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Knightswood welcomed league rivals Bonnyton to Calderglen K Park on this nippy winter's afternoon. With both teams challenging each other near the top of the league, it was sure to be a hotly-contested affair between two sides more than up for a battle. May the best team win.
Both teams eagerly tried to find their feet in the opening exchanges as they strived to get on top. There were no clear favourites before kick-off and Knightswood used this to their advantage to stun the Scottish Cup holders by almost going ahead five minutes in. Max Ralston dinked a ball over the defence for Jamie Kerr. In behind the defence and on-on-one with the keeper, Kerr attempted to lob Dylan Caddis in goal, only for it to sail over the bar. A great chance missed from seven yards.
That was the wake-up call for Bonnyton and they immediately set about having some shots at goal. There was a flurry of long distance efforts as Jordan Muir, Ewan Barrie and David Shedden made attempts. Barrie and Shedden had shots skim the bar while Muir saw a couple of his tries flash wide.
After twenty minutes Bonnyton had gained control of the match, with their intricate passing style proving too much at times for Knightswood to cope. Sam McCloskey was the next to try for the away side following Andy Hunter's layoff from midfield, but the winger drove his shot wide of the mark.
Muir had another go from outside the box which Knightswood keeper Ross O'Hagen parried well and with under ten minutes remaining both teams realised that a goal now could prove pivotal.
Knightswood had that chance as Scott Kane was played in with just the keeper to beat from fourteen yards. His shot skewed wide however as the home side wasted the opportunity.
And it was Bonnyton who seized their opportunity. Another long range shot, from midfield engine Barrie, made the scores 1-0 and ended his goal drought in the process; a powerful strike that beat the goalie and nestled in the corner of the net. The whistle blew three minutes later but not before some incidents of controversy.
After going a goal down Knightswood clearly felt aggrieved and frustrated and for Bonnyton's Muir he felt the full force. Following a strong and dangerous challenge the forward was lucky not to be injured and the decision by the referee not to book the offender incensed the Bonnyton faithful. Moments later McCloskey was upended in the box while trying to work a shooting opportunity but despite srong claims for a penalty play continued. The loose ball eventually fell to Muir on the prowl but his snapshot bounced wide.
Half Time: Knightswood Juveniles 0-1 Bonnyton Thistle
Both sides had chances to score in the opening five minutes of the second period. Shedden fired over for Bonnyton before Kerr saw another lob beat Caddis but also the bar.
The scores remained 1-0 before Shedden grabbed the goal he had been craving and it was a worthwhile wait. The attacker burst past two defenders and cut inside before shaping to shoot. His right-footed effort curled past O'Hagen and into the top corner from an angle at fourteen yards. The goalscorer then came off for Sean Mears.
Knightswood had battled hard so far but were now thoroughly under the cosh and would remain so for the rest of the match. The boys in black in red upped the tempo after dulling down for a period in the first half and their slick passing and cutting edge was proving the difference.
Slap-bang on the hour mark we witnessed a superb team effort from Bonnyton. There was nothing the unfortunate Knightswood players could do as neat footwork from Mears on right allowed him to find Muir who turned and passed to Ryan Golightly coming forward from right back. The shift paid off as his inch-perfect first-time cross was met by the leaping Sam McCloskey who nodded downwards and into the net for 3-0. No way back for Knightswood now with just over twenty minutes left. This team goal seemed to knock the stuffing out of Knightswood, who in turn began to do the same to Bonnyton in a physical sense.
Tempers never boiled over to a serious extent as the referee tried his best to calm all players involved in the scuffles as the game progressed.
Knightswood could have been further behind if it wasn't for O'Hagen, who had been unlucky to concede three. He made a superb diving catch to thwart Muir's cut back and prevent the inevitable danger had it fell to anyone lurking in the area.
Bonnyton's back four had to remain sturdy for a short period following a bombardment from Knightswood. Andrew Strachan had to bail out his team mates with a perfectly timed challenge to block a shot before Caddis was called upon on goal. This would prove crucial to Strachan, Mclaren and Caddis and co's determination to keep a clean sheet.
Bonnyton's Barrie and McCloskey worked a clever free-kick on eighty minutes as the latter curled the ball round the wall from twenty-five yards, only for O'Hagen to scoop it up.
Bonnyton did extend their lead to 4-0 and it was via Steven Hill. The substitute striker made his competitive comeback after illness and within minutes pressurised David Tolland and nicked the ball from him before calmly slipping it under the helpless O'Hagen. A 4-0 scoreline was perhaps slightly harsh on a brave Knightswood but there was no question Bonnyton deserved to be out in front.
The Ayrshire club thought they had made it five with minutes to go as Golightly continued to press his influence on the game in a rampant display as passed inside to the impressive Barrie who made a clever dummie run over the ball to allow Muir to let fly. The ball rattles the bar and bounced on the line and despite claims for a goal the ref waved play on.
Wioth Knightswood pinned back in their half, only briefly countering now and then to no avail, Hill had a chance to double his account. He latched on to a diagonal ball in behind but he fired wide after a well timed run - not dissimilar to Kane's effort for the opposition in the first half. The consequences of this miss however were not as damning for the guilty party.
Ryan Golightly had a chance to cap one of his best performances of the season with a goal but his cheeky lob from close range was lifted just too high.
And that was all the business as the referee blew for hull time moments later. There is a case for this being closer game than 4-0 suggests but nonetheless a deserved and comfortable win for Thistle. Both teams were looking to gain ground on leaders Goldenhill and after a good all-round display it was Bonnyton who went back with the three points. Andy Strachan's timing of the tackle and blocks were crucial while McLaren made some crucial interceptions at the back.
Steven Gregory did well on his first competitive action of any kind in nearly a month while Ryan Golightly stood out as not just the top performer in the back four, but also one of the key men for his side today overall. The full back was assured in defence and his distribution was excellent and he was a real threat going forward when on the ball. Ewan Barrie was the other stand out player, not only for his terrific goal but for his all-round energy and effort in attack and defence, not to mention some fancy flicks and tricks along the way coupled with some good passing. Muir and McCloskey were also constant dangers for Bonnyton.
Despite losing, Knightswood showed they are no pushovers despite playing against a side that technically outplayed them with slick and intricate passing and devastating counter attacks. Knightswood had a few counters of their own but the key difference was the lack of clinicality or numbers suppporting the offense. Scott Kane and Jamie Kerr looked potent at times while Sean McCall put in an all-action display filled with grit and determination.
Bonnyton will look to push on and hope to have a chance of reeling in some silverware like last year, while Knightswood will continue to look tp improve as no trophy is outwith their grasp as yet.
For a short clip of second-half highlights, tweet @BonnytonYFS for a Youtube link, exclusive to YFS and YFS TV.
Full Time: Knightswood Juveniles 0-4 Bonnyton Thistle