Saturday 28th April 2018 - McBookie.com West Region Super League Division One
(Report by Peter Ferguson)
Rhys Donaldson is mobbed his team mates after scoring his first goal for Glencairn.
Glencairn stayed on the promotion trail as they moved back into the play-off positions with this crucial win over 2nd-placed Renfrew at The Celsius Stadium. It was the third home win in five days in what has been a very enjoyable week for the black and white supporters.
After switching the team around for the midweek cup tie, manager Willie Harvey reverted to the same outfield team who had defeated Cambuslang Rangers on Monday evening, with the only change being the return after injury of regular goalkeeper Jack Baker. There was a place on the substitutes' bench for Jamie Hamilton after his recent illness and holiday, that being the only other change from Monday night's squad.
Renfrew still need a few points to secure automatic promotion to next season's new West Region Premiership, and they were first to threaten as Cameron Clark outpaced Ryan McArdle on the left in the third minute and swung the ball across the face of goal, with nobody in the middle able to convert.
The Glens responded in the 5th minute as Jay McKay cut into the penalty area and fired a deflected shot into the side netting at the near post. The home defence were stretched in the 11th minute as Renfrew had a 2-on-2 situation, but a fine block by Rhys Donaldson allowed Alex Grier to tidy up and thwart the danger.
The stadium held its breath in anticipation in the 15th minute as Gary Smith lined up one of his trademark free kicks from the angle of the penalty area, but this time his shot dipped over the wall and hit the side netting.
'Frew defender Jordan Chisholm was the first player to be yellow carded in the 18th minute for diving into a challenge on Sean McCall without getting the ball. There appeared to be little contact but the intent to bring down McCall was clear.
Sean McCall and Ryan McArdle in first half action.
The match was finely balanced, and both sides were defending strongly, with midfielder Del McNab showing his awareness to get back and make an important headed clearance in the 26th minute. McNab was quick to react seconds later as the resulting corner pin-balled about the six yard box before he hooked the ball upfield to safety.
Renfrew exerted a spell of pressure around the half hour mark, but The Glens' defence was looking strong and committed, two players racing out to block a shot by Kieron Maxwell from 20 yards out. Baker somehow managed to block a point blank header only seconds later, before the referee waved away appeals by the visitors for a penalty kick for handball.
David McKenna of Renfrew was next into the referee's notebook for a show of dissent to the assistant referee. The referee ignored penalty appeals at the other end in the 38th minute as McArdle's corner flashed across goal with McNab tumbling as he tried to get on the end of it.
'Frew no.1 Dale Burgess made a good save in the 43rd minute to deny Sean McGuire's flick header, before play flowed quickly to the other end and Baker did well to punch clear amongst a crowd of players to keep the scoreline blank at the interval.
Half time :- 0-0
Jack Baker makes an important punched clearance just before half time.
Both sides stuck with their starting line-ups for the restart, and it was a game that really could go either way at this stage. With so much at stake for both sides, you sensed that it was going to take something special or a stroke of good fortune to make the difference between the sides.
Glencairn were on the front foot early in the second half and, after Tony Fraser had fired wildly over the crossbar, McKay linked with Sean McCall before seeing his angled shot deflected wide for a corner kick.
The deadlock was broken in the 50th minute, and it was both something special and a stroke of good fortune. Rhys Donaldson made a rare burst forward from his sweeper role and went past a couple of challenges to the edge of the penalty area. The ball broke away from him but then rebounded back into his path, where he stretched to stab the ball past Burgess from 14 yards. It was Donaldson's first ever competitive goal for Glencairn, and his delighted team mates raced to share in the moment (pictured at top).
Smith became the first Glencairn player to see yellow for an attempted block tackle on a pass upfield. It seemed a harsh decision and the big striker strongly protested his innocence. 'Frew now had to raise their game, and Jamie Benton almost converted in the 52nd minute as he slid in at the back post to stab the ball towards goal, but Baker did well to block on the goal line. Benton went close again two minutes later as he dived in to try to get on the end of another cross which flashed across the face of goal.
The Glens weren't exactly sitting on their lead, however, and McNab's run and pass set up McCall for a shot which flew well over the crossbar from 20 yards. Smith was a little fortunate not to see a second yellow card as he was penalised for leading with his elbow into an aerial challenge, but perhaps the referee took into account his own doubts about the earlier booking.
Renfrew made a double change in the 63rd minute as Darren Jones and Paddy O'Keefe replaced Andrew MacLennan and Kieron Maxwell respectively. The visitors were clearly desperate to get back into the game, but it was almost "curtains" for them as McNab cut past two defenders and fired in a firm shot, only to be denied by an excellent block by Burgess.
Fraser accepted a clear booking for a late sliding challenge on Jones in the centre circle at the mid point of the second half, "one for the team" as he stopped a threatening break by Renfrew.
'Frew made their third and final change in the 68th minute as former Glencairn striker Jamie Docherty replaced Benton. Glencairn still had three changes up their sleeve and, with a crucial lead to hold onto, Willie Harvey now held all the aces. McCall was next to see yellow for one foul too many.
The black and white supporters were beginning to think it was going to be their afternoon, but they got a fright in the 72nd minute when Baker seemed to misjudge the flight of a cross, doing just enough to fingertip the ball wide of goal for a corner. The big stopper made amends only seconds later, though, parrying away a shot by Dominic Innes which looked like a certain goal.
Glencairn's first substitution arrived in the 75th minute as Stewart Hall replaced McArdle on the right side of midfield. The commitment of the Glencairn players was summed up by McKay chasing down a back pass to Burgess and blocking the kick out, and Burgess was forced to kick the ball out of the park as Glencairn continued to press high up the park to defend their lead. Sean McGuire pulled a left-footed shot wide of the target as the pressing created another opening only moments later.
The referee once again ignored penalty appeals as McKay spun away from Jamie Lyden and went down between two defenders inside the penalty area. McKay's never-ending running was rewarded with an early end to his match in the 81st minute as he was replaced up front by the fresh legs of Jamie Hamilton.
It seemed that Renfrew's race was run at this point and Glencairn were the team creating all the chances, Burgess once again keeping his side in the match with an excellent save to deny a long run and shot by Hall in the 82nd minute.
The Glens decided to shore things up with four minutes remaining, defender Ryan Kerr coming on to replace striker Smith. That decision ended Smith's chances of scoring in his tenth match in a row, but the final result in this match was of more importance than a personal milestone.
Renfrew went incredibly close to an equaliser in the 88th minute as Docherty fired a close range shot which rattled off the face of the crossbar, and you felt at that moment that it just wasn't going to be the visitors' day. Glencairn broke almost immediately to the other end and McNab was released on the left, but his tired legs seemed to give up on him as he sliced his shot wide. Jones was booked for dissent as the clock ticked towards stoppage time.
The game was effectively over for 'Frew in the 90th minute as the Chisholm, the first man to be shown yellow in the match, also became the last man to see yellow and the inevitable red card. Chisholm slid into a late tackle on McCall inside the centre circle, and the referee had no option other than to reduce the visitors to ten men.
Nerves were obvious in the home support as four minutes were added, but the back line of Kerr, Grier, Donaldson and Craig McGregor held firm and there were big cheers from the local fans at the final whistle as another three points were secured.
Rutherglen Glencairn :- Baker, Grier, McGregor, Donaldson, Fraser, McGuire, McArdle (Hall), McCall, Smith (Kerr), McNab, McKay (Hamilton). (Subs not used - Palmer, Hutchison (gk).)
Renfrew :- Burgess, Lyden, Miller, Healy, Chisholm, MacLennan (Jones), Benton (Docherty), Maxwell (O'Keefe), Innes, McKenna, Clark. (Subs not used - Wylie, McLeay (gk).)
Man of the match - (chosen by Alex McArthur) Alex Grier.