Stagecoach West Region Premier Division
Saturday 9th February , Saracen Park, Glasgow
ASHFIELD 2 (1)
GLENAFTON ATHLETIC 0 (0)
Glenafton’s loan signing from Ayr United Ross Robertson partnered Gareth Armstrong up front and the striker was soon in the thick of the action. The first chance of the game however fell in the first minute to full back Craig McEwan who fired a free kick from 30 yards that had keeper Stephen Hall scurrying across his goal line only for the ball to whiz narrowly wide of the post. Four minutes later the keeper went airborne to punch the ball from Robertson’s head and soon after he rose and attempted to clutch the ball from the striker’s head only to spill it and then dive to get a strong hand to it before Armstrong could pounce.
On 13 minutes the home side won a free kick twenty yards goal and although Mark Thomson beat the wall keeper Ally Semple gathered the ball comfortably. Back came the visitors and three minutes later almost made the breakthrough. A free kick lofted to the back post was headed back across goal by Robertson where Armstrong lost his marker only for his bullet header to crash off the underside of the bar and the ball hoofed clear by Robert Wright.
Glenafton continued to pile on the pressure forcing the home side to concede free kicks, with McKenzie more often than not on the receiving end, and corner kicks in equal measure. Hall’s goal remained intact surviving headers from Robertson and Glen Mitchell while a low drive from McEwan zoomed narrowly wide.
Midway through the half Ashfield burst into life when Thomson picked out Gary McCann on the half way line and the tricky winner exploded down the right flank leaving a host of red shirts in his wake before whipping the ball across the face of goal beyond the reach of Semple only for Craig Potter to keep a cool head and guide the ball behind and deny Shaun Fraser a tap in at the back post. Following some head tennis from the resultant corner the ball fell for Jim Smith in the six yard box but an alert Semple did enough to block the danger, if only temporarily. For soon after, on 24 minutes, a Glenafton attack broken down in the home box was mopped up by Paul Maxwell who in turn released the mercurial McCann and on this occasion he ventured deeper into the visitors’ box before cutting back a wicked ball which was met by the incoming Chris Hall and blasted home from three yards out. Three minutes later Maxwell set Smith free and although he got behind the Glens’ defence the back-tracking Ryan McChesney and Semple combined to foil the striker.
The visitors regained their composure and came within a whisker of drawing level on the half hour mark. Armstrong’s header from a corner struck off Robertson deep in the six yard box as did his attempt to slot home the rebound, his strike partner now grounded, the ball then fell for Richie McKillen but his shot was stopped on the line by Jamie Coll before Hall gratefully grabbed it with both hands.
The home side hit back with a slick passing move that began down the right with McCann and was switched in a flash to the left to present Wright with a free run into the box but Semple again rushed from his line, narrowed the angle and stuck out his left leg just in time to prevent the ball from being stabbed home. A minute later at the other end Robertson played a ball into the box where Danny Mitchell saw off Darroch and left Hall stranded but the nippy McCann nicked in to steal the ball and save the keeper’s blushes. The visitors continued to push but again were caught on the break when Maxwell launched the ball upfield for Smith to give chase and again he was foiled by Semple who had raced from his to line to the corner of the box. A spell of end to end play ensued without either side testing the keepers and the half concluded with Hall punching a McKenzie corner off the line. H/T Ashfield 1 Glenafton 0
An Ashfield corner kick in the opening minute came to nothing and the visitors were soon on the front foot. On 50 minutes substitute Gareth Campbell, on at the break for McKillen, saw his header from 8 yards out saved well by Hall and a minute later the keeper leaped to punch the ball clear from the head of Robertson. Glens replaced Gareth Armstrong with John Dempster as they pushed for the equaliser and the big striker came close on 58 minutes. A free kick into the box saw Robertson win the aerial battle with Hall on the penalty spot and McKenzie chip the ball into the six yard box with the keeper stranded only for Darroch and Coll to double team and block Dempster’s effort. Two minutes later Dempster slipped the ball to Paul Murphy at the edge of the box but his shot lacked the power to severely test Hall.
Respite for the home defence came in dramatic fashion a minute later when Glenafton surrendered possession in the middle of the park and Wright released with a free run in on goal. Semple, as he had done successfully on a number of occasions, run from his line to face the danger but caught Wright instead of the ball and the home side rightly awarded a penalty. The referee further adjudged the challenge was worthy of a red card for the keeper and his jersey and gloves were surrendered to full back Craig McEwan. On 63 minutes Chris Hall stepped up and sent the stand-in goalkeeper the wrong way as he slotted home the spot kick.
The game quickly took on a new complexion with the home side content to sit in and hope to pick of the ten men on the break. The visitors brought on new signing Graeme Eaglesham for Danny Mitchell but try as they might they could not penetrate a well drilled defence and a packed Ashfield box. Paul McKenzie tried a different tack and in 71 minutes his cracking volley from 30 yards out cracked off the crossbar the loose ball cleared by Thomson with Robertson lurking. The home side’s defence stood firm and the Glenafton corners that ensued were repelled in turn one after the other.
The game ground to a finish with few other chances worthy of note other than two from Chris Hall. Three minutes from time his tap in from a McCann cross beat McEwan but not the offside flag and in the last kick off the ball McEwan pulled off a point blank to deny him his hat-trick. F/T Ashfield 2 Glenafton Athletic 0
Ashfield: S.Hall, Coll Mangan Thomson Darroch Fraser Wright Hall Smith Maxwell McCann
Glenafton: Semple, McEwan, McChesney, G.Mitchell, Potter; McKenzie, D.Mitchell, Murphy (Eaglesham) , McKillen (Campbell); Armstrong (Dempster), Robertson. Subs Menzies, Cochrane, Colligan.