Saturday 26th March 2011 - D&D Programmes Central League Cup Round 2
(Report by Peter Ferguson)
The penalty shoot-out.
This is becoming a habit ! For the second week in a row, Glencairn were forced into a penalty shoot-out to decide a goal-less cup tie. Fortunately this week it resulted in a win for The Glens, but the team were left in no doubt after the match of what manager Willie Harvey thought of their performance, and it's fair to say that it wasn't pretty.
Glencairn introduced new midfield signing Andy Dorrans from the start, with Martin Hughes rested although on the bench. The only other change to the starting XI after last week's excellent performance at Pollok was Steven McGurgan making his first start for the club at left back in place of the unavailable Chris Merrilees, with the versatile George Moore slipping into central defence. So optimism was high before kick off that the team could build on last week's showing, especially with today's opposition coming from two leagues below in the Central District League.
The first half was almost a complete non-event in terms of goalmouth incidents, although the home side were the ones who were generally looking the more threatening in forward areas. A swift passing move in the 8th minute ended with Gary Espener's dangerous cross being headed over his own crossbar by Dunipace defender Graeme McMillan.
Espener was involved again in the 12th minute when he cleverly flicked the ball into the path of Richie Chang, and the wide man cut infield before firing an angled rising shot which took a slight deflection on its way, but 'Pace keeper Stefan McCurley saved well on the dive to his right.
Glencairn had another spell of pressure around the 25th minute mark. Chris Hopkins' corner looked perfect for the head of Andy Moore until McMillan got another vital touch to flick it away, and then a minute later Chang drove the ball across the face of the goal at pace, but there were no takers in black and white to finish off the chance.
With five minutes to half-time, Espener got the break of the ball and carried it forward to the edge of the penalty area before shooting, but his effort was weak and straight at McCurley, and the visiting stopper saved easily on his goal line. Glencairn were forced into a change at this point, with winger Thomas Morrow limping off injured, and being replaced by defender Craig Baxter, with George Moore moving to yet another position at wide left.
Dunipace had huffed and puffed in their attacks but rarely looked like threatening the Glencairn goal, until just before the interval when they won a corner. The cross was flicked on twice, and then 'Pace defender Kevin Mullan back-flicked he ball towards goal from 4 yards out, but Glencairn goalkeeper Allan Colquhoun was awake to the danger and saved the ball at his left-hand post.
Half-time : 0-0
New signing Andy Dorrans in the thick of the first half action.
The second half started a bit more brightly, with Glencairn on the front foot looking for the breakthrough. Chang was released on the edge of the penalty area by Espener, but Steven Oates got back for Dunipace to make an excellent clean tackle inside the penalty area. From the resulting throw-in, Joe Andrew turned away from his marker and fired across goal, but the ball flew just wide of the far post.
Chang was never far from the action, and he almost turned the key to open the door of the Dunipace goal when Hopkins' corner was headed into his path. Chang fired the ball back through the crowd of players in front of him, and Ward flicked the ball on its way, but McCurley was in the right place at the right time, and the ball fell kindly into his arms as he lay on the ground in front of goal.
As had been the case in the first half, the visitors had been tidy in possession and worked hard all over the pitch, but they were lacking in creation in forward areas to seriously worry the Glencairn defence. Dunipace were almost gifted an opportunity after 54 minutes, however, when Baxter slipped allowing Martin Wright to run in behind him. His square ball seemed perfect for Bryan Grant to score, but the midfielder had run offside and the linesman's flag came to Glencairn's rescue. It was a let-off for the Super Premier League side and a warning.
Chang was having some joy cutting infield and running at the heart of the Dunipace defence, instead of trying to go round the outside. Just before the hour mark another dribbling run by the home no.7 ended with a slipped pass to Espener, and the striker then fired the ball across goal. The ball was clearly blocked by the arm of a 'Pace defender, but referee Mr. Frank Connor ignored the shouts for a penalty kick and waved play on.
Joe Andrew was next to try his luck, turning and firing for goal. McCurley fumbled the shot, but no Glencairn player had followed in so the danger to the 'Pace back line was snuffed out quickly again. Andrew went close again a minute later when he tried a snap-shot from the edge of the area which flew narrowly wide of McCurley's right-hand post.
The spell of pressure from Glencairn around the hour continued, and a goal seemed certain when Ward's looping header landed in front of McCurley but, despite the ball bouncing free inside the 6-yard box at least twice, somehow it ended wide of the post. Glencairn tried to change things by throwing on Martin Hughes to replace Hopkins and Mark McAlpine to replace Andrew.
When you miss so many chances, there's always the danger that the sucker punch is coming. Dunipace grew in confidence as the match moved into its final quarter, and they clearly sensed a win over a top league side was there for the taking. Mullen's cross in the 72nd minute was sliced up into the air by Baxter, and Colquhoun gratefully smothered the loose ball.
But the biggest chance of the game so far came for the visitors in the 76th minute. Mullen again caused the danger, this time shooting from the edge of the area. The ball beat Colquhoun and rebounded from the crossbar straight out to Wright, who fired the rebound over the bar from 6 yards out. He had an open goal to shoot into, but to be fair he was always stretching for the ball and it wasn't an easy chance to take under pressure from a Glencairn defender behind him.
Glencairn's best chance of the game was still to come as well, though, and when a 3 on 2 situation was set up in the 82nd minute, Espener rolled the ball in front of McAlpine. When he skipped past the last defender's challenge the home support's arms were beginning to rise, but McAlpine blazed his shot over the bar from 12 yards out.
The last chance to break the deadlock came with two minutes remaining, Baxter sending a free header over the bar from Chang's corner. The referee's whistle came after a short period of injury time and, for the third time this season, Glencairn were into a penalty shoot-out.
Club captain Martin Hughes set the tone for Glencairn with the first effort, firing decisively into the top left hand corner of the net. Christopher Cairney matched that effort with Dunipace's first, into the opposite corner. Gary Espener was next up for Glencairn, but he hit his effort low and straight, and McCurley read it and blocked it without having to move very far. Martin Wright fired Dunipace ahead, high into the top left corner. Richie Chang sent McCurley the wrong way with Glens' third effort, but Kenneth Govan did likewise for Dunipace to restore their lead at 3-2. Next up for the home side was Mark McAlpine and, although McCurley got a hand to the effort, it was struck firmly enough to end up in the net. Graeme McMillan stepped forward to take 'Pace's 4th kick, but Colquhoun guessed correctly this time and saved down low to his left, to level the score at 3-3 after 4 efforts each. New signing Andy Dorrans stepped up to take Glencairn's 5th attempt, and he confidently despatched the ball into the corner with McCurley going the wrong way. 'Pace substitute David Moodie was the man to take their final kick, and his effort seemed indecisive as Colquhoun hardly needed to move to parry away the effort and put The Glens into the 3rd round draw.
The celebrations were muted, however, as the Glencairn players knew their performance had fallen well below the standards they had set in the previous two matches, and much better will be required in the vital final few months of the season ahead.
Rutherglen Glencairn :- Colquhoun, Smith, McGurgan, Moore, Ward, Hopkins (Hughes), Chang, Dorrans, Espener, Andrew (McAlpine), Morrow (Baxter). (Subs not used - Ballantyne, Anderson and Duncan (gk).)
Dunipace :- McCurley, McMillan, Mullan, Reid, Oates, Govan, Brown, Grant, Pincombe (Moodie), Cairney, Wright. (Subs not used - Donald, McPhail, Rodger and Hunter (gk).)
Man of the match - (Chosen by Kevin Gallagher) On a day where very few players impressed, Richie Chang was the choice for his continued attempts to open up the Dunipace defence.