Super League 1st Division
Sat 24th September Blair Park, Hurlford
HURLFORD UNITED 0 (0)
GLENAFTON ATHLETIC 1 (1)
Glenafton maintained their unbeaten league record with a narrow win over Hurlford in a game that started of at a fierce pace, but had by the second half developed into a dour struggle unbecoming of the sumptuous sunshine that bathed Blair Park. Nevertheless the victory lifts the Loch Park side to second place in the league leaving them with a game in hand over and two points behind league leaders Ardrossan Winton Rovers, who defeated Dalry in the only other Super First fixture today.
Paul Murphy, loan signing from Stranraer, made his debut for the Glens partnering Cammy Menzies at the heart of the visitors’ defence, who also had Lewis Sloan back in the starting eleven having missed the last two league games.
The early exchanges saw play rage from end to end as both sides built attacks from defence moving the ball at pace from box to box. Perhaps the slickest of these moves was engineered by the Glens as early as the fourth minute when a Gareth Armstrong head flick was gathered by Gareth Campbell just inside the box and instantly rolled back out to Paul McKenzie whose snapshot went just wide of keeper Davie Markey’s right hand post. On 14 minutes a ball in from the left flank caught Glenafton’s defence flat-footed and Ally Semple did well to get down low to push the ball wide for a corner kick, which was mopped up safely as the rearguard redeemed themselves. Ten minutes later with the visitors on the offensive again a loud shout for a Hurlford hand ball on the half-way line from an Andy Bell through-ball was waved away by the referee. The home side , however, failed to make most of the reprieve and Gareth Armstrong capitalised on a defensive error and won the race to gather the loose ball on the 18 yard line and lob it over the head of the onrushing Markey into the gaping net. Celebrations were subdued as the striker, who had looked out of sorts, left the field of play to loud applause from the travelling support, to be replaced by Steven Greenlees. Murphy made way for the big defender and moved into a central midfield role, with Sloan joining Campbell up front.
The goal heralded a change in tactics from Hurlford and their passing play was usurped by a more direct route to goal with the disadvantage that possession was typically surrendered more readily and thereby the Glens having much more of the ball. That is not to say the home side didn’t have their moments and none more so than on the half hour mark when a Jamie Wilson header was inches wide of target. Markey, once on Kilmarnock’s books, was the busiest of both keepers being tested by Sloan from distance and then he denied McKenzie twice in the closing five minutes of the half. H/T Hurlford 0 Glens 1
Hurlford started the new half brightly and turned the tables in terms of possession but fairly quickly the game deteriorated into a dour struggle, littered with fouls, few of which yielded set pieces executed with any real potency. The first decent post-interval chance came on 66 minutes when a scramble in the Glens box ended with Semple bravely blocking a close range effort from substitute Ryan Jordan. Five minutes later the impressive Mark Doolan tried from further out but his blistering shot went just over Semple’s fingertips and the bar. At the other end the Glens’ were often let down by the final ball into the box and a ‘killer’ second goal seemed as unlikely as that as a leveller from their opponents. That was until the 90th minute of the game when former Glenafton player Aaron Scoular was fouled in the box by Steven Greenlees and a penalty kick awarded to the home side. Up stepped Robert McPhee and struck the ball firmly to Semple’s right only for the keeper to dive at full stretch and push it past the post. The danger was far from over and the visitors scrambled the first corner clear at the expense of the other, which proved to be less threatening. Further drama at the other end of Blair Park when Gareth Campbell received a second yellow card for his attempt to block a kick out from the home keeper, an attempt to which Markey appeared oblivious and unperturbed, but off went the Glens’ striker and so too the final whistle some forty seconds later. F/T Hurlford 0 Glens 1
Glenafton: Semple; McEwan, Murphy, Menzies, McKillen; McKenzie, Bell, Potter, Sloan (Cashmore); Armstrong (Greenlees), Campbell