Glenafton kept their promotion hopes alive with a 3-2 defeat of Kilwinning Rangers in a rip roaring Monday night encounter at Loch Park. The home side took an early lead through a Gareth Armstrong header in 5 minutes and the Glens leading goal scorer lobbed a spectacular second from 25 yards out ten minutes later. Trialist Chris McGroarity nipped in at the back post to tap in a third with half an hour gone. The Buffs battled back and a Ben Lewis header before the break and a stunning strike from Kris Mitchell ten minutes reduced the deficit to a single goal. Try as they might neither side could add to their tally as keepers Ally Semple and Scott Wilson and the woodwork stood firm.
Clydebank’s victory at Hurlford two days later ended the slimmest of chances the Glens had of winning the league as the Bankie’s re-established their 8 point lead over the Loch Park side, with only two games remaining of their campaign. Glenafton’s real threats from the promotion place were the chasing pack of Whitletts, Girvan, Ashfield and Shotts.
The visit of Ashfield, a proverbial six-pointer ended in a dismissal 3-0 defeat for the Glens. After a goal-less first half the visitors took the lead through a Tony Chalmers spot-kick before Paul Maxwell bagged a brace, to leave the Saracen Park side trailing second placed Glens by one point with three games in hand. While Glenafton’s only real hope of promotion was now via the play-off place, league leaders Clydebank’s win at Bellshill ensured their promotion to the Premier Division, and only Ashfield could deny them of the Championship by winning all of their three remaining games.
Glenafton hosted Shotts on Saturday 14th May in their last league game of the season where the Hannah Park side still harboured hopes of homing in on the play off place, trailing the Glens by four points with two games in hand. After a goal-less and yet keenly contested first half the Glens made the breakthrough within 2 minutes of the restart, a Willie Howie releasing the Paul McKenzie into the box and the magical midfielder’s cut-back from the bye-line was drilled home by Gareth Armstrong, his 18th goal of the season. The Glens defence stood firm and the three crucial points secured to ensure the Glens finished with a league record of PL26 W12 D7 L7 F41 A32 43pts.
Ashfield were still one point behind 2nd placed Glens with three games in hand and were odds on to secure the other remaining automatic promotion place. Of greater concern for the Glens were fourth placed Girvan who now required 5 points from their remaining three games to pip the New Cumnock side to the promotion play-off place. Glenafton were now spectators as the closing league games played out to a conclusion.
Two days later Ashfield completed the formality of securing promotion with a 5-2 thrashing of Hurlford at Saracen and on the following Saturday beat Clydebank at Holm Park to close the gap on the leaders to three points with 1 game to play. Of greater interest to the Glens was Girvan’s draw at Shotts, which simplified the arithmetic too to the Seasiders requiring to accumulate four points from their final two games, home to relegation threatened Renfrew and away to title chasing Ashfield.
The agony for on-watching Glenafton was prolonged when the Girvan v Renfrew game was scheduled for Sat 21st May, leaving mid-week bare of fixtures – summer football anyone! However, the wait was worth it as ‘Frew fought off relegation fears with a 1-0 victory, ensuring the Glens would finish 3rd in the league and face 3rd bottom in the Premier Division in a two leg play-off.
Petershill appeared destined to be Glenafton’s opponents but a 3-1 win over Auchinleck Talbot at Beechwood saw them leapfrog Cumnock, leaving the Townhead side the task of having to beat Rob Roy the following week to secure their Premier Division status. Former Glenafton player Chic Connolly missed a first half penalty for the ‘Nock while another former Afton lad, Chris Zok scored to give the Rabs a 2-0 lead at the break and a Glenafton v Cumnock play-off was on the cards. Stevie Farrell’s fighters fired in five second half goals while Kirkintilloch fired blanks and the Glens would indeed face Petershill in the play-off.