Muirkirk Juniors 0 GLENAFTON ATHLETIC 4
Scorers : Houston 3, Blair
A glorious drive to Muirkirk in a corner of Ayrshire steeped in Covenanting history. Two miles shy of the village (but actually in the parish of Auchinleck) the monument at Airdsmoss could be seen reflecting in the bright sunshine, away to the north. Here Richard Cameron 'the Lion of Covenant' and eight of his followers were killed in battle by government troops, on the 22nd July1680. Among the fallen that day was John Gemmell of the Bank in New Cumnock. As you enter the village, the newly created 'Covenanting and Heritage Lay-By' celebrates Muirkirk's association with these times as well as other aspects of its local history, including paying tribute to Tibbie Pagan, the New Cumnock born poetess, who made her home near the Garpel Water and gave the world the enduring 'Ca the yowes to the knowes'.
Monument at Airdsmoss: Memento Mori
And so to Burnside Park the home of Muirkirk Juniors, where here too there was a strong sense of local pride. A well kept ground with a playing surface in a condition so perfect that it seemed almost a shame to spoil the view with a game of football. To be honest after an uneventful first 45 minutes it seemed that's what both teams had managed to do. Neither side was able to take advantage of the 'bowling green' pitch and for large spells of the game the mid-field was packed and the ball cannoned about in a human bagatelle.
Muirkirk had a few chances, two of which were presented courtesy of the Glens. A slack clearance was easily picked up by the home-side forward and with no support he had to go alone, but he fluffed his chance and his shot was weak and well-wide. Later, Gary Matthews in the Glens goal was lucky to survive taking a touch too many on a well placed pass back and saved his own blushes. Prior to that he had made his finest save of the half from a well-directed shot from the edge of the box.
Ross Murray, offered terms this week, partnered Scott Houston up front and it was the youngster that came closest on two occasions to opening the Glens account, only to be foiled twice by the Muirkirk goalie. Sadly, Murray took a bad knock and was replaced after 30 minutes by Paul Deeney, who began to cause the Muirkirk defence some cause for concern. However, the half closed with the 0-0 scoreline almost flattering both sides. Muirkirk 0 Glenafton Athletic 0
Whatever Gerry Collins had to say at half-time it had an immediate effect. As well as dispensing some well chosen words of wisdom, mid-fielder Brian Blair was also brought on to replace Derek Gemmel at right back. Stevie Agnew was enjoying a new found freedom, and a well-worked one-two with Deeney saw him surge into the Muirkirk box, but with no reward, other than the suggestion that better fayre was to be dished up in the second half. And dished up it was and with some relish. Within 5 minutes of the re-start Scott 'Bella' Houston bagged a brace to match the pair he bagged at Beechwood. An Agnew free-kick, won by Bella, was played into a busy box and the bustling striker barged the ball home. Minutes later he picked up the ball deep in the Muirkirk half and raced in on goal and with a cool finish it was 2-0.
Another crowded box probably prevented the referee from seeing a blatant hand-ball, but this at this stage the Muirkirk side were grateful for any form of mercy. Craig Callachan re-signed this week, was a constant thorn in their flesh with strong runs down the left; Houston was winning all the balls in the air, many of which were knocked down to the live-wire Deeney; Howie was commanding the mid-field and Stevie Agnew was entertaining the crowd with his hallmark mazy runs. Another full-bodied Glens attack into a packed Muirkirk box, and this time the referee had a clear view of the late tackle. No one was going to argue and Houston claimed the ball and slotted the spot-kick home for his hat-trick, 3-0 with 20 minutes still to go.
Muirkirk wilted and were glad to see a number of Glens efforts clear the fence behind the goals and head for the burn, no rush in retrieving the ball as the respite was welcome. The defenders were also glad to see Willie Howie failing to put the finishing touch to a brilliant solo break from midfield. You could almost sense that they felt their luck had changed when another Aggie run ended with his shot cannoning off the post, but it rebounded to Brian Blair who with some panache placed the ball out of the reach of the Muirkirk goalie, for his first goal for the Glens. No more goals and justice had been done as the football finally lived up to the expectations demanded by such a fine park. Full time Muirkirk 0 Glenafton 4.
Glenafton : Matthews, Gemmell (Blair) , Robb, Stewart, Callachan; Bingham, Cleeland (Kennedy) , Howie, Agnew; Houston, Murray (Deeney)
Left: Look behind you ! : Right: Goalscorer Scott Houston
Big Bella bags a brace !
Left: Scott Houston; Middle: Brain Blair (with one of his kinsman smiling in the background); Right: Paul Deeney
Footnote: The gentleman with the bunnet is Bertie Murray a Glenafton legend from the days at Connel Park, watching Loch Park legend Stevie Agnew