Wednesday 2nd May 2018 - McBookie.com West Region Super League Division One
(Report by Peter Ferguson)
Del McNab runs at Petershill early in the match.
When the going gets tough, the tough get going. If ever a phrase was true about this current Glencairn squad then it is now. The fixture scheduler gave The Glens seven games in fifteen days, with the squad stretched to its absolute limit due to injuries to several regular first choice players. But the squad have simply rolled up their sleeves and got on with it and, at the end of a spell where three of the top four sides have all been beaten at The Celsius Stadium, the players can now enjoy a weekend off knowing that they have given themselves a huge chance of promotion.
The Glens were without the services of injured defenders Rhys Donaldson, Craig Palmer and Andy Neil, midfielder Jordan Leyden and striker Liam Gormley, although Leyden was on the substitutes' bench but wasn't stripped for action. Ryan Kerr returned to the defence to replace u21 player Josh McCorry, while Ryan McArdle came in on the right side of midfield to replace Stewart Hall.
League champions Petershill came to Rutherglen knowing that The Glens had been the only team to beat them in the league so far this season, and The Celsius Stadium was a venue where Peasy had never won before, so prior to kick off they were clearly intent on putting that record straight.
After a cagey start, the first real opening of the game came in the 5th minute as Ross Barclay got free on the right for Peasy and swung the ball into the middle, but McArdle showed awareness to get across and make an important clearance in front of goal. The Glens responded at the other end with a bout of head tennis in front of goal and Sean McGuire's goal-bound volley was blocked.
Glencairn's front two of Gary Smith and Jay McKay were troubling the Peasy back line, and Smith flicked the ball on in the 8th minute towards McArdle but the ball had just too much pace for the midfielder to latch onto at the back post. Another good move moments later saw Smith link with Sean McCall this time, the final cross just being too close to Peasy goalkeeper John Gibson.
A spell of Glencairn pressure around the 15th minute ended with a Petershill breakaway which saw Ian Gold run through on goal, but McArdle and goalkeeper Jack Baker combined to thwart the opportunity just as Gold was shaping to shoot, Baker taking a sore hit in the process. The Glens were giving every bit as good as they were getting, though, and Gibson had to dive low to his right to save Smith's glancing header at the mid point of the first half.
Peasy started to exert a spell of pressure as the half hour mark approached, and Jordan Murch skipped past a few challenges along the bye-line before being blocked out for a corner kick. Kerr was shown yellow for a foul on the edge of the penalty area in the 30th minute, and that led to the opening goal. Chris Wilson fired in a shot from 20 yards (pictured below) which took a big deflection off the defensive wall, and Baker was wrong-footed as the ball flashed past him into the postage stamp corner of the net to put the champions 1-0 ahead.
The Glens tried to respond quickly and a wonderfully weighted pass by McCall round the back of the defence almost set up McKay in front of goal in the 35th minute, Gibson racing from his line to block with his legs right on the edge of the penalty area. Four minutes later McArdle's corner from the right picked out the head of Smith at the near post (pictured below), but his effort flew just over the crossbar.
Chances kept coming as half time approached, Smith finding space on the right edge of the penalty area in the 43rd minute and trying to lob the ball into the path of McKay instead of shooting himself.
Petershill looked to double their lead going into the interval as Chris Hall curled a shot from 18 yards in the 44th minute, but Baker saved comfortably on his goal line. A free kick for Peasy right on the edge of the penalty area in first half stoppage time had the home support nervous, but Wilson's drilled effort was tipped over the crossbar by Baker to keep the scoreline at 1-0 to the champions at half time.
Half time :- 0-1
Gary Smith heads just over the crossbar shortly before half time.
There were no changes of personnel for the start of the second half, and there was an early booking after the restart for Peasy midfielder Luke Crerand for chopping down McGuire in the centre circle. Petershill threatened in the 54th minute as a cross from the left broke out to Murch on the edge of the penalty area, but he fired his shot over the bar from 20 yards out.
The first substitution of the match saw the trickery of Jamie Hamilton introduced in the centre of midfield, with McCall the man replaced.
Two minutes later the scores were level as The Glens produced a derseved equaliser. The assistant referee's flag went up as the ball was played down the right flank, but the referee waved it down as McArdle was clearly well onside, and he rolled the ball across the face of goal into the path of Jay McKay who fired first time into the net. Peasy's fans were furious because of the offside flag going up then coming down, but it was very clearly the correct decision.
Petershill made an immediate change with Paul Callander replacing Murch, but the momentum continued for The Glens as Hamilton darted at the heart of the defence and fired a shot on target which was saved by Gibson.
Both sides made a change just after the hour mark. Liam Finnigan replaced Gold for Peasy, and Stewart Hall came on for the injured Kerr in defence for Glencairn.
A dangerous cross from the left came in behind the Peasy strikers in the 66th minute, Del McNab doing well to cover at the back post and ensure Chris Hall couldn't get to the ball. Craig McGregor hadn't missed a defensive header all night, and a decisive headed clearance set up a Glencairn breakaway by McKay which ended with a slack final pass which ended the danger.
Peasy's final change saw striker Jason Hardie replace Chris Hall, and the visitors cut through the home defence almost immediately and looked set to regain the lead, only for Barclay and Hardie to get in a fankle and be wasteful in front of goal.
Very few Glencairn matches these days pass by without at least one free kick attempt by Smith, and it arrived in the 74th minute as he lifted a shot over the wall which was on target but saved by Gibson, McKay just failing to get his head on the ball to divert it away from the goalkeeper.
Hamilton's quick feet and directness from the middle of the park was really troubling the Petershill defence, and his run in the 79th minute ended with a shot which rose a yard over the crossbar.
It seemed initially that Glencairn were settling for what they had when under 21 centre back Kyle Chrystal replaced top scorer Smith in the 81st minute, but manager Willie Harvey surprised the home support by throwing Chrystal into the forward line as a direct replacement.
McKay almost produced a moment of brilliance in the 82nd minute as he spun away from his marker and squeezed his shot past Gibson, but the ball trickled agonisingly inches wide of the far post, almost in slow motion.
Hardie should have done better for Peasy as he broke free on the left edge of the penalty area in the 84th minute, but he pulled his shot tamely wide of the near post without testing Baker. A moment of madness by Luke Crerand a minute later saw the already booked midfielder shown a second yellow card for time wasting, and the champions were now down to ten men.
The Glens sensed their chance and, only seconds later, Chrystal flicked the ball in behind the defence where Jay McKay won the race to the ball and squeezed it under Gibson to put Glencairn 2-1 ahead with only five minutes remaining. It was McKay's 17th goal of the season, equalling his top scorer tally from last season, and the celebrations were exhuberant both on and off the pitch.
The frustration in the visitors' dugout was clear as co-manager Willie Paterson was sent to the changing rooms by the referee for comments made from the touchline after McKay's second goal.
It looked like The Glens were going to hold out comfortably with McGregor continuing to dominate in the air at the back and Alex Grier sweeping up behind, but there were to be two scares as the match moved into stoppage time. The home defence seemed to switch off in the 91st minute as Hardie seemed certain to score, but Baker raced out to make a match-winning block. A minute later Baker denied Hardie again as he reached up to pluck an on-target header out of the air.
Glencairn were in no mood for letting their precious lead slip, though, and the referee blew for full time after four minutes of stoppage to a roar of delight from the black and white players and supporters. A few individuals in the travelling support vented their displeasure at the officials as they headed to the changing rooms, but the home support's delight was increased as news filtered through of promotion rivals Irvine Meadow and Troon losing their respective matches.
Willie Harvey was fullsome in his praise for his squad for their efforts over the past couple of weeks, and he commented, "The management team couldn't be any more proud of every member of the squad. We are still fighting, the effort has been second to none, and the boys now have some well-earned rest and recovery time ahead of another huge game next Wednesday night."
Rutherglen Glencairn :- Baker, Kerr (Hall), Grier, McGregor, Fraser, McGuire, McArdle, McCall (Hamilton), Smith (Chrystal), McNab, McKay. (Subs not used - Leyden, Trialist (gk).)
Petershill :- Gibson, Ketterer, Wilson, Kennedy, Murch (Callander), Stevenson, Barclay, Crerand, Hall (Hardie), Daniel Finnigan, Gold (Liam Finnigan). (Subs not used - Graham, McGhee.)
Man of the match - (chosen by Paul McKay) Craig McGregor.