West Region Super League 1st Division
Saturday 28th April , Loch Park, New Cumnock,
GLENAFTON ATHLETIC 3 (2)
KILSYTH RANGERS 0 (0)
Having spent the morning enjoying the glories of Glen Afton during a walk organised by the local East Ayrshire Ranger it was off to watch Glenafton take on the Rangers of Kilsyth as the top two sides in the league looked to garner more points in their quest for league glory and promotion to the Premier Division. The birdsong of the chaffinches, willow warblers and blue tits replaced by the nervous chatter of expectation emanating from home and away supporters alike; the wide expansive meadows fringed by ancient woodlands replaced by the lush green Loch Park hemmed in by terracing and hopefully the gently flowing sweet Afton replaced by some fast flowing football. Rabbie eat your heart out!
Home keeper Ally Semple had to be alert and rush to the edge of his box to clear from the feet of Joe Barclay as he looked to capitalise on a slack pass back and open the scoring in the opening ten seconds. Ten minutes passed before the home side posed a threat when a Craig Menzies cross picked out Paul McKenzie in the six yard box but the midfielder couldn’t guide his header on target. Four minutes later McKenzie’s trickery left two blue shirts sprawling on the ground as he waltzed through the box only for the ball run free before he could test keeper Michael Duke. Barclay for the visitors continued to look lively up front keeping the home defence on their toes who responded well ensuring that Semple was seldom called into action, until the 17th minute, when a Francis Kelly drive from 20 yards out had the keeper diving low and at full stretch to push the ball away. Two minutes later a good run by Philip Dolan ended with his shot at goal sailing Semple’s bar.
On 19 minutes Glenafton came close to breaking the deadlock when John Dempster rose head and shoulders above David Waters to head a Gus Cochrane corner-kick goal-ward only for the ball to be blocked by strike partner Gareth Armstrong deep in the six yard block and despite his best efforts he couldn’t hook the ball beyond the reaches of Duke, by now on his knees. At the other end Semple punched the ball from the head of Paul Doyle, after further fine work from Dolan had earned Kilsyth a corner kick. The home side responded with a corner of their own and a Richie McKillen header was scrambled away before possession was surrendered again as Glenafton began to turn the screw and their pressure was rewarded on 26 minutes through a stunning strike. A long clearance by Semple was killed dead by McKenize and quickly despatched to John Dempster , 20 yards out lurking with intent at the edge of ‘D’ and with his back to goal, held off the attention of Calum Scott, before turning and whipping the ball into the top corner of the net beyond the reach of Duke who had strayed from his line.
Glenafton’s tails were up and their passing game was now in full flow as they pushed forward in waves, with Paul Murphy to the fore, pinning Rangers deep in their own half. On 31 minutes McKillen floated a free-kick tight from the right hand touch-line into the box for Dempster to head-flick the ball to the far end of the six yard box where Armstrong guided it across the face of goal and Ryan McChesney stole in between Doyle and Graeme McLaren but his shot crashed off the underside of the crossbar, unperturbed McChesney was again quickest to react and poked the loose ball over the line beyond the reach of the grounded Duke. The smile on the young defender’s face was as wide as Duke’s net as he celebrated his first competitive goal for his home town team with his appreciative team-mates.
The visitors picked themselves up and won a free-kick on the edge of the Glen’s box but although McLaren’s effort beat the wall it failed to test Semple as the ball flew high over the bar. At the other end Menzies and Dempster combined to feed Craig Potter’s run to the bye-line but his cut back for Armstrong was punched away before being booted clear by Stephen McPeake. The half drew to a close with a Kilsyth corner but that like its predecessors came to nothing. H/T Glens 2 Kilsyth 0
Glenafton kicked off and seconds later an Armstrong rocket from 25 yards pinged off the outside of Duke’s right hand post to the on-looking keeper’s relief. Five minutes later Duke played a much more active role pulling off a fine save from Menzies after a one two with McKenzie saw the defender burst into the box and fire for goal. At the other end Menzies’ leap did enough to force Barclay to head wide of target from close range heralding a period of sustained pressure from the visitors. A couple of corners in quick succession saw Glenafton’s captain Robbie Henderson win the aerial battle on both occasions although McLaren’s acrobatic effort to volley home one of the clearances was equally noteworthy. Rangers continued to push and Semple rose to pluck the ball from the air as McKillen shielded his keeper from Barlcay’s presence.
Back came the home side. McKenzie’s magic saw the midfielder fly down the right flank and break into the box where he turned defender Ryan Carr inside out time and again before crossing for the incoming Dempster at the back post and although he was forced to retreat he picked out Potter on the outskirts of the box but the midfielder’s crack at goal was well off target. Back came the visitors and a quick break down the right wing ended with substitute Darren Dalrymple heading the resultant cross from the clutches of Semple and Barclay’s effort to poke home the loose ball blocked at the expense of a corner which again was mopped up by Glenafton.
Midway through the half, with a 2-0 game poised at that ‘next goal crucial’ stage, the Glens introduced Gareth Campbell for Gus Cochrane in a clear statement of their intent to bag that crucial goal and a minute later the home side looked to have done just that. Campbell won the ball on the half way line and passed to Dempster on the overlap who in turn fed the overlapping Menzies and another brilliantly executed one-two between the two saw Menzies drive in on goal and blast the ball as he entered the six yard only for Duke to make a great point blank save and then as he fell stretch an arm out to halt McKenzie’s effort to poke the loose ball home dead on the goal-line.
The sides took turn- about at winning corner kicks as they sought out that elusive goal with the trailing visitors’ cause of course that much more urgent but the home side perhaps showing that greater sense of urgency. With 8 minutes to go Glenafton effectively sealed the points with a third and killer goal that epitomised their performance. McKenzie made a lung bursting run to try and win a ball he had no chance of winning but instead forced Kilsyth to concede a throw-in just inside their own half. Armstrong the recipient of the shy lobbed the ball over Dalrymple’s head to allow man-of-the-match Menzies to burst into the box again and draw Duke from his line before cutting back for Campbell to surely burst the net from 6 yards out, only for Scott to bravely block and the power of the shot take the ball out of the danger area -chance gone? Nothing of the sort, McKenzie gathered the ball and his cross from the bye-line saw Campell beat three defenders to head low into Duke’s right hand corner with the keeper caught wrong-footed on the line.
In the closing minutes both sides again exchanged a few corner kicks and again these were well defended and there was to be no more scoring as Glenafton closed the gap on league leaders to three points and of course continue to have two games in hand.
Glenafton: Semple; Menzies, McChesney, Henderson, McKillen; McKenzie, Cochrane (Campbell), Murphy, Potter; Armstrong (Boyle), Dempster (Cashmore). Subs. Dunsmuir (gk), McEwan, Colligan
Kilsyth: Duke; Scott, Doyle,Waters, Carr; Kelly, McPeake, McLellan, Dolan; Barclay, McLaren Subs. McClung, Hughes, Dempsey, O’Neill, Dalrymple