West Region Super League 1st Division
Wednesday 23rd May , Loch Park, New Cumnock
GLENAFTON ATHLETIC 5 (1)
EAST KILBRIDE THISTLE 0 (0)
On the 23rd May Glenafton Athletic 1993 won the Scottish Junior Cup for the first time in the club’s history. On the anniversary of that glorious day the class of 2011/12 delivered a result, that arguably in the current climate is just as significant, which ensured the club would return to the top flight of league football in the West Region. With the home side requiring a point for promotion and the visitors East Kilbride eager to add to their points tally in their battle to avoid relegation the first half proved to be tentative affair which exploded into life five minutes before the break with a spectacular goal from Craig Menzies to put Glenafton ahead. The dregs of half-time teas were still being supped when Gareth Armstrong doubled the home side’s lead and although East Kilbride rallied with a string of corners there was to be no stopping Darren Henderson’s men as Craig Potter, Paul Murphy and Gus Cochrane controlled the midfield ensuring that chances aplenty were created and further goals from John Paul Boyle, Murphy and Cochrane completed the famous five and secured automatic promotion.
The nervous pre-match anticipation of the home support intensified with the news that Paul McKenzie, so often the victim of some robust tackling, would miss the Glens last two league games of the season due to suspension while Gareth Campbell, who bagged a brace in the draw at Kilsyth, was unavailable for selection due to work commitments. East Kilbride arrived buoyed by the three points garnered with the home win over in-form Shotts on Monday evening.
The home side were first to show with two minutes gone when a free kick played into the box was won by a Richie McKillen header and the ball gathered by Gareth Armstrong on the six yard line who played it back to John Dempster and his snapshot from 10 yards out when inches wide. A quick retort by the visitors saw some excellent control by Chris Dallas set up a clear shot at goal but the finish lacked the accuracy of the build-up. Glenafton soon got a grip on the game but struggled to fashion a clear shot at goal against a well organised defence. The Jags, content to take their time in the pursuit of the opener, were less prolific as an attacking force but they too hit a brick wall in front of goal.
The breakthrough came on 40 minutes in spectacular fashion and from an unlikely source. After some fine build up play a superb pass by Craig Potter from just inside his own half picked out Craig Menzies battering down the right flank with John Paul Boyle matching his run to break into the box, however with the three Thistle defenders at close quarters the option to feed the forward was high risk. Instead ‘Zee’ killed the ball dead, spotted keeper Ryan Maley off his line and chipped the ball over the head of the airborne goalie into the far corner of the net – an unforgettable first goal for the club.
The visitors’ new found sense of urgency failed to rattle the home defence as Robbie Henderson, Ryan McChesney and Ally Semple closed the door on Dallas and co. H/T Glens 1 East Kilbride 0
Four minutes into the new half a posse of Glens’ players closed in on Paul Bain deep in his own half and Gus Cochrane came away with the ball and rolled it wide to Gareth Armstrong who lashed a low drive from 20 yards out and although Maley got down quick to block the ball rolled under his body and into the net. Thistle responded well end enjoyed their best period of possession and forced a series of corners the majority of which were mopped up by Glenafton but one or two caused some concern including an Ally Morgan header that flashed past Semple’s post.
Back came the home side and the midfield trio took control with Craig Potter breaking down Thistle moves while Paul Murphy and Cochrane, almost telepathically picked up the pieces to push the home side forward, ably assisted by big John Dempster who stubbornly refused to give up any lost cause in any area of the pitch grinding down the visitors in the process. On 72 minutes the Glens looked to have increased the lead when another attack had been partially cleared only for Potter to direct a header the ball back into the box which, with his back to goal, Armstrong killed on his chest and then almost in slow motion executed an exquisite overhead kick to put the ball over the head of the advancing Maley into the net – but the euphoria was waved away by the assistant referee’s flag, although many thought it was a case of mistaken identity with the inactive Cochrane in the offside position.
With quarter an hour to go Menzies and Dempster left to rapturous applause to be replaced by the fresh legs of Craig McEwan and Bobby Colligan …. and what fresh legs for ten seconds later Colligan exploded from a standing start to beat Michael Daley to the ball and burst into the box. Although the defender recovered to block the direct path to goal Colligan kept his cool to square the ball across the face of goal where it was missed by defender Findlay and the incoming Cochrane but fell perfectly for John Paul Boyle who took a touch on the six yard line before rifling the ball into the roof of the net, just reward for another menacing performance.
Two minutes later Colligan weaved his way into the box and fired for goal only for Mailey to pull off a great save and push the ball over the bar. The vocal home support cheered off JP as he made way for Ian Cashmore with five minutes to go. Two minutes later Cashy and Armstrong challenged for a Cohcrane corner at the near post and when the ball re-emerged Paul Murphy was first to react and pounced to side-foot the ball home from 8 yards out.
Two minutes after that Murphy played the ball to Cashmore tight on the right touchline who lofted the ball into the box for Armstrong to roll it back to Gus Cochrane on the outskirts of the box and with Dailly closing in and Armstrong heavily marked in the box he spotted Mailey off his line, and from 23 yard outs nonchalantly nicked the ball out of the reach of the keeper at full stretch and into the gaping net for the fifth of the famous five. F/T Glens 5 East Kilbride 0
The final whistle was greeted with relief and joy in equal measure and the Glenafton players, management and supporters gathered for the obligatory chorus of ‘We are going up…’.
Glenafton: Semple; Menzies (McEwan), McChesney, Henderson, McKillen; Potter, Cochrane; Dempster (Colligan), Armstrong, Boyle (Cashmore). Subs Dunsmuir, Trialist
East Kilbride: Mailey; Dempsey, Morgan, Conway, Daley, Kelly, Gorman, Bain, Dallas, McVey, Chaplain. Subs McGinlay, Stewart, Hutcheson, Findlay
Siney’s club house celebrations