Glenafton hosted Kello Rovers and Troon in the pre-season Challenge Cup at Loch Park in a round robin format of games of half an hour each way. The Glens were without Gareth Armstrong, Gareth Campbell and Ally Semple all through injury (the keeper requiring nine stitches to a knee sustained at midweek training) while new signing Danny Mitchell was on holiday. As in the Joe Meldrum Trophy last week former Glenafton player Andy Bell guested for the hosts.
Game 1: Glenafton 0 Kello Rovers 0
Newly promoted Kello Rovers, looking forward to their first season in the Super League 1st Division, created the lion’s share of the chances in the opening half. Former Glens’ players Alan Middleton and Jim Wilson both tested Ryan Dunsmuir from distance however the young keeper showing a safe pair of hands to deny each attempt. Glenafton’s best attempt was created by Bobby Colligan when a burst of speed took him deep into the Kello box but his blast at goal battered off the post.
The home side featured more prominently as an attacking force after the break but were thwarted by some stunning saves from Lugar keeper Ronnie Davis – the pick of them a point blank stop from a Scott McManus drive after an excellent run took him to the corner of the six yard box. Despite their second half superiority the hosts were almost undone at the death when a Jim Wilson header skimmed over Dunsmuir’s bar.
Glenafton: Dunsmuir, Bell (Menzies) McChesney, Mitchell G.(Henderson), McKillen; Colligan, Murphy, Potter, McKenzie; Dempster (McManus), Boyle
Game 2: Troon 4 Kello Rovers 2
Rovers, who pipped Troon by 2 points to promotion from the Ayrshire District League last season, raced to an early lead when former Glens’ player Steven Shankland rounded the keeper with some finesse to stroke the ball home. Two minutes later the sides were level as Gareth Armstrong was on hand to finish off a fine passing move and guide the ball over the line at the back post. Midway through the half former Talbot striker David Gillies, another summer signing, put the Portland parkers ahead drilling the ball low and hard into the corner of the net. Seven minutes later it was all square as Dean Keenan’s tackle on Steven Shankland at the edge of the box ended with the ball looping high in the air and over the head of the stranded keeper and into the gaping net.
Honours were even in the opening encounters of the second half before Troon took control of the game. Midway through the half Dale Moore, former Glens Boys Club player, was unfortunate to see his exquisite effort to lob keeper Daviis skim off the outside of the post. Agony transformed to ecstasy five minutes when he skipped his way to the bye-line and cut back for David Gillies to fire an unstoppable shot home from seven yards out.
In what effectively was the last kick of the game Scott Chatham fired home a free kick for Troon much to the surprise of the host of players gathered in the box preparing to challenge for his incoming cross.
Game 3: Troon 2 Glenafton Athletic 2
Glenafton dominated the first half and will consider the game could have been over as a contest before the break. Early pressure paid off with the award of a penalty on ten minutes after a Paul McKenzie run was halted by a blatant tug on his shirt which also saw the culprit sent off. Sportingly Glens’ manager Darren Henderson intervened to plea for leniency and although there was to be no reprieve for the offender Troon were allowed to bring on a replacement, former Afton lad Cammy McKinnell. Back to the football and Scott McManus slammed home the spot-kick to put the Glens ahead. Three minutes later he doubled the hosts’ lead after meeting a McKenzie corner kick at the far end of the six yard box with a perfectly placed header that looped over the keeper’s reach and into the postage stamp at the other end of the goal.
Two minutes later a Paul Murphy free-kick cannoned off the wall before bouncing off the post but McManus’ attempt to slot home the rebound for his hat-trick was well blocked by the keeper. A minute later the keeper rushed from his line to take the ball from the feet of Bobby Colligan as he burst into the box after showing the Troon defence a clean pair of heels some thirty yards from goal. Some respite for Troon as Moore fired from distance but Dunsmuir had it covered as it zoomed just wide of target. Back came the Glens through Craig Menzies who stormed down the right flank to the bye-line but his cut-back just failed to connect with John Dempster in the box. McKenzie tried the other flank, dancing past Troon defenders to lay the ball off to Dempster only for his effort from four yards out to be held by the keeper.
Just before the break a shell-shocked Troon began to show signs of recovery. A ball bombed over the top of the Glens back line forced Dunsmuir to race to edge of his box to face the incoming Armstrong and although he could do little to stop the midfielder squaring the ball into box there were no Troon takers and the danger passed momentarily. Soon after Dunsmuir, at full stretch, got both hands to a Keenan free-kick and Keenan’s header from the resultant corner-kick went inches wide, as did McKenzie’s header at the other end in the last chance of the half. Indeed it proved to be the midfielder’s last chance as he hobbled to the dressing room at the break.
A determined run deep into the Troon box by McManus deserved more as the striker tried to find the postage stamp again but his shot sailed inches wide with the keeper beaten. Any suggestion that the half was to be a mirror image of the first were quickly dispelled five minutes after the restart. A perfectly executed one-two saw Scott Chatham steal behind the Glens defence and drill the ball home from an acute angle. The visitors seized the initiative and pegged the Glens back for long periods without creating any clear-chances as they pushed for an equaliser. Similarly, when the Glens forced their way upfield it was with much less menace than they had shown in the first half and there was little promise of a third and killer goal.
As energy levels sapped throughout both sides Dale Moore had still some in reserve and with two minutes to go he was first to react to challenge for the loose ball emerging from a goal mouth scramble and spring in the air to head home and secure the draw.
Glenafton : Dunsmuir; Mitchell G, McChesney, Henderson, Menzies; Trialist, Potter, Murphy, Colligan; McManus, Dempster.
Congratulations to Troon on winning the Challenge Cup.
More photos here