Monday 30th July 2018 - West Region Sectional League Cup Group 14
(Report by Peter Ferguson)
Dale Simeon fires Glencairn into the lead from the penalty spot.
Glencairn made it back-to-back home wins to start the season as they defeated Blantyre Victoria to consolidate their place at the top of the Sectional League Cup group. The result leaves The Glens needing a point from the final group game away to East Kilbride Thistle on Wednesday night to secure a place in the knock-out stages of the competition.
With manager Willie Harvey only just returned from holiday and assistant manager Joe Pryce unavailable for the match, the responsibility for team selection fell to first team coach George Fotheringham, and he chose to make no fewer than nine changes to the starting team from Saturday's big win over Larkhall Thistle. That meant first competitive starts in Glencairn's black and white for defender Div Quinn and midfielders Tommy Porter and Harry Mitchell, with the only players retained from the previous match being captain Tony Fraser and playmaker Dale Simeon.
The early stages of the match saw the visitors on the front foot, with winger Lewis McDonald in particular catching the eye with his pace and directness. McDonald skipped past Stewart Hall into the penalty area in the 12th minute and squared across goal, denied by a timely sliding block at the near post by Fraser.
Glencairn hadn't threatened much until the 12th minute when they were given the perfect chance to take the lead. Ryan McArdle's cross towards Liam Gormley ended with the striker being bundled over as he tried to connect with the ball, and the referee didn't hesitate to whistle for a penalty kick. Dale Simeon stepped up to confidently fire into the roof of the net (pictured at top) to put The Glens into the lead.
Blantyre didn't let this setback dent their attacking ambitions, however, with McDonald on the left and former Glencairn under 21 player Nadeem Zeb on the right stretching the home defence with their pace and delivery. Craig McGregor was called on to make two fine defensive interceptions to keep his side in front as the mid point of the first half approached.
Simeon went close to doubling his tally in the 26th minute as he linked well with Gormley on the edge of the penalty area, firing a low left footed shot narrowly wide of the target. McDonald continued to threaten at the other end as he skipped into the penalty area again, McLellan racing out to make a fine block at the winger's feet.
Mitchell pounced on a loose ball on the left wing in the 36th minute and curled in an inviting cross towards Gormley, but the ball just had too much pace on it and flashed across goal before the striker could get on to it.
There was a blow for The Vics when Zeb had to leave the field with his head wrapped in a towel, and he was replaced by Declan Brown. A fine cross from the left by Quinn picked out the run of Simeon in the 40th minute, but the normally accurate finisher sent his half volley over the crossbar from close range.
The referee courted controversy in the 43rd minute as he allowed a Blantyre attack to continue despite Brown's cross clearly curling out of play and then back onto the pitch. It resulted in a header by Jamie Hughes which was cleared off the goal line by the head of alert Glencairn defender Alex Grier.
Another confusing decision by the referee led to a free kick on the edge of the penalty area for Blantyre just before the half time whistle, and McLellan showed his agility to dive full length to his right to palm Ross Caldwell's shot round the post. Glencairn had the final effort of the first half as Simeon was picked out on the edge of the penalty area, but he fired his shot straight at goalkeeper Dean Trainor to end the first half action.
Half time : 1-0
Dale Simeon and Tommy Porter in first half midfield action.
Blantyre made their second substitution at the interval with Ross Fulton coming on into the left back position, replacing Hughes.
The Glens doubled their lead only three minutes into the second half. Mitchell's delicious cross from the left picked out yet another run from deep by Simeon. Trainor made a brilliant block to Simeon's effort, but Ryan McArdle followed up on the rebound to roll the ball into the net from a tight angle.
McDonald continued to be the main threat for the visitors, and he pounced on a short back header by Grier to run in on the right edge of the penalty area, Grier recovering well to make a sliding block for a corner. At the other end, fine link play on the edge of the penalty area between Mitchell and Gormley ended with Trainor racing out to deny Mitchell.
Blantyre pulled themselves back into contention as they halved the deficit in the 53rd minute. The goal scorer came as no surprise, as Lewis McDonald pounced on a loose pass to burst past Hall and then roll the ball under McLellan to make it 2-1 and "game on".
Fraser's work for the night was done immediately after that goal, and he was replaced in central midfield by Del Esplin. Glencairn almost re-established their two-goal lead in the 55th minute as McArdle fired a shot for the postage stamp corner, but Trainor dived up to his left to make a save which brought applause from all around the stadium.
The visitors sensed their chance to get back on level terms, and Gary Campbell stabbed a shot over the bar from close range before a fine block by Grier denied Caldwell's volley just before the hour mark. Glencairn's second change in the 60th minute saw striker Gary Smith replace Gormley.
A swift counter attack by Glencairn in the 71st saw Smith release McArdle on the right, and he returned the favour with an accurate cross which picked out Smith at the far post, Trainor getting over to make another impressive block to keep his side in contention.
Glencairn's final change in the 77th minute saw Kris Gebbie come on to a holding midfield role in place of Porter. The game was now really stretched, with Glencairn looking to kill the game off while Blantyre tried to get the equaliser that would keep their qualification hopes alive.
Simeon released Hall into the penalty area on the right, only for his attempt to set up Smith to fall in behind the big striker's run. Trainor's heroics continued with a marvellous save to deny Smith's back post header which seemed like a certain goal after Simeon's pin-point cross from the right.
Hall's cross from the right in the 83rd minute picked out the head of Smith again, but he was stretching for this one and headed over from 8 yards. A minute later it looked to many as if Blantyre had equalised as the ball bounced around the six yard box in front of goal and the net bulged, but it was the sheer number of players trying to get to the ball which made the net ripple and somehow Glencairn managed to scramble the ball clear.
As Blantyre pushed on more for an equaliser, they left themselves very open defensively, and Glencairn took full advantage to secure the three points with only three minutes left on the clock. Harry Mitchell pounced on a loose ball on halfway and darted straight at the heart of the defence, before lashing the ball past Trainor from the edge of the penalty area for his first goal for the first team.
That secured the win for Glencairn and set up a group decider against East Kilbride Thistle on Wednesday evening, with the group winners set to progress to the last 16 of the competition.
Rutherglen Glencairn :- McLellan, Hall, Quinn, Grier, McGregor, Fraser (Esplin), McArdle, Porter (Gebbie), Gormley (Smith), Simeon, Mitchell. (Subs not used - McKay, Ryan Kerr, Stevie Kerr.)
Blantyre Victoria :- Trainor, Jones, Sinclair, Campbell, McKechnie, Boyle, Hughes (Fulton), Caldwell, Harper, Zeb (Brown), McDonald. (Subs not used - Marriot, Henderson, Law (gk).)
Man of the match - (chosen by Stuart Esplin) Dale Simeon.