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Bonnyton Thistle hosted Rutherglen Glencairn in an eagerly anticipated cup clash in Kilmarnock, on a typically windy and mild Ayrshire afternoon. First Division side Bonnyton were the underdogs against the Premier League's only unbeaten club Glencairn, who were sitting 3rd in their league coming into this tie. Thistle sit 6th in the First Division but have played two games less than most of their counterparts. Cammy Crolla was injured unavaible for Bonnyton.
The underdog status did show in the early stages however, as Rutherglen started the brighter. They created the first chance on 7 minutes when a diagonal ball form the back found Nad Zebb on the left. His cross is met by the head of Ross McNeil but he nodded over from ten yards out.
Glencairn kept up the pressure until frantic drama ensued in the 16th minute. David Stevenson sprinted his way through the Glencairn back line before the ball bobbled away from him as he rounded Glens 'keeper Alan McLenaghan. The ball teetered on the by line as Stevenson twisted to cross the ball back across the box. As McLenaghan caught the ball from the cross, the referee blew his whistle. He then proceeded to send off McLenaghan for what has been deemed foul and abusive language. An uproar from the Glencairn sidelines followed before play settled down again with Ross McNeil switching from striker to keeper for the time being. Glencairn down a man with over an hour to play. What next? Could the underdogs pull off a victory? Or would the favourites show their metal and win through?
Bonnyton tried to capitalise immediately almost took the lead in the 20th minute. A looping cross from the right was met by Gavin Currie but his header hit the side netting. The Captain had to battle hard to win the header but unfortunately could not convert from 6 yards.
After thirty-eight minutes we were bombarded with even more drama. Glencairn's left-hand side of Ned Zabb and Johnny Boal had been causing all the trouble in the opening half hour and the combination bore fruits once more. Neat play between the two allowed Ryan Bennett to latch onto the ball in the box, only to be taken down. Penalty to Glencairn. Ross McNeil - only just relieved of his temporary goalkeeping duties - stepped out to dispatch the penalty coolly into the bottom right corner past Chris Murchie. 1-1; the side with 10 men had fired themselves back into the game.
Moments later the level of drama was taken up another notch when Callum Walsh was sent off for Bonnyton for a second bookable offence. The one man advantage had disappeared for the underdog side. With the sides at 10 men each, Glencairn stayed on top towards the end of the period. Good work again on the left from Zebb and Boal lead to a Wullie McCulloch shot just before the half ended but it sailed over from 12 yards. McNeil's perfectly placed penalty and all round dangerous display was what separated the sides at half-time.
Half Time: Bonnyton Thistle 0-1 Rutherglen Glencairn
The second period got underway with Thistle coming firing out of the blocks. On 50 minutes, Keir White broke out from defence after a corner and played in the flying Stevenson to his right. He drove down the line and aimed a cross for the on-running but White to reach but it wasn't to be as the ball bounced past him. Eddie Ablorh regained the ball but he fired wide from 9 yards with his follow-up effort.
David Stevenson had been Bonnyton's liveliest player throughout the match so far and he continued his good work on the wings as the second half progressed. He worked his way in and out of three defenders near the by line on the right side before cutting back in the direction of Ablorh - only for David Shaw to clear with force. The Glencairn defender timed his interception well in his first game for a year due to injury.
Three minutes later, Glencairn could have went 2-0 up. A cross from the right wing was met by McNeil with a diving header - but it drifted wide of Murchie's goal. Murchie was forced into an amazing save from another header three minutes after that when he had to dive to his left to tip the headed effort wide from a corner.
Glencairn number 9 Ross McNeil had been impressive up till now but he should have added to his tally on 77 minutes. The striker passed up another chance as he sliced wide from 14 yards. Could he and his team come to regret their misses?
That would prove to be so. The home side made it 1-1 a minute later when they went up the pitch and laid in Ablorh in the box. Depsite claims for offside from the Rutherglen faithful, the lofty striker ran through and lifted the ball into the net to equalise. 1-1 as wen approached the last 10 minutes. All to play for, with extra time and penalties if required.
Bonnyton had made their spell of domination since the hour mark tell and now had a chance of going ahead. They were keen to ensure they didn't go behind at the back as Kenny McGill makde a superb sliding block to keep the scores at 1-1. Bonnyton were under the cosh now from a resurgent and angered Glencairn.
Ross McNeil was at it again for Glencairn and he had two shots saved in two minutes. First his long range effort was caught by Murchie before the goalie parried a volley following some juggling.
Jordan Craig headed over from 10 yards in the 87th minute before Glencairn went up the other end and won another penalty. The impressive Jordan Dalzeal continued his solid display as he played in McNeil at the edge of the box. The striker back-heeled to turn before tripping and the referee pointed to the spot despite Thistle's claims. With two minutes to go, McNeil pickedhimself up to place the ball into the same spot and make it 2-1 to the heartbreak of Bonnyton.
With such little time left for the home team to conduct a salvage operation, the game drifted into stoppage time and full time wih the scores still the same. Glencairn advance into the next round despite a valiant display from their First Division opponents. Glencarin have seen better days and rode their luck at times but the team keep up their impressive results record this season and advance into the next round with every chance of silverware.
So, a victory at the death for Premier League hopefuls Glencairn in an even match that proved to be a hot and fiery battle. There were impressive performances from Nad Zebb, Johnny Boal and the returning David Shaw while Jordan Dalzeal played a terrific game in defence. Ross McNeil put in a brilliant shift up top and his penalties were unstoppable.
For Thistle, the main aim this season is promotion. Ian Higgins, of Bonnyton 19s said in the wake of the result: "Objective is to gain promotion this season. Then play in games like that every week. Good thing is you are all hurting. Take it forward".
Bonnyton can take heart from this display against one of the best sides in the West of Scotland. David Stevenson showed his flair while Keir White and Peter Wood put in good displays a the back and were unlucky to concede two. Paul Young was also willing to put his body on the line for the cause. Thistle will be downhearted but promotion is the main aim - gameslike these will serve as a showing of what they can do if promotion comes.
Glencairn meanwhile look capable of grinding out results wherever they go and this could prove crucial in next weekend's all-important, mouth-watering Scottish Cup Quarter Final vs Campsie Black Watch. The only unbeaten team in the West against the team at the top of the league who were finalists last year. It looks a terrific prospect. For the First Division hopefuls from Ayrshire, it's back to league duty next week and after a 5-0 thrashing of Irvine Victoria Juniors, and this performance, they'll be looking to prop up the table.
Full Time: Bonnyton Thistle 1-2 Rutherglen Glencairn