Saturday 11th April 2015 - Stagecoach West Region Super League Division One
(Report by Peter Ferguson)
Glencairn's midfield trio of McGuire, Dalzell and Esplin launch a first half attack.
Glencairn moved up to 5th place in the league table with their fourth consecutive league win, keeping alive their chances of promotion. It was two products of the club's under 21 team who produced the goals to win the game, and another who won the Man of the Match award. The win leaves The Glens only four points behind third placed Maybole Juniors, with two games in hand and with the teams still to meet as well. In reality, though, all of the teams in the top half of the league table have their eye on the two automatic promotion places and the one play-off spot, but The Glens are giving themselves every chance with their current run of results.
There were two enforced changes to the starting line-up for Glencairn, with central defenders Marc Russell and Andy Neil missing through suspension and illness respectively. Brian Welsh dropped into a sweeper role with David Dunnachie coming into the team beside him at centre half. Dean Muir made his first start since August in the holding midfield role as the team retained its recent shape of 4-1-3-2.
Thorniewood came into the match desperate for the points to aid their fight against relegation and boosted by a convincing win in their previous match. The visitors' enthusiasm was obvious in the opening stages of the game as they started with an energy which unsettled Glencairn, with United helped by winning the toss and choosing to play with the gusty wind at their backs. A couple of early corner kicks by Thorniewood had the home defence stretched and brought goalkeeper JC Hutchison into the action as he twice punched clear under pressure.
The Glens' first positive move came in the 5th minute as Ross McNeil linked well with Del Esplin who released Denis McLaughlin on the left, but the striker scuffed his shot straight at United no.1 Matt Creechan.
The early pattern continued with Thorniewood pressing with the wind at their backs and Glencairn hitting on the break. United were awarded two free kicks on the edge of the penalty area in quick succession, the first of which was squandered, but the second of which was drilled on target by Chris Lennon and produced an excellent parry save by Hutchison (pictured below).
JC Hutchison parries away Chris Lennon's fierce free kick.
Glencairn should have been ahead in the 15th minute when Sean McGuire pounced on a defensive slip and only had Creechan to beat, but he sliced his shot off target from 12 yards.
Thorniewood continued to play at pace and The Glens were finding it hard to get any cohesion to their play as they battled into the head wind. A good passing move by United ended with Daley McSorley firing a shot onto the railway line, and Hutchison came to the rescue in the 23rd minute as Welsh misjudged the ball in the wind and Lennon threatened to pounce, only for the big stopper to block at the striker's feet.
McGuire went close again for Glencairn in the 26th minute as he got down low to head Dalzell's corner on target, but Creechan dived to his left to make a good save. McGuire's energy was causing the United defence a few headaches, and a minute later the midfielder almost broke the deadlock as he took an excellent first touch inside the penalty area and then fired across the face of goal, the ball slipping half a yard wide of the far post.
The Glens were having a good spell in the game now, and United were just about hanging on in the 29th minute as they denied Glencairn an opening goal three times inside a few seconds. McNeil was slipped through on goal and went down under a challenge by Creechan. While the home crowd shouted for a penalty, McGuire dribbled the loose ball round Creechan and fired on target, only to see his shot blocked in front of goal by Davie Hamilton. The ball rebounded out to McLaughlin who also fired on target, only to see Creechan get up in time to make a brilliant save to beat the shot round the post for a corner.
United were forced into an early substitution as JP McBride limped off injured and was replaced by Gary Dougan. The Glens almost committed suicide in the 34th minute as a throw-in on the halfway line ended up being passed back to Hutchison, and the 'keeper slipped as he was put under pressure by Lennon, but managed to recover to grab the ball as he lay on the ground, the ball having rebounded from the striker allowing Hutchison to handle the ball after the pass back.
The pace of McNeil on the break was looking like a potent weapon for Glencairn, and he slipped away from his marker in the 40th minute and ran clear on left edge of the penalty area, before checking back and trying to set up McLaughlin, but Brendan Smith got back to head behind for a corner and keep the scoreline blank.
Both teams had time for one more effort before the interval. Dom Green fired straight at Hutchison in the 44th minute after cutting across the 18 yard line, and then the referee courted controversy in first half stoppage time. A free kick was awarded for a foul by Alan Fleming on McNeil on the edge of the penalty area, but the referee chose only to show a yellow card despite McNeil being in the act of shooting for goal. When the referee calmed down tensions between the players with a couple more bookings, McNeil pulled the free kick wide of the target (pictured below).
Ross McNeil fires a free kick wide of the target in first half stoppage time.
Half time : 0-0
Having survived the first half with the wind in their faces, the black and white faithful were hoping their team would now take advantage of the wind at their backs as they now shot towards the railway end. It didn't take long for those hopes to be realised.
A free kick was lifted long by Hutchison from the edge of Glencairn's own penalty area, and the United defence seemed to all leave the ball to each other as it bounced through to Ross McNeil, and the striker reacted well to slip the ball past Creechan and into the empty net. The goal was McNeil's 10th goal of the season for Glencairn in 10 starts since signing in November.
McNeil had a great chance to double his tally only a minute later as he was set up by a good through ball, but this time Creechan produced a good save to deflect the shot over the bar from 18 yards out. Thorniewood made their second change in the 55th minute, with Trialist no.17 replacing Trialist no.11.
McNeil hassled Smith into conceding possession in the 58th minute and then rolled the ball into the path of Del Esplin, who sliced his shot from 18 yards wide of the target on the stretch. A minute later an overlapping run by Jonny Boal ended with a cross which was just too high for McNeil to head on target. The Glens were playing much better now, and the wind was clearly having a major effect on the flow of play in the match.
United made their final change with 26 minutes remaining in the game, with Alex More replacing Smith, while Glencairn still had their starting XI on the pitch.
Glencairn's pressure paid off in the 69th minute as the lead was doubled. Typically tenacious and skilful play by McGuire saw him win possession on the right wing and square the ball infield to McLaughlin. The ball broke out into the path of Jordan Dalzell, whose shot was badly sliced, but Del Esplin stick out his leg and cleverly diverted the ball into the net at the near post.
Boal had a chance to increase the lead in the 72nd minute as he found himself in space on the left edge of the penalty area, but sliced his shot high and wide. Two minutes later Glencairn made their first change, Ross Ballantyne a straight replacement at right back for Graeme Brown.
United pulled themselves back into the match in the 79th minute and ensured a tight end to the game as a corner from the right was met by the head of Alan Fleming, the ball bouncing down into the net to make it 2-1, and suddenly it was "game on" again.
Glencairn made an immediate change with the fresh legs of Thomas Kilmartin coming on up front in place of McLaughlin.
Hutchison produced a terrific save to keep his side ahead with only two minutes left on the clock, diving up to tip a driven shot by Trialist no.17 onto the top of the crossbar and over for a corner. It turned out to be a match-winning save, as it was the last attempt on goal of the match, and The Glens held out to make it 12 points out of 12 since the start of March.
Rutherglen Glencairn :- Hutchison, Brown (Ballantyne), Boal, Welsh, Dunnachie, Muir, Dalzell, Esplin, McLaughlin (Kilmartin), McNeil, McGuire. (Subs not used - Donaghy, Eadie, Irvine.)
Thorniewood United :- Creechan, Green, Smith (More), Hamilton, Fleming, McSorley, McBride (Dougan), Law, Lennon, Grant, Trialist (Trialist). (Subs not used - Forbes, Devine.)
Man of the match - (chosen by Andy Handlin) Jonny Boal.