Saturday 6th January 2018 - McBookie.com West Region Super League Division One
(Report by Peter Ferguson)
Stewart Hall celebrates scoring Glencairn's third goal.
Glencairn got 2018 off to the best possible start and gave their promotion hopes a huge boost with a well-deserved 3-1 away win over previously unbeaten league leaders Petershill. The win moved The Glens up three places and into the top half of the league table, only one place behind the promotion play-off spots with games in hand over all but one of the teams above.
The bookies weren't giving The Glens much chance prior to kick off, with league sponsors McBookie.com offering more than triple your money for an away win. That was understandable given Peasy's form of nine wins and one draw from their ten league games so far and also their home advantage. However the black and white supporters held memories of their last visit to this venue in April 2017 which saw the points all heading back to Rutherglen.
Glencairn manager Willie Harvey made four changes to the starting line-up after the poor team performance in the last league match of 2017. Top scorers Gary Smith and Jay McKay returned to the starting line-up at the expense of Liam Gormley and Alessandro Savarese. The creative spark of Jamie Hamilton was missing due to illness, so there was a return for Sean McGuire in the centre of the park, while Stewart Hall returned from injury on the right side of midfield, replacing Ryan McArdle with Del McNab switched to the left wing instead.
Jay McKay and Ryan Kerr in early first half action.
Petershill's team plans had to be changed in the opening five minutes as midfielder Connor Stevenson limped off injured, and he was replaced by experienced middle man Jordan Murch. The first chance of the game fell to Glencairn in the 6th minute as Tony Fraser's curling corner picked out the head of Jordan Leyden at the back post, but he headed wide on the stretch.
Glencairn had goalkeeper Jack Baker to thank for a wonderful save in the 8th minute, diving low on his goal line to keep out a near post glancing header which seemed like a certain goal. The referee angered the Glencairn players and supporters in the 16th minute as he waved away appeals for a penalty kick as Jay McKay was clearly pulled and pushed inside the penalty area as he tried to get onto a cross.
The pressure was building on the Petershill defence, however, and Jordan Kennedy sliced a clearance over his own crossbar after good work on the left flank by McNab. Home no.1 John Gibson did well to beat away a low angled shot by McKay in the 21st minute as Glencairn continued to look the more likely side to open the scoring. Tenacious play by McKay in the 23rd minute set up an opportunity for McGuire to lob an attempt for the far corner, but Gibson reached back to save before Smith could pounce at the back post.
There was controversy in the 25th minute as home striker Paul Callander was shown only a yellow card for an off-the-ball incident which enraged the Glencairn players. Peasy thought they had taken the lead on the half hour mark as Daniel Finnigan's cross from the left was flicked on to the back post where Alex Cassells volleyed into the net, but he was flagged for offside. Two minutes later Petershill and Cassells threatened again as they broke upfield from a corner at the other end, but the attempted shot from a tight angle was high and wide.
The opening goal arrived in the 33rd minute with a touch of real quality. A long ball forward found its way to Gary Smith who took an excellent first touch which enabled him to turn and then volley a decisive finish over the top of Gibson to put The Glens 1-0 ahead.
The league leaders were on the rack at this point, and a minute later McKay skinned his marker and squared across goal where Smith couldn't quite turn his foot to convert in front of goal. The pressure continued, though, and only another minute later saw The Glens double their lead. McKay once again skipped past his marker (pictured below) before this time chipping his cross to the back post where Gary Smith stretched his neck muscles to nod into the net for his 12th goal of the season in only 9 starts.
Amidst all the action McNab had picked up a hamstring strain and was forced to leave the field in the 35th minute, replaced directly on the left by McArdle returning to his usual role. The change didn't interrupt Glencairn's rhythm, and Petershill were sighing in relief when Jordan Leyden's drilled shot rattled off the inside of the post and rebounded back out from goal in the 39th minute.
As half time approached Peasy looked to get a foot-hold in the game, and good play on the right by Finnigan ended with a cross which looked to be coming onto the head of Gary Hynes, only for Baker's long arms to pluck the ball off the striker's head at the back post. Fraser was the first Glencairn player to see yellow as he clashed with Callander and prevented a quick free kick being taken.
The referee added on an incredible six minutes of first half stoppage time, and Glencairn almost increased their lead as Hall cut in from the right and drilled a shot half a yard over the crossbar. Deep into added time McKay tried a clever backwards lob towards goal, which Gibson caught above his head just in front of the goal line.
Half time : 0-2
Jay McKay skips past Jordan Kennedy to set up Glencairn's 2nd goal.
Petershill were out early for the second half with the words of manager Willie Paterson ringing in their ears, and an early assault by the league leaders was expected by the travelling support.
However, before the home side could build any form of momentum, The Glens increased their lead to 3-0 in the 47th minute. Hall cut infield from halfway before feeding the ball to McKay, who in turn linked with Smith, before the ball broke back into the path of Stewart Hall and the midfielder produced a tremendous finish into the top left hand corner of the net.
Peasy had to respond big style now to get anything out of the game, and Cassells thought he had pulled a goal back only two minutes later as he ran through on goal, but Baker got enough of a hand on the shot to slow its momentum and Craig McGregor got back onto the goal line to hook the ball away.
Petershill threw on experienced striker Chris Hall to replace Hynes in the 50th minute, and McGuire became the second Glencairn player to see yellow for stopping a quick free kick being taken. The Glens' second change saw Andy Neil replace the injured Ryan Kerr on the left side of the defensive trio which was being brilliantly marshalled by sweeper Rhys Donaldson.
Smith went close to completing his hat trick in the 54th minute as he raced clear on the right edge of the penalty area and tried to lob Gibson, but the 'keeper got a enough of a hand to the ball to divert it narrowly wide of the far post. Incredibly the assistant referee who was right beside the incident signalled for a goal kick.
Finnigan was the man at the heart of most of the dangerous attacks by Petershill, and his run and cross in the 58th minute was headed behind by McArdle for a corner kick. The home side were gifted a route back into the game from the resulting cross, as Murch cleverly pulled Hall towards him and then fell to the ground to claim a penalty kick, and the referee duly obliged by pointing to the spot. It was ironic that the whistler gave this award, given the blatant penalty on McKay which he had ignored earlier, however Alex Cassells stepped up to send Baker the wrong way from 12 yards to make it 3-1 and give the league leaders some hope of maintaining their unbeaten record.
The home side's intentions were clear as they made their final change with 25 minutes still remaining, Steffan Graham moving into an attacking area to replace defender Craig Connelly.
Smith was continuing to terrify the home defence, though, and he had another chance to score his third as he cut in from the left and tried to curl the ball into the far corner, slicing his shot wide of the target. McKay had run himself into the ground on his return from injury, but his race was run with 18 minutes left on the clock. The decision was made from the bench to shore up and protect the lead, with Alex Grier replacing McKay and the shape changing to 4-5-1.
Smith saw yellow for a slightly late challenge on Ryan Haxton, but having played all of their substitutes the Peasy defender had to limp on for the remainder of the match. The change of shape initially seemed to invite Peasy onto the Glencairn defence, and a second goal for the home side seemed certain when McArdle was short with a header back to Baker. This allowed Graham to pounce, but Donaldson got back onto the goal line to make a brilliant clearance.
Murch picked up a yellow card in the 80th minute for dissent, but it was a sign of the frustration of the Peasy players as Glencairn had now adjusted to their new shape and were standing strong against everything the league leaders could throw at them. The referee added on four full minutes of stoppage time to add to the six in the first half, but there was little prospect of Glencairn giving up their two-goal lead and the travelling support were delighted at the final whistle as the New Year started in excellent fashion.
Willie Harvey commented after the game, "I didn't feel we were at our best today, but I felt we deserved the win and I'm more than happy with the points. We need to build on that now and go on a run like we did at this time last year. We're back in touch with the promotion issue now, so it's down to what we do from here."
Petershill :- Gibson, Haxton, Wilson, Jordan Kennedy, Connelly (Graham), Dylan Kennedy, Cassells, Stevenson (Murch), Hynes (Hall), Callander, Daniel Finnigan. (Subs not used - Gold, Barclay.)
Rutherglen Glencairn :- Baker, McGregor, Kerr (Neil), Donaldson, Fraser, Leyden, Hall, McGuire, Smith, McNab (McArdle), McKay (Grier). (Subs not used - Gormley, Savarese.)
Man of the match - (chosen by Graeme Brown) Rhys Donaldson.