Wednesday 6th June 2018 - Central League Cup Quarter Final
(Report by Peter Ferguson)
Del McNab bursts forward for Glencairn in a first half attack.
Glencairn's season came to an end in disappointing fashion with a 3-0 home defeat to Premier League giants Pollok in the quarter final of the Central League Cup at The Celsius Stadium. A healthy crowd gathered in the June sunshine to see if The Glens could extend their season. However, with this tournament being Pollok's only remaining hope of silverware this season, the highly motivated higher league side emerged with a deserved win over the ninety minutes.
With manager Willie Harvey on holiday, the responsibility for team affairs was left to his assistant Joe Pryce. The absence of 28-goal top scorer Gary Smith due to holiday was a pre-match blow for Glencairn, and Pryce opted for a slight change of shape to the normal with Jamie Hamilton employed as an inside forward tucked in just behind Jay McKay. Jordan Leyden returned to the centre of midfield with striker Liam Gormley dropping to the bench. The only other change saw goalkeeper Scott McLellan getting his fourth appearance for the club as he replaced Jack Baker.
The Glens started the match in dramatic fashion by almost taking the lead after only 27 seconds. Stewart Hall's cross from the right was met on the volley by Hamilton, with Pollok's young goalie Scott Johnson making an excellent save to palm the ball round the post for an early corner kick.
It didn't take long for the top league side to assert their authority on the game, however, and a head flick by Stuart McCann released namesake Gary McCann on the right edge of the penalty area in the 6th minute, Ryan Kerr getting over to make an important block. Three minutes later McLellan produced a fine save, parrying away Adam Forde's close-range shot.
Pollok were getting closer, though, and Mark Sideserf's shot from distance in the 11th minute flew narrowly wide, before the deadlock was broken in the 13th minute. Bryan Wharton's free kick was whipped into the penalty area where it was met on the volley by Ryan McGregor, and his sweet strike flashed into the net giving McLellan no chance.
McLellan continued to be busy as he saved Gary McCann's curling free kick at his near post, before Nicky Little glanced a header over the crossbar in the 17th minute. Glencairn went close in the 18th minute as fine link play between McKay and Hamilton released the latter into the penalty area (pictured below), but his cross wasn't perfect and Leyden's attempted overhead kick flew over the crossbar.
Pollok were looking extremely lively in front areas, and an incisive run by Stuart McCann was halted by a well-timed block by Tony Fraser in the 20th minute. A similar darting run by Stefan McCluskey three minutes later looked like setting up a certain goal for Little, only for a brilliant last-ditch tackle on the goal line by Del McNab to save the day for Glencairn.
As the match moved past the half hour mark Glencairn started to get more joy in forward areas, and Sean McCall's cross was glanced narrowly wide of the target by Sean McGuire (pictured below). Pollok's threat was always there, though, and Gary McCann's audacious volley from wide on the right slipped narrowly wide of the far post in the 38th minute.
The final close thing in the first half saw Gary McCann cross from the right, and Forde's volley on the stretch came back across goal but wide of the target.
Half time : 0-1
Sean McGuire's header flew narrowly wide of the target during the first half.
Both sides stuck with their starting selections for the start of the second half, but The Glens were looking lively after the re-start and Hamilton's volleyed effort bounced a yard wide of goal. Moments later Leyden found space on the edge of the penalty area and he curled a shot just wide of the target.
The pressure continued from Glencairn and a long throw from the left in the 50th minute wasn't dealt with by the Pollok defence, the ball bouncing right across goal with nobody able to apply a finishing touch.
Glencairn weren't able to find an equaliser during that post-interval spell of pressure, and Pollok started to control the game again as Gary McCann picked out Stuart McCann with a cross from the right, McLellan making another fine save to deny the striker.
Pollok took a strong grip on the match as they doubled their lead in the 53rd minute. A low cross from the left came through to the unmarked Nicky Little who had an open goal to fire into from close range to make it 2-0 to the visitors.
McCall became the first player into the referee's notebook as Glencairn's frustration began to show, and the midfielder was substituted only moments later and replaced by Ryan McArdle. Hamilton curled a shot half a yard wide of the far post in the 58th minute as The Glens tried to find a way back into contention.
Jamie Hamilton bursts through the Pollok defence to set up a Glencairn attack.
Some nice one-touch passing by McKay and Hamilton created a chance for McKay to drill the ball across goal, but the stubborn Pollok defence stood firm and the ball was deflected into the arms of Johnson. Glencairn's second change saw striker Liam Gormley replace midfielder McGuire, with Hamilton dropped slightly deeper into a more creative position.
The game had hardly restarted, however, when Pollok effectively killed the match as a contest. A through ball from the right caught the home defence short, leaving Stuart McCann in space to clip the ball past McLellan and make the scoreline 3-0.
Pollok manager Tony McInally clearly felt the job was done and decided to wrap players up for the semi final as he made a triple change almost immediately after the third goal. Paul Byrne, Ross Brash and David Gormley replaced McGregor, Gary McCann and Forde respectively.
Glencairn couldn't be criticised for lack of effort despite the three-goal deficit, and McKay was unfortunate not to get on the scoresheet as his determination saw him break clear on goal, but he fired off target on the stretch under pressure from Johnson racing off his line.
Hamilton limped off in the 79th minute after feeling the effects of an ankle knock from an earlier block tackle. He was replaced by Craig Palmer who moved into defence, with Hall pushed forward into right midfield and McArdle pushed further forward.
Two substitutes combined in the 82nd to almost pull a goal back for The Glens, Palmer's cross from the left picking out the head of Gormley at the back post, but Johnson saved the striker's downward header. More link play between the substitutes in the 85th minute saw Gormley turn away from his marker and feed McArdle on the right, whose angled shot slipped narrowly wide.
Little should have scored again for Pollok in the 85th minute as he drilled a shot over the bar from close range, but the visitors were happy to see the game out by this point and The Glens' players knew effectively that their season was almost at an end.
The referee added on only a couple of minutes of stoppage time before blowing the final whistle on Glencairn's season 2017-18, while Pollok's hopes of silverware to end to the season remain.
Rutherglen Glencairn :- McLellan, Hall, Kerr, McGregor, Fraser, Leyden, McCall (McArdle), McGuire (Gormley), Hamilton (Palmer), McNab, McKay. (Subs not used - Grier, Baker (gk).)
Pollok :- Johnson, McGregor (Brash), Sideserf, Wharton, Gallacher, Young, Gary McCann (Byrne), Little, Stuart McCann, Forde (Gormley), McCluskey. (Subs not used - Coutts, Niang.)
Man of the match - (chosen by John McKeown snr) Tony Fraser.