Saturday 10th November 2018 - Ardagh Group West of Scotland Cup Round One
(Report by Peter Ferguson)
Gary Smith curls in a first half free kick on his return to the starting line-up.
Glencairn got back to winning ways with this away victory over League One side Wishaw Juniors in the first round of the Ardagh Group West of Scotland Cup. It was far from an easy passage to the second round for The Glens, however, as they were made to work hard for their place against well organised opposition in difficult weather conditions. In the end, though, Glencairn got their reward for their patience and persistence.
After last week's first league defeat of the season, it came as no surprise that manager Willie Harvey chose to freshen up the starting line-up, making no fewer than five changes. Alex Grier returned from his loan spell at Blantyre Victoria and stepped in at right back to replace the injured Kris Gebbie, while Craig McGregor was a preferred starter at left back to Ryan Kerr. Del Esplin's holiday absence created an opening for Dale Simeon to return in midfield, while Ryan McArdle replaced Harry Mitchell on the right wing. The other change saw the return of top goal scorer Gary Smith, with Liam Gormley dropping to the substitutes' bench.
After a quiet start to the match, the main talking point of the first half arrived in the 7th minute as a fine passing move released Simeon through on goal. Just as he was shaping to shoot on the left edge of the penalty area, he was chopped down by Mark Canning. It seemed a textbook red card for denying a goal-scoring opportunity, but the referee only produced a yellow. Smith took the free kick (pictured at top) and curled it well over the crossbar.
Wishaw's first opportunity came in the 11th minute as Liam O'Kane's dangerous cross from the left slipped wide of the far post with no home player seeming to want to get on the end of it. Smith's head flick released a trademark run from deep by Simeon in the 14th minute, and he held off a challenge before seeing his shot deflected wide for a corner kick. A minute later Jay McKay cushioned a header into the path of McGregor who pulled his shot wide of the near post.
A speculative effort from distance by home midfielder Glenn Eadie wasn't too far off target in the 19th minute, and a couple of minutes later a free kick from around 35 yards by Bradley Rodden was saved on his goal line by Glencairn no.1 Garry Whyte.
McArdle set up Sean McGuire for a shot in the 22nd minute, but the stuffy home defence got bodies in the way to block and the ball fell kindly into the arms of home 'keeper Jordan Brown. Two very wrong offside whistles by the referee denied Simeon as he raced through on goal another twice, but with no assistants to help him it was hard to be too critical of the whistler's judgement. A delightfully disguised pass by Tony Fraser set up a chance for Smith to shoot, but once again Wishaw got lots of bodies in the way to block the striker's shot from close range.
The pace of the Wishaw forwards was obvious and something which Rhys Donaldson and Stevie Kerr in Glencairn's central defence had to be aware of. When possession was conceded cheaply on halfway, a lovely pass by O'Kane released Rodden in between the two centre backs, but Whyte raced out to do enough to put the striker off and he stabbed his shot over the crossbar. Moments later another nice passing move by the home side set up a chance for Justin Watson to shoot on the stretch, but he couldn't direct the ball past the big obstacle of Whyte.
Simeon threatened again just after the half hour mark as he got in behind the defence and dribbled round Brown, only to be blocked out on the goal line again, and McKay fired the rebound effort over the crossbar from 16 yards.
The home side were forced into a change in the 36th minute as Eadie limped off with what appeared to be a hamstring injury, and he was replaced by Aaron Neill. Wishaw clearly fancied their chances with shots from distance and tried several in the first half, Watson firing the latest effort a yard off target after a sharp break upfield in the 37th minute.
You could see the frustration growing in the Glencairn ranks as half time approached with the scoreline still blank, and Simeon summed up that emotion as he sliced well wide of goal in the 40th minute after being set up by Fraser. Good persistence by Grier in first half stoppage time saw him win the ball on the bye line and feed McKay, who in turn set up Simeon for another shot on target which pulled an impressive save out of Brown down low to his left.
Half time : 0-0
Tony Fraser probes for an opening in the Wishaw defence during the first half.
Neither side made any changes at the interval, but the weather was about to turn for the worse as the heavens opened just as the match restarted.
Glencairn seemed to have a fresh determination about them after the restart, though, and they pinned Wishaw into their own half in the early stages. Brown made a fine save to beat away a drilled effort from 12 yards by McArdle. Three minutes later McGregor's free kick from halfway came right through the defence and almost fell for McArdle at the back post, the ball slipping just wide of goal as midfielder slid in. James Coffey replaced Brian Jack in Wishaw's second change in the 52nd minute.
McArdle was at the heart of the action now, and he found space in the penalty area again in the 56th minute but couldn't find a team mate with the final pass, before moments later McArdle's cross was headed just over by Smith from in front of goal, under good pressure by the hard-worked but determined home back line.
Glencairn's first change saw Liam Gormley replacing Smith, the management deciding that an hour was enough for the striker after a month out through injury. Gormley's fresh legs seemed to introduce a fresh impetus to Glencairn's attacks, and his sharpness in the 63rd minute saw him get on the end of McKay's pass just before Brown, and the referee whistled for a penalty kick as the Gormley tumbled under Brown's challenge.
McKay stepped up to take the spot kick but saw his effort blocked by Brown's legs, and the ball was cleared for a corner kick. The home defence, having been so switched on all afternoon so far, clearly lost concentration momentarily in celebration of the penalty save, and they paid the price immediately. Jay McKay was left unmarked in front of goal from the corner, and he placed his header into the net to atone for his penalty kick miss only seconds earlier, and The Glens had finally made the breakthrough.
That was to be McKay's final telling contribution to the match, as he was substituted three minutes later at the mid point of the second half, Harry Mitchell taking his place on the left of the attacking three midfielders.
The rain was now hammering down and conditions were miserable for the players, but to both sides' credit they kept playing good passing football on a pitch which held up well considering the conditions in the days prior to the match and what was now pouring down from above.
Glencairn looked for the second goal which would give them some comfort, and Brown produced another good save to deny Gormley's close range header, not knowing that the striker had been ruled offside in any case.
Wishaw hadn't given up hope of forcing an equaliser, and the lively Watson burst into the penalty area in the 72nd minute only to be denied by a perfectly timed tackle by Stevie Kerr. Play swung back to the other end a minute later, though, and the decisive moment of the match arrived in the middle of the rain storm. The ball fell at the feet of Ryan McArdle around 22 yards from goal, and he struck a sweet shot which flew through a crowd of players and was still rising as it hit the back of the net.
The home side made their final change immediately, with Kevinbarry Grant replacing Gary McStay as they tried to find a way back into contention with just over quarter of an hour still to be played. Wishaw pressed Glencairn back into their defensive third, but solid defending by Stevie Kerr in particular, back up by solid goalkeeping by Whyte behind him, gave little encouragement to the home support.
Whyte made a fine save in the 78th minute as Rodden tried to surprise him with another early shot from distance, the big stopper diving full length to his left to palm the ball away for a corner kick. Glencairn's final change in the 79th minute saw McArdle withdrawn and a debut given to new midfield signing Ryan MacBeth, who tucked in behind Gormley with Simeon pulled wide into McArdle's position.
Wishaw kept pressing for a goal, and it looked likely to come in the 87th minute only for a fantastic clearance by McGregor on the goal line to deny what looked like a certain goal. That was the last chance for Wishaw, and Glencairn comfortably saw out the four additional minutes to secure their clean sheet and a deserved place in the second round draw, which produced a home tie against Kilbirnie Ladeside.
Wishaw Juniors :- Brown, Mooney, Duffy, Martin, Eadie (Neill), Canning, McStay (Grant), O'Kane, Watson, Rodden, Jack (Coffey). (Subs not used - Burns, MacIntyre.)
Rutherglen Glencairn :- Whyte, Grier, McGregor, Donaldson, Stevie Kerr, Fraser, McArdle (MacBeth), Simeon, Smith (Gormley), McGuire, McKay (Mitchell). (Subs not used - Ryan Kerr, McLellan (gk).)
Man of the match - (chosen by Alan Rae) Ryan McArdle.