Maryhill for thrills !!
Maryhill 0 GLENAFTON ATHLETIC 0
The Glens and Maryhill had fought out a dour 1-1 draw in attrocious conditions at Loch Park in their previous league encounter back in November 2004. Today at Lochburn Park, points were precious for both sides; Maryhill still in with an outside chance of pipping Pollok or leaping 'Lie for the title; and the Glens fighting to stay in the top league .
The Glens started the game without the influential Stevie Agnew, suspended for his goal-line hand-ball red card offence against Troon in the Monday night 1-1 draw. By way of consolation the Glens welcomed back long-term injury casualty goalkeeper Gary Matthews. Throughout the ensuing 90 minutes the big-man left neither friend nor foe in any doubt as to who commanded the 18 yard box as the cry of "keeper's" reverberated around the four walls that pen in the players in this unique park. He was ably supported by Keith Hogg and Davie Stewart at the centre of the defence, brilliantly marshalled by Scotland captain Joe Carruth, and together they restricted Scotland striker Bryan Dingwall and his fellow front men to a few speculative shots at goal.
Although the Glens defence was sound and resolute it would be unfair to give the impression that this was a 'backs-to-the-wall' performance, far from it. Brian Miller, was the key conduit between defence and attack for the Glens, creating valuable space and time in the middle of the park to combine well with Richie Newall and Craig Callahan; whilst Craig Bingham and the tireless Kevin McBride were finding plenty of width on the wings. But Maryhill defended well and like their 'Hill counterparts strikers Stevie Mallan and Gary Robertson were denied any clear cut goal scoring opportunities.
The veteran Mallan was giving 'Hill's giant No.6 a torrid time, no ball was a lost cause for Stevie. On one occasion whilst the big defender tried to marshall the ball out for a goal kick, the corner flag prevented the ball's progress and in a flash Stevie was between the flag and the defender appearing like a Tardus from nowhere, the first seen in Maryhill since Gerry left the Thistle !
The best chance of the half fell to the Glens when a great through ball by Miller saw Mallan beat the Maryhill offside trap and head for the bye-line, his cut-back evaded the 'Hill goalie and the solitary chasing defender, but sadly there were no Glens chasers and the chance lost. The half ended goal-less with the Glens just ahead on possession.
A bright start to the second half saw the 'Hill goalkeeper deal easily with efforts from Bingham and Miller. No breakthroughs as yet but the Glens were growing in confidence without being complacent; as Matthews in goal continued to win every ball he claimed and Hogg and Stewart continued to frustrate Dingwall and co. However, mid way through the half it was Joe Carruth's frustration that could have proved to be the Glens downfall. Dingwall broke over the half-way line at pace, only to face the threesome of Hogg, Stewart and Carruth, the latter bringing his fellow internationalist down. A yellow card was quickly flashed and within seconds another followed, presumably for dissent, and Joe was sent off and up the stairs to the dressing room.
To their credit, the Glens to a man simply knuckled down and got on with it. Davie Stewart and Keith Hogg grew from resolute defenders to inspirational leaders, and yet still this was not a 'back-to-the-wall' performance. Equally inspirational was Stevie Mallan's 'never-say-die' attitude - and he seem to relish the challenge that now faced the ten men.
The Glens weathered the storm and it was the home fans that were becoming increasingly frustrated over the ineptitude of the 11 vs. 10. Or was it 12 vs. 10? For so it seemed later in the game when the Glens were denied a stone-wall (i.e. a wall made from really hard stone) penalty when a hand-ball in the 'Hill box stopped a certain goal. The Glens continued to threaten as an attacking force but again without seriously troubling 'Hill's goalie, other than when Mallan barged him into the goals, contesting yet another 50-50 ball.
Maryhill squandered the best chance of the second half when at last they exploited their numerical advantage. Dingwall danced past a posse of players before releasing the ball into the acres of space on the left that the 'Hill No. 10 had found. A one-on-one with the keeper seemed the obvious outcome, but the 'Hill man dawdled and the space advantage was lost as the Glens defence closed in, forcing No. 10 to fire the ball hurriedly across the goal mouth, and out for a throw to the Glens.
Final Score 0-0
Lochburn was the scene and not Loch Park; bright May sunshine, punctuated at times with heavy showers, replaced the November squalls, and there were high-flats on the horizon instead of wind-turbines but the outcome of the game was the same. Points shared. The Glens left the park to great cheers from the travelling support, greatly satisfied with the commitment and effort on show. In the end this point may prove more precious to the Glens than to Maryhill.
Thumbs up and jump for joy - Gary's back
Stevie Mallan skins the 'Hill defence but sadly no-takers for the knock-back !
Davie Stewart takes no prisoners - again
Gary Robertson lobs the keeper - and the bar
Cumnock 1 Renfrew 2; Kilwinning 0 Auchinleck 1; Troon 1 Johnstone Burgh 1