Renfrew 1 GLENAFTON ATHLETIC 1
Scorer : Miller
It seemed like another age when the Glens destroyed Renfrew 4-0 at Loch Park, at the beginning of the season. A result that served notice of the Glens championship aspirations. Instead for a whole host of reasons the Glens found themselves needing a point in this the last game of the season, to secure their place in the Premier Division. Defeat would send the Glens down along with Troon, whilst a draw or victory would see Kilwinning Rangers, the reigning champions take the drop.
In stark contrast to the wintry conditions endured at Dunterlie on Friday evening, glorious sunshine illuminated this historic old stadium for the entire ninety-minutes. Sadly, it may prove to be the last game played here, on an evening that would also be Mick Dunlop's last game in charge of the 'Frew. Add to this emotional mix former Buffs player and self-styled saviour of the 'wee Gers', Mark 'Branco' Cameron at the heart of the Renfrew defence, ensured that game was billed as being far from meaningless for the hosts.
The Glens welcomed back Stevie Mallan for this final showdown and if ever there was a 'match-winner' in a drawn game then Stevie Mallan was it. Every ball was chased, as if catching it alone would guarantee survival, Stevie Mallan - the man that found the lost cause.
Much of the first half was indeed about chasing lost causes for both sides, and it threatened to close without either keeper having been seriously tested. However, with five minutes remaining a fine cross from the left wing to the far-end of the Glens penalty-box was met first time by the 'Frew forward and expertly dispatched beyond the reach of Gary Matthews. The tumbleweed could almost be seen rolling across Western Park as the Glens heads dropped and getting to half-time without conceding another became a matter of great urgency. Half-Time Renfrew 1 Glens 0
Brian Miller took to the field at the start of the second-half and as it Dunterlie in the game before, he quickly made his mark, but in this case in the most dramatic fashion. Davy Kennedy, solid throughout the game, launched a long searching ball into the box, which eluded both Mallan and Miller. John Thomson in the 'Frew goal looked favourite to claim the ball, however, he dillied and dallied, lost the ball and Brian Miller stroked it home.
The sense of relief seemed to unleash a new found sense of belief in the Glens and minutes later they looked to have taken the lead. Thomson again dallied this time at a kick-out. Stevie Mallan sensing his chance darted into the box and dispossesed the hapless goalie and stroked the ball into the empty net. Thomson fell to the ground and the referee, standing on the half-way line with his back to play, contrived to award a foul to Renfrew - saving Thomson further embarrassment.
The game was now being played at a lively pace and to their credit both teams seemed determined to go all out for a winner. Mallan went closest with a header from a corner kick; whilst Joe Carruth and Davie Stewart were resolute in defence, in particular dealing with a number of menacing long throw-ins that were launched into the box and when they didn't clear, Gary Matthews punched to safety. Inevitably tempers began to fray in a match of such a tempo and Renfrew's McLay can consider himself fortunate not to have received a straight red card after a hellish tackle on Kevin McBride, during one his numerous forrays up the left-wing.
The final whistle finally came and was met with a great roar from the travelling Glens support and from many of the neutrals in the crowd. Full time Renfrew 1 Glenafton 1
As for Kilwinning Rangers, Paul Wright gave me one of my greatest ever football moments (in 1997) and I wish him and the Buffs a speedy return to the Premier Division. For Renfrew, a team that never seem to have had the credit they deserved for their Scottish Cup triumph in 2001, I hope they find a new home soon. As for the Glens, let's put 2004-05 behind us and look forward to another season, as 'The Last Champions of Ayrshire', in the top league.
Stevie Mallan ball watching
"Is this the way to Amarillo?" - with Stevie Agnew
Brian Miller turns to celebrate the crucial equaliser - as John Thomson hides his embarrassment
Stevie Mallan goes to close to clinching the winner