Saturday 10th February 2018 - Friendly match
(Report by Peter Ferguson)
Sean McGuire in typically tenacious midfield action during the first half.
Glencairn came from two goals behind to win this hastily-arranged friendly match against Central District League side Thorniewood United at St Ambrose High School in Coatbridge. With both teams' respective league matches wiped out by the heavy overnight rain, it was a good chance for both teams to keep their squads ticking over with match action, and it turned out to be an entertaining match for the small crowd who gathered in the afternoon sunshine.
Willie Harvey took the opportunity to experiment in the first half as he changed the shape of The Glens team to 4-4-2, with Craig McGregor and Craig Palmer filling the conventional full back positions. Alessandro Savarese was given some valuable pitch time up front alongside top goal scorer Gary Smith, while Ryan Kerr was employed in central defence beside Rhys Donaldson. United's new manager James McKenna had 18 players to choose from as he re-shapes his squad to try and make a positive impact in the remaining few months of the season.
Thorniewood made an enthusiastic start to the game and went close in the opening minutes as Aaron Neill curled a free kick narrowly wide of the target (pictured below). United centre back Thomas Buckley was in no mood for messing about and, whenever he got possession the ball, it tended to end at least 50 yards away, and he didn't care whether that was inside or outside of the playing complex ! Buckley almost got lucky with his 'no nonsense' approach as one of his robust kicks inside his own half almost ended up as a goal in the 8th minute, Glencairn goalkeeper Jack Baker watching the ball nervously as it flew narrowly wide of goal.
The Glens' first chances saw Stewart Hall disposess Craig Murphy and burst into the penalty area in the 9th minute, only to be denied by an excellent sliding block by Buckley. The corner found its way to Tony Fraser who pulled a diving save out of United no.1 Stephen Mather.
Clever footwork by Smith in the 13th minute saw him turn Buckley inside out before firing in an angled shot which was well handled on his goal line by Mathers. A corner from the left a minute later by Ryan McArdle picked out the head of Hall at the back post, the ball looping across goal and wide of the far post.
Thorniewood were giving as good as they were getting, though, and all too often Glencairn were playing long balls as the players tried to adjust to a formation which they haven't used for quite some time. McGregor made an important interception to deny United a goal in the 16th minute, but the opening goal was only delayed till the resulting corner. The cross from the right was fired in low and Darren Cooke had space to fire a low shot into the corner of the net through a crowd of players, with Baker seemingly unsighted.
The match from this point went into a bit of a stalemate, with little in the way of goal chances, and the game became very scrappy, summed up by Cooke being shown a yellow card for persistent fouling after having received a warning from the referee moments earlier.
An angled shot by Smith in the 35th minute almost found its way through to Savarese in front of goal, but Mathers dived out to smother the ball as the striker slid in. Glencairn missed a golden chance to equalise in the 42nd minute as Mather dropped the ball under no challenge, allowing McGregor to set up Sean McGuire for a close range shot which he fired miles over the crossbar.
With only seconds left before the half time whistle Savarese was bodychecked inside the penalty area, but the referee wasn't for awarding a spot kick and instead signalled for a corner. The cross came into the box where it was met by the head of Smith, the ball dropping inches wide of goal.
Half time : 1-0
Craig Palmer launches a first half attack for Glencairn.
The Glens used all three of their available substitutes at half time, as the team re-shaped back into its normal formation. Del McNab replaced Hall with McArdle coming to the right wing, while Liam Gormley came on for Smith up front. Jay McKay replacing McGregor was the other change, and he was employed in a midfield role alongside McGuire, with Fraser dropping back into his usual anchor role in front of the defence.
Before any positive momentum could be built by Glencairn, however, Thorniewood doubled their lead with a brilliant strike in the 48th minute. A free kick from 25 yards was fired over the wall by Gary Fallon, and the ball curled into the top left corner of the net. Baker could only get a hand to the ball at full stretch, but could only help the ball on its way into the net.
Thorniewood didn't have long to enjoy their two goal lead, however, as it lasted for only a minute. McArdle's precise free kick in the 49th minute picked out the head of Del McNab at the back post, and he nodded past Mather to bring Glencairn back into the game at 2-1. You sensed at that very moment that this would be the catalyst for a fightback by Glencairn.
Mather produced a stunning save to deny McArdle in the 55th minute from a point-blank volley after an accurate cross by Palmer, reminiscent of Andy Goram's famous save from Pierre van Hooijdonk. A couple of minutes later it was Baker's turn to show his goalkeeping abilities as he tipped an angled shot by Fallon over the crossbar.
United were clearly desperate to hold on for what would have been a huge morale boosting win for them, and the impressive amount of vocal effort that their management team put into the game was testament to how important it was for them. An important interception by Palmer denied Cooke in the 75th minute after Kyle Robertson had taken advantage of Glencairn switching off at a free kick.
The momentum was mostly towards Mather in the United goal, however, and he made another impressive save to deny McKay's snapshot which was heading into the top left corner of the net. A dipping shot on the volley by McGuire moments later flew half a yard over the crossbar as the pressure continued to build on the tiring United rearguard.
McNab's looping header from McArdle's corner dropped over the bar in the 77th minute, but chances were coming freely for Glencairn now, with McKay cleverly finding spaces behind the front two to create openings. A now rare journey upfield for Thorniewood saw Marc Innes fire well over when well placed 18 yards out.
Buckley was the second United player to be shown yellow for a daft challenge on Savarese and then raising his hands to the same player when he protested at the tackle. A goal seemed certain in the 83rd minute as McArdle dribbled along the bye line and squared for Savarese, but the striker couldn't wrap his foot around the ball in front of goal and the chance was lost.
The pressure had to tell, though, and The Glens finally got the equaliser in the 84th minute. A cross from the left was head flicked on at the near post by Savarese, and Liam Gormley simply couldn't miss as he was unmarked right in front of goal, and he duly converted to make it 2-2.
Glencairn's players weren't happy to settle for a draw, and they went full out looking for a winner as the match moved into its closing minutes. Donaldson almost grabbed a rare goal in the 86th minute with a dipping effort which slipped inches wide with Mather at full stretch. Savarese was next to have a go in the 88th minute with a shot which was straight at Mather.
The determination to win the game carried on right into stoppage time, and they got their reward in the 91st minute. McKay was clattered from behind as he controlled the ball on his chest, and it was an easy decision for the referee to blow for a penalty kick. Jay McKay picked himself off the floor and composed himself before calmly sending Mather the wrong way (pictured below) to put Glencairn 3-2 ahead, with all three of the half time substitutes having now scored.
The referee added on only another minute but there was to be no way back for Thorniewood, who will have felt hard done to having put so much effort into what was a highly entertaining match.
Thorniewood United :- Mather, Ngongo, Murphy, Trialist, Buckley, Fallon, Livingstone, Gabir, Cooke, Neill, Robertson. (Subs - Morgan, Cumming, Gallagher, Trialist, Watson, Smith, Innes.)
Rutherglen Glencairn :- Baker, Kerr, Palmer, Donaldson, Fraser, McGregor (McKay), Hall (McNab), McGuire, Smith (Gormley), Savarese, McArdle.
Man of the match - (chosen by Peter Ferguson) Sean McGuire.