Super League 1st Division
Saturday 13th August Western Park, Renfrew
Renfrew Juniors 2 (2)
Glenafton Athletic 3 (2)
The league campaign kicked off at Renfrew today in explosive fashion with the title favourites Glenafton giving some credence to that unwanted tag after having gone two ahead midway through the first half despite being reduced to 10 men and Renfrew winning a spot kick. However by the break the sides were all square and the visitors had been playing with 9 men for the last twenty minutes. ‘Could the 9 men hang in there and secure a point?’ was the topic of terracing talk for the travelling fans, well aware of their team’s woeful record at Western Park.Unexpectedly and now unforgettably the Glens regained the lead within a minute of the restart and delivered an exceptional backs-to-the-wall stand-off that was more than worthy of the three points.
Chris Zok and Chris Cameron kicked off for the Frew determined no doubt to get one over on their old side. However, the visitors were equally determined and in 4 minutes Paul McKenzie danced down the right wing, cut inside and drilled the ball low and hard from the edge of the box only for it to be deflected inches wide, off the heel of defender Alan Prentice. A minute later Taz had his dancing shoes on again but this time he waltzed his way to the dead ball line where he left Anton Heffron like a neglected wall flower before firing the ball across the face of the Frew goalmouth where defender Richie Chang’s attempt to block it from the incoming Lewis Sloan ended up in the back of his own net.
The home side soon settled and recovered well from the early set back and created a chance or two before Scott Upton spurned a great opportunity on 14 minutes to draw the sides level. With the Glens’ defence appealing for offside the midfielder burst into the box but rather than square to the unmarked Zok he elected to try to beat keeper Ally Semple from a narrow angle, and although he did the ball went wide of the keeper’s far post. Three minutes later Willie Sawyers too found himself deep in the visitors’ penalty area but his run was halted by a nudge from Craig McEwan and a spot kick awarded. Although the big forward still had defender Craig Potter to contend with before being through on Semple’s goal, McEwan’s offence was deemed worthy of a red card. Sawyers stepped up to take the kick and Semple dived to his right to save it and then spring to his feet to prepare to block James Crowhurst attempt to fire home the rebound but the man in blue miscued badly and the ball went well wide. The 10 men soaked up Frew pressure and on 22 minutes hit their hosts with an exquisite sucker punch. Gareth Armstrong beat Heffron on the 18 yard line and his header sent the ball skywards. Its ascent doubtless catching the eye of air-traffic control at nearby Glasgow Airport (or Abbotsinch in old money); its descent on the other hand completely deceived keeper Kevin Bell and the ball dropped behind his outstretched arm and touched down safely in the back of the net.
The sky, however, was about to fall in on Glenafton. Three minutes later Renfrew reduced the deficit when the ball pinballed about the Glens box and Anton Smith’s attempt at goal found his namesake Anton Heffron who poked the ball home from a few yards out. A minute later Gareth Campbell was shown a straight red card for leading with a raised arm as he challenged for the ball on the half way line. The Glens reshuffled and attacking midfielder Lewis Sloan was sacrificed for defender Steven Greenlees. Attack of course was still a sound form of defence and defender Cammy McKinnell’s header from a corner kick just sailed over the bar. Sawyers had a copycat effort at the other ended which signalled the start of sustained pressure from the Frew, enjoying the new-found spaces in the 11 v 9 contest. Six minutes before the break Cameron sent a needle-threading pass through the heart of the Glens defence and Willie Sawyers saw off two defenders to strike the equaliser home. H/T Renfrew 2 Glenafton 2
Despite winning the £3 second prize at the half-time draw the mood was still very much a gloomy one as the nine Afton men trooped down the steps onto Western Park. But within 10 seconds of the restart Chris Cameron uncharacteristically clattered Andy Bell. The resultant free-kick into the box saw Cammy McKinnell outjump Smith to power his header goalward and although keeper Bell appeared to have it covered the ball escaped his grasp and trundled over the line. The visitors were visibly re-energised the goal itself worth a thousand half-time oranges and a signalled a call to arms for the next 44 and a bit minutes! Of course the expected Renfrew onslaught did materialise but this was ably repelled through a combination of stout defending, magnificent midfield possession (Andy Bell and Kris Mitchell both strong contenders for man of the match) and a clever use of substitutes with the fresh legs of Craig Menzies coming on for McKenzie and then later Jim Wilson for Armstrong; Taz and Bo having run themselves into the ground.
Renfrew will also rue a series of missed chances. Minutes after the Glens had regained the lead Upton dwelled too long in front of goal allowing Robbie Henderson and Steven Greenlees to block his shot from six yards. On 57 minutes Semple blocked a point-blank effort from Zok then Sawyers failed to connect with a great free kick from Cameron. Ten minutes later Prentice fired one well over the bar from close range and then substitute David Adams hit the bar with a header from even closer range.
Bell and Mitchell ensured it wasn’t all one way traffic as they turned the tide of wave after wave attack with lung bursting runs upfield to feed lone striker Jim Wilson who held up the ball brilliantly to give the defence much-needed respite. In time added on Renfrew substitute Ross Currie was red-carded for a lunge at Andy Bell. The final whistle, like Cammy’s goal released a new-found energy in the team as they rightly celebrated a well deserved win. F/T Renfrew 2 Glenafton 3
Glenafton: Semple; Potter, McKinnell, Henderson, McEwan; McKenzie (Menzies), Mitchell, Bell, Sloan (Greenlees); Armstrong (Wilson), Campbell
Other Scores: Ardrossan 3 Lanark 2, Dalry 1 East Kilbride 3, Hurlford 1 Cumbernauld 0, Kilsyth 0 Shotts 1, Thorniewood 1 Rutherglen 3, Whitletts 3 Girvan 3