Emirates Scottish Junior Cup 4th Round
Sat 21st January, Abbey Park, Kilwinning, KO 1:45pm
KILWINNING RANGERS 1 (1) GLENAFTON ATHLETIC 0 (0)
With both sides chasing promotion from their respective league, Kilwinning handily positioned third-top of the Ayrshire District League and Glenafton sitting top of the Super League 1st Division, the scene was set for an intriguing all Ayrshire Emirates Scottish Junior Cup 4th round tie at Abbey Park.
Glenafton kicked off in the bright sunshine against a cold cutting wind that blasted from the shed end goal-mouth to the one guarding the Garnock Water gushing its way to the Irvine Bay well fed by the heavy rain that fell overnight. Neither team could master elements in the opening encounters. The Buffs won two corners in five minutes but both times the ball was more likely to end up in the Garnock rather than in Glenafton’s net. Meanwhile the visitors had little time to dwell on the ball having to rush their clearances from defence and their progress upfield was very much three steps forward and two back at times. A couple of free kicks from 20 yards out came and went without keeper Fraser Stewart being tested.
In stark contrast Kilwinning’s attacks were often at break-neck speed with the pace of Ben Lewis, doubly dangerous when wind assisted, down the right flank keeping the Glenafton rear guard on their toes. On 15 minutes he combined well with the equally impressive David Smith but the attacking wing back’s shot from an acute angle was blocked by Robbie Henderson at the expense of another corner kick. Now having the measure of the wind the kick found the head of former Glenafton striker Michael Hart but the close attention of Richie McKillen forced his header well wide of target. Three minutes later Andy Bell’s perseverance down the left earned the Glens their first corner kick but it too suffered from their previous set piece malaise and lacked threat.
Midway through the half the Buffs made good effect of the left wing with a run by Barry Fleeting ending in a shot that was deflected narrowly wide of Semple’s far post with the keeper stranded. The resultant corner caused panic with Neil Shearer’s header falling for Lewis but his attempt to fire home was blocked by John Dempster and then Barry Russell blasted the loose ball wide.
The sunshine gave way to thick heavy cloud and the heavens opened for seven minutes filling the shed with supporters of both sides in jig time while no doubt at the other end the Garnock swelled further. Not for the feint hearted .This proved to be the visitors’ best spell in terms of possession at least and the Buffs box was the busier of the two. With 33 minutes gone the Glens seriously tested Stewart for the first time and the keeper was up to challenge coming off his line to dive at the feet of Dempster after the big striker had bustled past Shearer and Lee Grant to break into the box.
As the sun made a welcome return, but clearly with the threat of a further deluge, the Buffs emerged reenergised. Lewis won another corner on the right and former Glenafton defender Roland Fabiani won the header at the near post with the loose ball falling to Russell at the edge of the box, his sweetly struck shot stinging Semple’s hands before the keeper gathered the ball at the second attempt. The Glens responded with a break of their own but with little support Gareth Campbell was forced into a speculative shot from 25 yards out which ended high and wide of target. Two minutes before the break the home side produced the move of the match. Hart picked up the ball in the centre circle and switched to Lewis on the right who released Smith in the box who slipped the ball beyond the outrushing Semple but with too much pace for the incoming Hart to collect and slide into the empty net. Again Afton responded well and Paul McKenzie broke free down the left only for Fleeting to push out him out of play. With what looked to be last chance of the half the Glens launched the free kick into the box which was only partially cleared and headed back into the danger area by Henderson where Stuart Hannah gathered for the Buffs and set Ben Lewis flying down the right wing with McKillen and Craig Potter in pursuit and on entering the box he drilled a the ball home low and hard beyond the advancing Semple into the far corner. Glenafton kicked off and the referee blew to bring the half to a close. H/T Kilwinning 1 Glenafton 0
The Buffs almost doubled their lead from a Bruce McMaster free kick ten minutes into the new half. Semple at full stretch punched the ball from under the bar as Fabiani looked certain to head home and then Dempster blocked Lewis’ attempt to slot home from close range allowing Semple gather. Three minutes later Henderson headed a McKenzie corner wide of targets as the game entered a period of chances being swapped at either end. Indeed three minutes after that Henderson, in his more natural defensive role slid into prevent Hart and Lewis connecting with another killer cross from McMaster on the left. The Glens countered with a couple of corners but again the Buffs defence was not to be breached. On 69 minutes keeper Stewart looked flustered for the first time as McKenzie wriggled his way through a packed box before Bell picked up the cudgel but his attempt to scissors kick the ball home went wide.
Another seven minute squall descended upon Abbey Park and both sets of players deserve great credit for continuing to make a contest of it as supporters dived for cover. Thankfully it cleared and in the closing ten minutes the visitors gained the upper hand as they sought to salvage a replay. With 8 minutes to go former Buffs striker Gareth Armstrong broke the middle and with Fabiani closing in attempted to toe-poke the ball home form the 18 yard line but Stewart read the situation well and gathered the ball comfortably. Four minutes later Campbell fired in a free kick from the left touchline but although it beat the keeper at full stretch it whizzed past the post. Two minutes on and a McKenzie corner wasn’t fully cleared and the ball lobbed high into the goal for Stewart to pull of the save of the match rising from his goal line to palm the ball over the bar with Armstrong at his side. The visitors went on to win four or five more corners Stewart clutching the last of these to his chest deep into the four minutes of added on time to end the Glens cup run put the Buffs into the hat for the fifth round. F/T Kilwinning 1 Glenafton 0
Kilwinning: Stewart, Smith, Fleeting, Grant, Shearer, Fabiani, Hannah, Russell, Hart, Lewis, McMaster. Subs McCreadie, Frye, Ferris, Robertson, Deeney, McDowall and Lundy
Glenafton: Semple; McEwan (Cashmore), Murphy, Henderson, McKillen; McKenzie, Armstrong, Potter, Bell (Menzies); Dempster & Armstrong Subs not used. Dunsmuir (gk), McChesney, Hay