and Brown completed the clearance. The next player to see yellow was Neilston striker Smith for a kick on Dalzell in midfield.

Glencairn should have been level on the half hour mark when Kilmartin set up McNeil in acres of space at the back post, but home no.1 James Digney made an excellent block, and McNeil's second effort was blocked on the line and hit the post before dribbling out for a corner kick.

The woodwork denied McNeil again a minute later when he cleverly head flicked Gilmartin's free kick, the ball rebounding from the base of the post straight to a grateful Neilston defender who hooked the ball clear. The fourth home player to be carded was Derek Kennedy in the 32nd minute for throwing the ball away in dissent.

Neilston doubled their lead in the 39th minute, and it's fair to say that it wasn't the Glencairn defence's best moment of the season. Tulloch's cross from the left saw Cameron find space in between Gilmartin and Brown. Hutchison came out to claim the ball in the air, only to mis-judge the flight of the ball, leaving Robbie Cameron the easy task of heading the ball into the net from 8 yards.

Two minutes later it was 3-0 as Smith was allowed to run clear on the right despite being about ten yards offside and right under the assistant referee's nose. He squared the ball into the centre where Robbie Cameron was free to fire past Hutchison for his hat trick. The Glencairn defence en masse chased after the assistant in disbelief that he hadn't raised his flag, but the official pointed to an invisible defender on the far side of the pitch that simply didn't exist.

Gilmartin was the first Glencairn player to receive a yellow card in the 44th minute for a foul in front of the Neilston dugout.

Half time : 3-0

Neilston Juniors 1

Ross McNeil fires in a second half free kick.

There was a half time change for The Glens, with Ross Ballantyne making his return from injury and Dalzell the man making way. Andy Neil was the second Glens player to see yellow for an inocuous foul just after the restart.

Hutchison made a good block to deny Smith in the 47th minute but the striker had been flagged for offside in any case. The Glens were given hope of a comeback in the 49th minute when McNeil went down under a challenge by Kieran McDade on the edge of the penalty area, and the referee pointed to the spot, much to the disgust of the home bench. Ross Ballantyne sent Digney the wrong way to make it 3-1.

Ross Ballantyne Ross Ballantyne

Suddenly it was a different game, and there was another yellow card for Neilston as a free kick was conceded on the edge of the penalty area. McNeil's shot from the free kick was blocked by the defensive wall (pictured above), and his rebound effort was also thwarted.

James Lennox joined the long list of Neilston players on a yellow card for a swipe at Esplin, the referee having to be reminded by the crowd that he had played advantage to an initial offence. Just before the hour mark McNeil went close again as he fired inches wide of the target on the turn from 16 yards.

Neilston made their second substitution after 59 minutes with Graeme Barbour replacing the hard working Smith. Gilmartin made an excellent goal-saving tackle on Cameron in the 62nd minute after more uncertainty in the Glencairn rearguard had set the hat trick man clear. Glencairn made their second change after 65 minutes with under 21 midfielder Ryan Bennett replacing Donaghy.

Sean McGhee became the 7th home player booked for a foul on Bennett, before a superb challenge by Lennox denied McNeil once again after the striker had pounced on a fortunate break of the ball to set up a shooting chance.

Gilmartin's set pieces had been causing problems for the home side, and he went close again in the 71st minute. This time Gilmartin's effort was on target but Digney tipped the ball over the crossbar. Glencairn still had hopes of a comeback and pressed on looking to rescue at least a point, which consequently left the defence even more exposed to breakaways. Hutchison made a great save from Cameron to keep the game alive, getting down low to his left to turn the ball round the post in the 73rd minute.

The Glens made their final change with 15 minutes remaining, a straight swap up front with Denis McLaughlin replacing Kilmartin, and two minutes later Neilston also made their final swap with former Glens defender Craig Murphy replacing striker Cameron, as the home side looked to shore up the points.

With so many Neilston players on a yellow card, it was ironic that the first player to see a second yellow card would be a Glencairn player. Gilmartin was penalised for a foul on the halfway line, and the referee deemed it somewhat harshly to be worthy of a second yellow, and off went Glencairn's best player on the pitch for the afternoon to leave the side down to nine men with 11 minutes remaining.

Glencairn were reduced to eight men and lost their goalkeeper in the 85th minute as Barbour raced through on goal and dribbled round JC Hutchison, who pulled the striker's leg for a clear cut red card. The assitant referee flagged to attract the referee's attention to the fact that the fould had taken place outside the area. The referee chose to ignore the advise of his assistant, however, despite his the linesman having a perfect view of the incident and the referee watching from 30 yards away, and he awarded another penalty kick. Justice was done, however, when Ross Ballantyne took the goalkeeper's gloves and dived to his right to save Barbour's kick.

Ballantyne was helpless in the 89th minute, however, as Derek Kennedy rounded off the scoring with a drilled effort from 8 yards after Ballantyne had initially parried a shot from the other side of goal.

The Glens remain in contention for promotion, sitting only four points behind third place with three games in hand, but they will have to stop gifting goals to the opposition if the ultimate target of a place in the top league is to be achieved.

Neilston Juniors :- Digney, McGhee, McInnes, Lennox, McDade, Stevenson, Kennedy, Docherty, Robert Cameron (Murphy), Smith (Barbour), Craig (Tulloch). (Subs not used - Chris Cameron, Dempsey.)

Rutherglen Glencairn :- Hutchison, Galloway, Neil, Brown, Dunnachie, Gilmartin, Dalzell (Ballantyne), Esplin, McNeil, Kilmartin (McLaughlin), Donaghy (Bennett). (Subs not used - MacLeod, Russell.)

Man of the match - (chosen by Peter Ferguson) Jamie Gilmartin.

Jamie Gilmartin Jamie Gilmartin

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