Stagecoach West Region Premier Division
Saturday 10th November , Loch Park, New Cumnock
GLENAFTON ATHLETIC 2 (1)
IRVINE MEADOW XI 1 (0)
OH DANNY JOY
The meeting of last season’s Super League 1st Division champions Glenafton and the Premier Division champions Irvine Meadow began with an early goal for the home side, a player from each side shown a straight red soon after the break, a late equaliser from the visitors to seemingly steal a share of the points only for the Glens to snatch an injury time winner to ignite scenes of joy and celebration from the men in the flame red shirts.
Glenafton started on the front foot and the Meadow defence found Gareth Armstrong a handful (and throughout the game as it transpired) as he shielded the ball from their view prior to picking out a partner in red in their common quest to breach the blue back-line. On four minutes with his back to goal and Chris McGowan at his back he chested the ball back to the edge of the box for Danny Mitchell to have a pop at goal but it lacked the power to worry Michael Wardrope who held the ball comfortably. Two minutes later another Glens attack appeared to have come to nothing when Neil McGowan forced John Paul Boyle to rethink his plans to breach the box on the right side. The former Meadow player retreated and the ball found its way back to Ryan McChesney who lofted a perfect ball into the heart of the danger area where Paul McKenzie, in acres of space between JP McKeever and C. McGowan, rose to head the ball in at the near post leaving the keeper flat-footed on his line.
Armstrong’s aerial prowess continued to haunt ‘the McGowans’ as the Glens enjoyed the bulk of possession, however further clear cut chances were proving to be thin on a ground that was getting heavier by the moment as the light rain seeped into the saturated surface.
Meadow’s first serious opening was fashioned on 28 minutes by David Hamilton with a crisp cross to the far post where Keigan Parker headed the ball back into the six yard box for striking partner Richie Barr but not for the last time the threat of Meadow’s leading scorer was snuffed out by McChesney. Ten minutes before the break the visitors caught the home side on the break and Parker pushed forward with Barr in tandem while Glen Mitchell and Craig McEwan gave pursuit only for the wheels to come off the move as Parker’s attempt to release his partner in the box was mis-hit. H/T Glens 1 Meadow 0
The new half was only four minutes old when Barr reacted angrily to a McChesney tackle with an elbow into the young defender’s face and a straight red card swiftly followed for the frustrated forward. A minute later and matters for Meadow almost went from bad to worse when Danny Mitchell burst into the box behind the visitors defence and cut the ball back for Boyle on the six yard line but he failed to connect much to the relief of Wardrope. Two minutes later and another twist of fortune saw the home side reduced to ten men when McEwan and Neil McGowan gave chase for a ball played down the Glens’ left flank, with no quarter given by either player, the sliding tackle of the Glens man was adjudged worthy of a straight red. Richie McKillen replaced Boyle and slotted into McEwan’s position.
Soon after, Meadow introduced Frank Gibson for Zander Ryan in a tactical move that immediately raised the tempo of the visitors’ play and they began to peg back their hosts for long spells. Ally Semple did well to leap at full stretch to clutch a Gareth Turner cross and hold the ball firmly to his chest as he fell to the ground as Gibson waited in vain for any spillage.
Midway through the half Gareth Armstrong left the park to rapturous applause from the home support in recognition of his tireless shift and was replaced by John Dempster. Any sense of relief at seeing the back of Bo (as they had most of the game) from the Meadow defence soon dissipated as Dempster deftly dinked the ball over ‘the McGowans’ into the box where Paul Murphy lobbed it for the top corner only for Wardrope to pull off a stunning save and then rush from his line to prevent McKenzie crashing home the rebound.
At the other end a dangerous ball in from the left was met by the gambolling Gibson at the back post but the quality of his header failed to match that of his leap and ball ended well off target. Glenafton responded with a slick passing move on the sticky surface. McKillen broke down a Meadow attack on the edge of the box and fed McKenzie in midfield, he then in turn picked out Dempster wide on the right. Cutting inside he deposited the ball with Craig Potter on the outskirts of the box who rolled the ball wide left to the overlapping McKillen to slip it back into the danger area for the incoming Dempster and although his shot beat Wardrope it went inches wide. On 73 minutes Wardrope blocked Dempster’s powerful shot but the offside flag was up in any case, however McKenzie had only eyes for the rebound and volleyed it into the net from 18 yards out, only to be booked for wasting time! The pair then combined to take the ball to the dead ball line where Dempster’s cut back looked destined for Murphy only for the alert Gibson to make a last ditch clearance.
With the light beginning to fail as quick as the rain was now falling Meadow conjured up an equaliser on 85 minutes when after a scramble to clear a free-kick launched into the Glens’ box saw the ball fall for Chris McGowan and the former Cumnock defender showed great composure and some panache to blast the ball home from short range.
Credit to Glenafton their heads remained aloft as they went in search of a winner. In the closing minute of regulation time McKenzie’s menacing forced Neil McGowan to concede a corner. The kick delivered by McKenzie was headed on its way by Murphy only to be bravely punched from the head of McChesney by Wardrope. Two minutes into injury time Craig Menzies and Murphy combined well down the right before the Glens’ captain played the ball into the box, where despite giving C. McGowan yards of a start, Dempster got to it first and rolled it into the path of Danny Mitchell who drilled the ball low and hard into the far corner beyond the reach of Wardrope – what a winner.
The falling gloom was instantly illuminated with fantastic scenes of a team united in celebration, as the huddle of flame red shirts merged into one large fireball – sadly not quite bright enough to compensate for the failing shutter speed of my camera already suffering from shaking with joy!
Glenafton Athletic: Semple; Menzies. McChesney, G. Mitchell, McEwan; McKenzie, Potter, Murphy, D.Mitchell; Boyle (McKillen) , Armstrong (Dempster)
Irvine Meadow: Wardrope McKeever Halliday N McGowan C McGowan McGuinness Ryan Hamilton (Reader) Barr Parker (Strain Jnr) Turner.
Other scores : Arthurlie 4 Beith 1; Ashfield 1 Petershill 2; Auchinleck 3 Kirkintilloch 3; Clydebank 2 Cumnock 1; Pollok 2 Shotts 1