On a sunny Wednesday evening Irvine and Grange met in front of a large crowd to decide who would be finishing the night as Ayrshire’s champions. After a tight match, Irvine won by a single goal thanks to a Dylan Mackin double in a game where they were the better side for large periods.
Mackin was constant threat throughout the game and the first chance of the match came from his good work. He stayed strong inside the area to keep the ball and got himself to the by-line on the right hand side of the area. He got a cross in towards the front post where his team mate was arriving but he could only put his shot wide from six yards out.
Irvine nearly took the lead again mid-way through the first half as Kyle Graham made a lung-busting run from his left back position to the edge of Grange’s box. He squared the ball to Mackin who took the shot first time and did not connect properly enabling Grange’s James Hanlin to make an easy save. In that situation, the striker had a lot more time than he realised and could have taken a touch before getting his shot off.
Irvine continued o press and created another chance on the half-hour mark. A long throw in was aimed towards Mackin who flicked the ball on and into the path of Jordan Greenlees who had broken from midfield. Greenlees got himself into the area and smashed his shot straight at the keeper who had come out to close down the attacker.
Moments later saw Grange create their first opportunity and it was a very good chance that they could not take. They worked the ball smartly across the pitch, starting from their left wing and the ball found its way to their right winger who had loads of space inside the opposition penalty area. He took a touch and smashed his shot wide from a tight angle but he should have done better given the time he had.
At half time the sides went in level at 0-0. Irvine were the better side throughout the half as they created much more chances than their opponents. Grange, though, did defend very strongly against the pressure they were under.
Half Time: Irvine Royal Academy 0 – 0 Grange Academy
Minutes after the restart Irvine were able take the lead with the first opportunity of the second half. A long ball played in Dylan Mackin who gathered the ball on the edge of the area. He drove inside the box and finished smartly with his right foot to give his side an early advantage in the second period.
Grange responded well and could have got themselves level minutes later. A long ball was played down their right hand side towards their right winger who was able to get a cross in first time towards the penalty spot. His team mate won the header but his effort went wide from twelve yards.
That miss was punished as mid-way through the half Irvine doubled their lead. Dylan Mackin got his second of the game as he was played in with another through ball and was cool enough to lob the on-rushing keeper.
Grange, again, responded well to conceding and were able to bring themselves back into the game with the next noteworthy chance and set up a tense final ten minutes. The ever-dangerous right winger was given the ball inside the Irvine box where he had broken the offside trap and had loads of space. He smashed a shot across Kyle McLelland who made a great save. The rebound though ran to Craig Ryden following in and he had the easy job of tapping into an empty net.
Grange stepped up the pressure in the remaining minutes but could not manage anymore clear-cut chances. Irvine were able to hold strong and maintain their lead as the full time whistle blew confirming their win.
At full time Irvine had won 2-1. They were the better side throughout the game – especially in the first half – and had the chances to put the game out of Grange’s reach much early on in the match. Grange did well to stay in the game for so long and had their best spell as the match came to an end.
Full Time: Irvine Royal Academy 2 – 1 Grange Academy
Irvine Royal Academy
Kyle McLelland (GK) Kyle Pipe Kyle Graham Colin Meiklem Regan Finnie Ewan Farrell Scott Gilmour Jordan Greenlees Dylan Mackin Kenny Reid Dylan Hamilton Aarron Collins Darren Scoular Shaun Pipe Lewis Nelson Ben O’Donnell
James Hanlin (GK) Jamie McNair Craig McKenzie Craig Gemmell Kyle Shankland Michael Aitken Michael Stewart Ross Barlow John McClure Thomas Stewart Blair McKie Nathan Ross Jordan Halliday Craig Ryden
Dylan Mackin was the match winner and contributed a whole lot more than his two goals - a constant threat.
John McClure was Grange's best performer on the day, putting in an excellent shift on the right flank both defensively and getting forward.
After dropping their first points of the season with a draw at GSC Milan the previous Wednesday, Stewarton got their near perfect season back on track with a fantastic 3-1 away win to Harmony Row at the weekend. Now needing only 6 points from their remaining 5 games Stewarton travelled to Elderslie to take on a vastly improved Elderslie team. On a tight and rutted park and the upset of rushing about to get from Ayrshire to make the 6:30pm kick off was always going to be a factor in this match.
The game started at a furious pace with Stewarton creating two opportunities in the first three minutes. A good save from the keeper and a shot from Stewarton's Campbell over the bar set the tempo. Elderslie have become solid in defence and the ball got cleared at every opportunity hoping to catch Stewarton on the break.
The sixth minute saw the breakthrough, Stewarton were pressing high up the park and a ball played into the box was deftly laid off by Hunter into the path of Captain Hamill who slotted the ball home from 18 yards. Stewarton never relented and kept the pressure on. Wave after wave of attacks were met by good saves or the ball being launched up the park and much to Elderslie's credit they remained in the game as long as it stayed 1-0. Stewarton’s defence held firm with Julyan marshalling the defence superbly. Keeper Mitchell always seemed to be in the right place at the right time should the ball evade the Stewarton defence.
Hamill came close again via an opportunist volley which the keeper seemed to scramble away with his foot. Mason and Carruth had chances but just never seemed to find the killer touch that had been on display all season however their presence was creating the usual havoc in the Elderslie defence. Despite their pressure, Stewarton could not add to their tally.
Half Time: Elderslie 0-1 Stewarton
The second half started much the same as the first half ended with Stewarton piling on the pressure in an attempt to increase their lead. Early substitutions saw the withdrawal of Milne and McMaster for Fraser and Gilmour with the latter going up front and Carruth pushed out wide. Carruth ran at the full backs constantly proving a thorn in Elderslie's side. Gilmour was imposing his strength and height adding to the threat of Mason and Elderslie found themselves with a new problem.
Gilmour chased down loose balls and sought to bring the midfield into play. Stewarton pressed hard and came close on a few occasions even their keeper got in on the act with a long range free kick narrowly wide of the target. Despite all Stewarton’s pressure it was to be Elderslie that scored the next and grabbed the equaliser. A long ball up the park was met by Carruth on defensive duties but the wide man saw his stretched clearance sliced into the path of the striker who just managed to toe poke the ball past Mitchell - a slice of bad luck in a dominant display.
With fourteen minutes to go, Stewarton must have thought not another Milan. However they kept the tempo high and the pressure on and a long ball up the park fell to Gilmour and with quick feet the big striker unleashed a volley with the outside of his left foot into the back of the goals with the keeper stranded.
Stewarton consolidated at that point and shortly after Scott, with a well-timed run, bore down on goal but unfortunately the playing surface was to have is say once again as the ball bounced awkwardly and hit his knee and out for a goal kick. Play raged on and Elderslie tried again to catch Stewarton on the break but to no avail as a hard fought game was brought to an end.