Stagecoach West Region Premier Division
Saturday 13th April, Meadow Park, Irvine
IRVINE MEADOW 0 (0)
GLENAFTON ATHLETIC 1 (0)
Glenafton and Irvine Meadow clashed for the third time this season and ultimately the match was decided by a late John Dempster strike that gave the New Cumnock side three wins out of three over the reigning champions and more importantly three huge league points.
The visitors made the early running with captain Paul McKenzie on a couple of occasions mowing his way through the Meadow midfield. One ended in a trip by Liam McGuinness earning him an early yellow card and a free kick for the Glens that failed to trouble keeper Michael Wardrope. Ryan Miller then gathered a Craig McEwan throw-in and turned Richie Reeder inside out before cutting the ball across the face of goal which was partially cleared before falling to McKenzie and his shot went wide of target.
Meadow’s forward play was less evident with the only threat coming from glimpses of Adam Strachan’s pace down the left flank which ended abruptly when his cut-backs were mopped up by Glen Mitchell and Richie McKillen at the heart of the visitors defence.
Another Glenafton set piece from just outside the box came to nothing. On ten minutes Wardrope rushed to the corner of the box to punch the ball clear from the head of Ross Robertson, the Glens striker left in a heap in the aftermath. Ten minutes later Jack Steele nicked the ball from the toe of Reeder and released Robertson who then turned Zander Ryan at the edge of the box only for his shot to be blocked and cleared.
Midway through the half McKillen brought a fine run by Strachan to an end at the expense of a corner but the set-piece malaise which enveloped the game continued to prevail as the resultant kick sailed over the bar. Richie Barr tried his luck with a shot from twenty yards out that finished two yards wide of target.
Robertson, scorer of five goals in his last four games, who had never recovered from an earlier knock was replaced by John Dempster . Soon after, McKenzie played Danny Mitchell into the box with Dempster in support but again the Meadow defence stood firm.
At the other end Strachan won a free-kick at the edge of the box but the outcome inevitably sailed high over Semple’s bar and almost over the high wire fence behind his goal. Meadow then enjoyed their best spell of pressure and arguably created the best chance of the half only for Semple to deny Barr through the narrowing the angle and pulling off a fine save at the near post. The home side continued to press and switched Strachan to the right but they could not conjure up any further chances of equal note.
Five minutes before break good build up play down the left from the Glens ended with Dempster working his way into the box and his shot from a tight angle find the side netting. H/T Meadow 0 Glens 0
As in the first half, Glenafton were first to show albeit ably assisted by Meadow. On 48 minutes Miller nicked the ball with ease from Ryan and took a few strides toward goal before unleashing a shot from 22 yards out which whizzed over the bar. Three minutes later the same player capitalised on a slip by Mark Campbell to burst down the left flank before making his way into the box where Ryan made amends for his earlier mishap by dispossessing the Glens striker with a well-timed tackled; the referee well positioned to wave away penalty claims.
Meadow quickly regained their composure and on 52 minutes were unfortunate not to get their noses in front when Gareth Turner engineered his way behind the visitors back line to drill a shot to which Semple may just have got a touch before the ball cannoned off the post and the keeper then scrambled along the ground to smother the rebound. The home side continued to press and only a timely intervention by McKenzie prevented Reeder from tapping in at the back post.
Some respite for the Glens saw McKenzie curl in a wicked free kick only for Ryan to head clear and Meadow were soon back on the front foot . On the hour mark another chance to take the lead went a-begging when, with the visitors’ defence stretched, a ball from the right found the unmarked McGuinness at the back post but with Semple stranded and the open net beckoning he failed to find the target.
Only half-chances fell the way of the visitors, Steele did well to find space in the box and control the ball before blasting over and then a cracking corner-kick from Gus Cochrane failed to find any takers. On 74 minutes Meadow’s luck deserted them again as they came close to breaking the deadlock, albeit in controversial circumstances. Glen Mitchell was floored with a face knock but Barr was allowed to play on and from the right hand corner flag lofted the ball to the back post where the incoming Turner met it first time only to blast it off the post. Ten men Glens then survived some aerial attacks as Mitchell received treatment on the side line to stop the bleeding nose.
Dempster and Steele played a peach of a one-two which concluded with the former’s first time strike from the edge of the box soaring just wide of target, while at the other end Semple clutched a Barr header with ease.
Both sides made changes with Finlay Frye replacing McGuinness for the Meadow while later the Glens brought on Gareth Armstrong for Miller and then Gareth Campbell for Cochrane.
With three minutes to go the substitutions paid dividends for the visitors. Campbell picked out Armstrong who killed the ball in the ‘D’ at the edge of the penalty box and faced with a line of three Meadow defenders bided his time before rolling the ball wide for the incoming John Dempster who having given the fourth of the back four the slip made his way to the corner of the six yard box before calmly placing the ball beyond the reach of Wardrope and into the safe have of the Meadow net.
The juxtaposition of the red topped celebrations and the blue shirted post-mortem underlined the stark significance of the goal for both sides.
The home side dusted themselves down and pegged the Glens back as they went in search of a share of the points. Two minutes into added time a Strachan cross from the right was met at the back post by Barr only for his venomous volley to be bravely blocked by Craig Potter and Armstrong. Two minutes later the whistle went, fittingly with Dempster in control of the ball at the Meadow’s corner. F/T Meadow 0 Glens 1
Irvine Meadow: Wardrope, Reeder, Halliday, Ryan, Campbell, Strain, Hamilton, McGuiness (Frye), Barr, Strachan, Turner. Subs McGowan, McLellan, Howitt
Glenafton Athletic: Semple; Potter, G. Mitchell, McKillen, McEwan; McKenzie, D.Mitchell, Steele, Cochrane (Campbell); Miller (Armstrong), Roberston (Dempster). Subs McChesney, Colligan, Eaglesham, Dunsmuir.
Other scores: Arthurlie 1 Petershill 1, Clydebank 1 Ashfield 0, Kirkintilloch 1 Cumnock 3, Pollok 3 Beith 2.