Saturday 17th November 2018 - McBookie.com West Region Championship
(Report by Peter Ferguson)
Del Esplin was at the heart of the midfield action all afternoon.
Glencairn slipped down to second place in the league table as two points were dropped in a 2-2 draw away to St Roch's. The result allowed Benburb to leapfrog The Glens to the top of the table as they continued their impressive run of results since losing to Glencairn on day one of the league season.
With manager Willie Harvey absent due to a holiday, assistant manager Joe Pryce chose to make two changes to the team from last week's cup win away to Wishaw. Del Esplin returned in central midfield at the expense of Sean McGuire, while Liam Gormley was preferred up front to Gary Smith who is still not fully fit.
Backed by a noisy home support who made up the majority of the excellent crowd of 382, St Roch's were on the front foot early in the game and Glencairn's defence had to work hard to keep the scoreline blank. Two important interceptions by Tony Fraser and one by Esplin kept the green tide at bay, while Glencairn's only early threat came from a fine run from halfway by Dale Simeon which ended with his cross being deflected for a corner.
Glencairn no.1 Garry Whyte produced an excellent reaction save to deny a snap-shot by Kieran Daw in the 12th minute, and Whyte produced an even better double save moments later to deny both Ross Dickson and Paul Tierney. A rare fumble by Whyte two minutes after this allowed Eddie Ferns to dribble round him, but Alex Grier got back to make an important block to the wide angled shot towards the empty net. Ferns was wasteful again in the 18th minute as he fired over the crossbar on the stretch with the goal at his mercy.
Very much against the flow of play, The Glens were gifted the perfect chance to take the lead in the 21st minute. Simeon's curling free kick deceived home goalkeeper John Stark as it seemed to hold up in the wind and, when the ball broke free in the penalty area, Gormley was taken down by a tackle from behind. The referee blew instantly for a penalty kick. After a prolonged period of treatment for Stark, Dale Simeon sent him the wrong way from 12 yards to put Glencairn 1-0 ahead (pictured below).
It was a different game now, and Glencairn had settled into the match and should have doubled their lead on the half hour. Simeon's free kick again seemed to hold in the air and deceive Stark, Gormley firing over from right in front of goal after the ball broke out of a stramash of players and kindly into the striker's path. Simeon's inviting whipped cross from the right found no takers in front of goal a minute later as The Glens started to control the game for a spell.
A fine defensive header by Ross Dickson denied Gormley who was trying to get on the end of Ryan McArdle's accurate cross in the 33rd minute. Moments later Gormley dribbled round Stark and crossed from the bye line, only for the wind to hold up Jay McKay's back post effort, allowing the home defence to scramble the ball clear. The wind was a real factor at this stage, and Fraser's clipped pass saw McKay judge the pace of the ball better than the defenders, but Stark raced out to block the winger's shot.
Whyte produced another fine save in the 41st minute, diving low to his left to parry Daw's volley from 18 yards, and Rhys Donaldson cleared up the danger by hooking the ball out of play. A couple of additional minutes were added by the referee for the injury to Stark at the penalty incident, but The Glens went into the interval with their single goal lead.
Half time : 0-1
Alex Grier keeps a defensive watch on St Roch's striker Eddie Ferns in the first half.
St Roch's were forced into a change at half time, with Stark still feeling the effects of his injury, and he was replaced by substitute goalkeeper Jamie McGuire, while Glencairn were unchanged.
The Glens were on the attack early in the second half, and experienced defender Tam Hanlon was booked for a blatant bodycheck on McKay on the edge of the penalty area. Simeon fired his angled set piece effort over the bar. Glencairn passed up a great chance to double their lead in the 54th minute as a swift breakaway saw Simeon release McKay through on goal. McGuire raced out to kick clear but only kicked as far as McArdle, who had an open goal to shoot into from just outside the centre circle, but he missed the target by a good distance.
Glencairn appeared to have a good control of the match at this stage and St Roch's were showing little of threat at the other end. Just before the hour mark Simeon fired over from 18 yards, before McArdle was replaced by Harry Mitchell in The Glens' first substitution. St Roch's also made a change and a tactical switch with striker Stephen McDonald replacing defender Hanlon who was running the risk of a second yellow card.
Jay McKay cuts into the penalty area in a second half Glencairn attack.
Just as Glencairn had scored against the run of play in the first half, St Roch's did likewise to change the game in the 65th minute. Kris Lafferty's cross from the right took a big deflection off Tony Fraser and flashed past Whyte for an own goal.
It was anybody's game now as it moved into the final quarter, and both sides went close in quick succession. Firstly McDonald fired a shot off the top of the crossbar, and then Glencairn broke to the other end where Simeon brilliantly created space to shoot, only to be denied by a top quality save by McGuire.
Home substitute McDonald was fortunate to only see yellow for a naughty challenge in the centre circle on Del Esplin in the 69th minute. A minute later the game had completely turned on its head as St Roch's took the lead. A diagonal pass over the defence set up a chance for Eddie Ferns to control and then fire an impressive finish across Whyte and into the far corner.
The Glens tried to respond immediately, and Simeon's free kick picked out the head of McKay whose effort was too straight at the grateful McGuire on his goal line. McKay was replaced by Sean McGuire shortly after this as Glencairn changed shape slightly.
The fortunes of the game were about to change again, though, as St Roch's were reduced to ten men in the 77th minute. McDonald, who had only come on the pitch 15 minutes earlier, dived into another late challenge to pick up his second yellow card, and he was sent for the inevitable early shower.
The home side's final change saw Kieran Martin replace Lafferty, while Glencairn also played their final card with attacking midfielder Ryan MacBeth replacing defender Craig McGregor.
St Roch's substitute goalkeeper McGuire had put in an impressive performance since coming on at half time, and it seemed that he was going to frustrate Glencairn again with a stunning save to tip Simeon's header onto the woodwork, only for Stevie Kerr to follow up to fire the rebound across goal and into the net to make it 2-2 with eight minutes remaining.
With the extra man going into the closing minutes, optimism was high amongst the black and white support, and Gormley was just denied at the back post after Fraser's accurate corner delivery. With two minutes left on the clock, St Roch's were dramatically reduced to nine men as Eddie Ferns was shown a straight card for a dangerous challenge on Grier on halfway.
Glencairn threw the kitchen sink forward in search of a winner, but the home defence stood strong, with McGuire tipping the ball off the expectant head of Stevie Kerr deep into added time. The referee added three extra minutes, but there was to be no winning goal at either end, and both sets of fans had to settle for a point as they headed home.
St Roch's :- Stark (Jamie McGuire), Tierney, McGuigan, Bryson, Lafferty (Martin), Daw, Logan, Rab McGuire, Hanlon (McDonald), Dickson, Ferns. (Subs not used - Martin McGuire, Brown, O'Kane.)
Rutherglen Glencairn :- Whyte, Grier, McGregor (MacBeth), Donaldson, Stevie Kerr, Fraser, McArdle (Mitchell), Esplin, Gormley, Simeon, McKay (McGuire). (Subs not used - Ryan Kerr, Smith, McLellan (gk).)
Man of the match - (chosen by Alex Forbes) Del Esplin.