GLENAFTON ATHLETIC 1 Whitburn Junior 0
Teams from the East have dominated the Scottish Junior Cup since the dawn of the 21st century, providing 12 out of the 16 finalists in that time and 6 out of the 8 winners, including in 2000, today’s visitors Whitburn Junior. To add to this new found confidence when facing western opposition Whitburn currently sit top of the East Region Premier League with a 100% record, having conceded only one goal in nine victories.
The formidable task, on paper at least, facing the Glens took on new proportions on the actual field of play when within 10 minutes of the game kicking off, Steven McGregor picked up an early yellow card for his first challenge of the game and then inspirational captain Willie Howie was stretchered off, after badly twisting his knee, and was replaced with Kevin Deeney. Before Howie’s enforced departure the Glens had made an encouraging start with both Stevie Agnew and Chic Connolly breaching the visitors’ penalty box, only for towering central defender Joe Mbu to deny the former and keeper Stewart Walker the latter. However, it was at the other end, that the heroics of Glens goalie Gary Matthews prevented the visitors from taking lead with only 12 minutes gone, when he stretched to his right to force John Murphy’s goal-bound header, round the post.
This gave the home side a much needed boost and with the unscheduled re-shuffle now bedded in the Glens went on to create a hatful of chances with Stephen Whalen at the heart of the action. However, a combination of deflections (invariably off Mbu), a last ditch tackle at the goal-line by Colin Leiper and Walker’s safe hands kept the score sheet blank. Indecision too played its part, exemplified by great combination play between Whalen and David Gormley, opening up a chance for the youngster to shoot for goal, but instead he tried to lay it on for his partner and the chance was gone. Connolly chose a more direct route and unleashed one his 35 yard specials (wind assisted) but Walker was more than a match with a wonderful save to palm it over the bar.
Whitburn fought their way back into the game and finished the half strongly with Colin Strickland, who had always looked dangerous on the break, firing a shot just over the bar and having another effort deflected; a fate that also befell one of his colleagues. The men from the East were getting little joy from the high balls played into the Glens box from corner kicks with Andy Gow and McGregor winning the vast majority of the aerial battles, however a Leiper header bucked the trend but his effort was cleared off the line and the half finished goal-less.
Half-time Glenafton 1 Whitburn 1
Whitburn, now with the wind at their backs, tried a couple of long range efforts to get the second half of to a lively start, but Matthews was in determined mood and kept his sheet clean. The visitors suffered a set-back when Strickland took a knock after a challenge with Gow and was replaced after only 7 minutes of the half gone. Two minutes later, as the Glens break appeared to have come to nothing Mbu made an uncharacteristic mistake and fluffed his header at the edge of the penalty box only for Connolly to pick up the loose ball. With Mbu and two of his team-mates still in close attendance, Chic kept his composure and rifled his shot beyond Walker and the home support held their collective breaths as the ball hit the inside of the post on its way into the rigging. Four minutes later Gormley took a great touch to kill the ball deep in the Whitburn box and with Walker advancing the striker looked certain to make it 2-0, but blasted the shot wide. Whalen, suffering from a groin injury prior to the match had by now run himself into the ground and was replaced by Simon Eeles and soon after Gormley made way for Gavin Brown. The fresh legs were now in great demand, chiefly as an out for the Glens defence which was all but under siege for the closing half hour. Gow and McGregor continue to win the majority of the headers, while their defensive partners Chris Merrilees and Mark Quinn, kept their heads, and passed their way out danger with good support from Aggie and Deeney on the flanks, and Connolly and Jamie Doyle in the middle of the park.
Some of the long high balls into the box were now disappearing in the December gloom and so too were Whitburn’s hope of conjuring up a replay, one late chance fell to Alex Lurinsky, but Matthews pulled off another great save and the Glens were through to the 4th Round.
Full time: Glenafton 1 Whitburn 0
Glenafton Athletic: Matthews; Merrilees, Gow, McGregor, Quinn; Connolly, Howie (Deeney), Doyle, Agnew; Whalen (Eeles), Gormley (Brown)
Whitburn : Walker, Carson, Ramage, Leiper, Mbu, J Murphy, Flanagan, Hannah, Lurinsky, Strickland(Roberts ), Moonie(S Murphy ) Subs not used: Mackay, Maley
Chic Connolly ... he shoots .......
Stevie Agnew on the move
Andy Gow wins the ball... again
David Gormley on the ball.
All photos courtesy of John Vass