Kilsyth Rangers 1 GLENAFTON ATHLETIC 1
In 1645, on an August afternoon the Marquis of Montrose lead the Scottish Royalists forces to victory over the Covenanters at the Battle of Kilsyth, near the present day Colzium estate to the east of the Royal Burgh. At 16:45 on this August afternoon this skirmish at Duncansfield ended in a scoring draw. At the post-war analysis both 'generals' may reflect that this was an encounter that their side could have won or lost, and therefore on reflection both may be satisfied with the draw and contently retreat to prepare to fight another day.
In the elevated clubhouse the pre-match battle-cries of both teams could be heard psyching themselves for the beginning of a new season. From here, the players cautiously made their way down the steps and through a tunnel which provided protection from the blazing sun for a few precious seconds, and from there onto the lush long grass of the arena. Behind them, the blue banner declaring Kilsyth Rangers as First Division Champions fluttered proudly in an intermittent breeze. The Premier 'new boys' were on their own turf, facing their furthest travelled Premier adversaries from 70 miles to the south.
The Glens had some casualties before the game began with Willie Howie unable to shake off an injury sustained during the Cumnock game and Craig Callachan and Craig Bingham both unavailable for selection. New signing Gerry Joyce from Ayr United took his position in the centre of defence alongside John McCaig; whilst defender Peter McAninch and striker Scott 'Bella' Houston both returned from injury.
Four minutes gone and first blood to the visitors in 'red and white'. A Stevie Agnew corner-kick from the right was brilliantlyy headed home at the near post by Houston, a perfect tonic to settle opening-day nerves. But soon after, the first-match nerves of young Joyce presented Rangers with a golden opportunity to equalise , when he was slack with a pass back to keeper Gary Matthews, but his partner McCaig stepped into save his blushes. The two central defenders would soon strike up a good understanding and thankfully so, as Kilsyth grew in confidence after their early set-back. Howie's tenacity in midfield was now being sorely missesd and the home-side were carving out numerous chances, but too often their final touch was lacking.
The Glens were restricted to few clear cut chances and there were signs that a 'backs-to-the-wall' peformance was going to be the order of the day. This was no better exemplified by a passage of play involving Brian Miller. He dispossessed the Rangers forward in the Glens box, and conceded a corner-kick. He then defended the corner winning a header at the near post and the ball broke to Agnew who in turn found Marc Cleeland and he launched a long ball up the left wing , and there was Miller chasing it to the Kilsyth corner flag. In the dying minutes of the half the Glens nearly hit Kilsyth with a sucker-punch when an Alan Tuchewicz thunderbolt was deflected and crashed off the cross-bar and out for a corner-kick. Half-time: Kilsyth 0 Glenafton 1.
The opening 15 minutes of the second-half was less of a battle and more of a siege as Kilsyth forced the Glens to camp in their own half. On one occassion they managed to win 5 corner-kicks in quick succession, one of which was headed onto the cross-bar. Dunbar and Sloan for Kilsyth were creating havoc at times with their darting runs and crosses into the box. Resolute defending by the Glens held them at bay and McCaig, Joyce and Davie Stewart surely cannot have headed so many balls in one game. On the occasions that this trio were beaten the Glens were fortunate that the Kilsyth forwards couldn't head as well, with Matthews dealing easily with a number of weak headers hit in his direction.
Young Ross Murray was added to the Glens attack at the expense of midfielder Miller, and the strategy that attack is the best form of defence appeared to be paying dividends. The Glens were now enjoying some possession deep in the Rangers half, whilst being more vulnerable to Kilsyth breaks. As in the first half it looked as if the Glens had delivered another sucker-punch, when Aggie danced into the Kilsyth box and fired the ball goalward, only to see it deflected and agonisingly bounce off the inside of the post. Aggie must hate the sight of posts!
But with 5 minutes to go it was the home-side that would be finally rewarded for their considerable efforts. A break down the left by Kilsyth was brought to an end by a last-ditch Glens tackle, the offence adjudged to have taken place inside the box. Campbell's spot-kick wrong-footed Matthews and Rangers scored. Indeed they nearly scored again when a fierce shot came off the post, and again when another shot flashed beyond Matthews far post. Full-time Kilsyth 1 Glenafton 1
Kilsyth certainly had the bulk of the play and yet on two occasions the Glens came close to going 2-0 ahead, and so a share of the spoils perhaps was just rewards for both teams.
Glenafton: Matthews; McAninch, Joyce, McCaig, Stewart, Tuchewicz (Gemmell); Miller (Murrayl), Blair, Cleeland; Houston, Agnew.
Houston heads home
'Not another post!' cries Aggie
John McCaig and Gerry Joyce - head boys
Campbell equalises from the spot