GLENAFTON ATHLETIC 2 Bellshill Athletic 1
Scorers: Whalen, Agnew
The Glens supped from that footballing poisoned chalice of facing a new team under new management both on and off the park. Bellshill with Roland Fabiani in charge of team affairs for the match, Fabi unable to lead from on the park due to injury, seemed intent and looked capable of adding to the host of ripped up coupons that have strewn football terraces when a team in ‘crisis’ takes on an unbeaten side. At least it seemed that way when the visitors took the lead half way through the half, with a well merited goal and not on endeavour alone. However, the Glens rinsed out the chalice, knuckled down and as in the two previous league encounters that they have fallen behind in, fought back to equalise and on this occasion went one better and clinched all three points; all before half-time.
Gary McGuigan came in for the injured Andy Gow and partnered Steven McGregor in the centre of defence, who if not feeling too well in the run up to match must have felt decidedly groggy in the opening spell as Bellshill bombed forward in numbers, giving the new partnership little time to settle. The visitors play resembled that of attacking rugby (sorry for mentioning that word today) forwards at times as they moved the ball from one flank to another with a series of crisp and accurate passes, the resultant crosses into the Glens box causing some concern for the home side and lines were often cleared at the second or third attempt.
It was breakaways from Bellshill attacks from which the Glens created the best of their early chances. A cross punched clear by Gary Matthews was played back into the Glens box before being cleared again to be picked up by Simon Eeles on the edge of the box and from there he ran the length of Loch Park, rode the challenge at the edge of the Bellshill box and placed his shot to Scott McNab’s far post, but not for the last time the goalie made a fine save. Another break saw Stevie Agnew hare down the left flank and flight the ball to the far side of the box where David Gormley smacked it first time on the volley, and McNab made a split-second two handed save, powerful enough hands for the ball to rebound back beyond the bemused Gormley.
The Glens survived a free kick scare from the edge of their box but then fell behind soon after on the 24th minute, this time punished for not clearing their lines, as the ball was drilled low and hard from 15 yards out and in at Matthews right hand post; a goal as they say that was ‘on the cards’.
Back came the Glens with Willie Howie taking control in the middle of the park and a greater sense of urgency and purpose now encapsulated the home side’s play. McNab prevented an equaliser with a carbon-copy of the previous two handed save from Gormley but was left stranded in the 33rd minute, when excellent work by Jamie Doyle saw him twist and turn the defender before flighting the ball into the box where Stephen Whalen stole in between the two central defenders and stooped to head and place the ball into the far corner of the goal.
In the closing minutes of the half Gormley powered his way into the right hand side of the Bellshill box leaving two defenders in his wake only to see his cut back into the danger area rebound back to him, and as he geared up to play the ball back in, he was floored by a mistimed tackle, and after a few minutes delay, Aggie slammed home the spot kick on 42 minutes. The Glens nearly grabbed a third when John Paul Grant won the ball on the edge of the box and played it into the path of Eeles, who placed the ball at pace beyond McNab but it struck the inside of the post and rebounded and was booted to safety.
Half time Glenafton Athletic 2 Bellshill Athletic 1
The second half was a story of missed chances at crucial stages in the match for both teams. The Glens were by far the dominant force in terms of possession and yet they couldn’t find a third and probably decisive goal.
The visitors survived a strong penalty appeal when Gormley was bundled down in the box on the hour mark. McNab then tipped a Chic Connolly high lofted ball from the right touch line over the bar. Matthews his counterpart forced into a similar save a minute later. By this time David Stewart had replaced Simon Eeles, allowing Aggie to move forward from his left back slot, and Gavin Brown had replaced the work-horse Gormley. Connolly then tried to repeat his earlier feat but again McNab had the measure of him and flicked the ball away from the underside of the bar; astonishingly the keeper and bar would be tested for a third time, with the keeper victorious again. On the occasions that McNab was beaten he was relieved to see a Brown header and then a thunderous volley on the turn both flash past the post.
Grant made way for Beattie as the Glens tried to tighten up things in the midfield and push for the clincher. However, Fabi’s men found a new lease of life and they carved out three excellent opportunities in the closing fifteen minutes but failed to convert thanks to Matthews on one occasion and poor finishing on the other two.
In the last minute of the game Whalen was through on goal but had his heels clipped as he was about to tee up his shot but McNab capped off a fine performance when he saved the striker’s resultant spot kick.
Full time Glenafton Athletic 2 Bellshill Athletic 1
Glenafton Athletic: Matthews; Connolly, McGuigan, McGregor, Agnew; Doyle, Howie, Grant (Beattie), Eeles (Stewart); Whalen, Gormley (Brown)
Bellshill Athletic: Scott McNab, Marc Murray, John McMenemy, Chris Newall, Robert Coulter, Dean Muir, Kevin McDonald, Vinnie Conway, Martin Lauchlan, Brian Watrett, Anton Franchetti Subs: JP McKeever, George Patterson,John Gordon, Russell Lawson, Roland Fabiani
Ref: A. Newlsand, Assistants: P Hefford, A Daubney
Gary Matthews punches clear
Stephen Whalen (on ground) heads home
JP congratulates Stephen on his equaliser: Photo courtesy of John Vass
Stevie Agnew sends Scott McNab the wrong way from the pk to make it 2-1: Photo Courtesy of John Vass
Glens Wall: Gary McGuigan, Jamie Doyle, Stevie Agnew, Willie Howie, Steven McGreogor and John Paul Grant . Photo Courtesy of John Vass
Jamie Doyle on the move Photo Courtesy of John Vass
Stephen Whalen on the ball: Photo courtesy of John Vass
Gavin Brown wins the header
Scott McNab save the spot kick
Gordon Dalziel and Roland Fabiani