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West Region (124)

Jack Aitchison was the Glasgow Cup hero, hitting a second half winner to seal Celtic’s fourth successive victory and lift the history filled trophy. Ewan Henderson had given the Hoops an early lead, but Matthew Shiels had levelled on the stroke of half time, before Aitchison popped up with the deciding goal at Firrhill Stadium.
Since the Glasgow Cup, established in 1888, returned from an early noughties break in 2008 as an U17 competition, one fixture has dominated above all others. For the tenth year in succession, Rangers and Celtic saw off all comers, to make it an Old Firm final.

Celtic had enjoyed the better of recent encounters, winning the last three, without conceding a goal. However, it was Rangers who topped the group section and stunned their cup final rivals with a 6-1 victory at Lennoxtown Training Centre in February. On that evening hat-tricks for Owen McGinty and Matt Yates settled the tie, but with a glance at cup final team-sheet it was evident that neither they nor any of the players from two months back were to be involved. That match was presumably used as an outing for younger players within the clubs’ academy setups, given both teams had already qualified for the final. Neither side dropped a single point in eight matches against other competing teams, Queens Park and Partick Thistle.

The teams lined up on a mild night in Maryhill, with plenty of familiar faces from the national youth ranks on show. Many of the players on both sides were part of Scotland’s 2016 Victory Shield squad and no less than eight had just been named in Scot Gemmill’s squad for Euro 2017. Zak Rudden, Jordan Houston and Lewis Mayo of Rangers; Daniel Church, Jack Aitchison, Kerr McInroy, Stephen Welsh and Robbie Deas of Celtic.

The match kicked off at a high tempo, with both sides keen to assert their authority in the opening exchanges. The first chance fell to Celtic, with Jack Aitchison making an early impact and setting up Ewan Henderson, who saw his effort excellently blocked by Jordan Houston.

Celtic were beginning to move into the ascendency and only an excellent save from Gers goalkeeper Brian Kinnear denied Patrick Campbell the opening goal. However, the deadlock was not far away from being broken. Again it was Aitchison’s creative influence that created the opening and after his initial shot was saved by Kinnear, Henderson was on hand to knock home the rebound.

Rangers took a while to find their feet but after stemming the early tide, midway through the half they went close. Zak Rudden produced a sharp turn and shot, but Ryan Mullen was equal to it, saving with his legs.

The Hoops continued to probe, but in the closing stages of the half it was Rangers who came on strong. With a few minutes remaining until the interval recent Scotland debutant Dapo Mebude cut the ball back to Houston, but the Gers captain couldn’t find the target. Two minutes later, the equalising goal came. Billy Gilmour showed a glimpse of why he has wonderkid status, before picking out Stephen Kelly, who in turn found Matthew Shiels. The Gers forward made no mistake, drilling the ball into the bottom right hand corner from the edge of the box to ensure the sides went into the break level.

Rutherglen Glencairn are through to the final of the Scottish Cup after a narrow victory over Tower Hearts. Jordan Davidson was alive to a loose ball in the Tower Hearts box to slot home the only goal of a tense match, with the defeated side missing a number of opportunities in the second half.

With so much to play for, it was no surprise that both teams looked nervy in the opening stages and struggled to retain possession. The Glens fashioned the first chance of the match after neat build-up play down the left saw David Quinn feed Anton Phinn, but the forward fired wide. And just a couple of minutes later Njablo Ndlovu fizzed one by the same post from distance.

The best attacks for both sides were coming down the left. Michael McLarne twice got in behind the Glens backline but couldn’t quite make anything happen for Tower Hearts. They were the first side to get the ball in the back of the net when Scott Cameron headed home, but he was penalised for a challenge on Chris Truesdale in the Rutherglen goal.

Tower Hearts should have taken the lead when David Seagrave latched on to a ball over the top, but the striker seemed to hesitate and rather than take the chance first time, he laid it back to Cameron. By that time however, Glens defenders were getting back behind the ball and Cameron’s shot took a deflection, taking the sting out of it and allowing a comfortable save for Truesdale.

The keeper launched a quick counter attack and it was time for Glens to be frustrated by a good block, Lee Martin preventing Ndlovu’s shot from troubling the goalie.

Rangers sauntered to heavy victory over arch-rivals Celtic at Lennoxtown Training Centre in the Glasgow Cup, coming out 6-1 winners on a wet Wednesday night.

After surviving a brief period of pressure from their hooped opponents, Rangers took control of the match and hat-tricks for Owen McGinty and Matt Yates meant there rivals never had a look in. Celtic’s consolation from Michael Sparkes had given them some semblance of hope at 2-1, but Rangers were far more clinical when it mattered.

The opening quarter of an hour suggested that the home side would have the better of the tie and that they had adapted to the uncomfortable conditions quicker than Rangers, and winger Owen Moffat was dazzling down the right. Jinking past defenders, cutting inside to play inch-perfect through balls and crosses, Moffat was the star of the show early on and had Sparkes and Paul Kennedy provided better finishes to his passes, Celtic may have got the early momentum.

Instead it was Rangers who found the breakthrough a quarter of the way through the game. Captain Cieran Dickson played a neat one-two with Murray Miller that left the Celtic defender forced to foul, and up stepped McGinty to hit a clever free-kick under the wall, deceiving Ryan Mullen in the Celtic goal and nestling in the back of the net.

As quickly as it was one, it was two. McGinty again the scorer but it was all about the pass from Kai Kennedy, allowing him to cut inside and find the target.

Rangers were playing with a speed and purpose that meant although Celtic had the majority of the possession, as soon as a player in blue picked it up he was looking for a forward pass, a ball over the top, a way to outfox the Celtic backline. And it was working.

However, there was no chance Moffat was going to let this game go without a fight. He had taken a few heavy knocks from Rangers players but was still willing to take them on, and beat them more often than not. So it proved just a few minutes after Rangers second as he worked his way into the box, and with the shot on, he smartly rolled the ball across goal for Sparkes to spark what they hoped would be a comeback.

Celtic were certainly reignited by the goal and when Moffat played in Scott Cusick they could almost taste the equaliser, but Lewis Buoinackus made an important stop at his near post.

The importance of the chance was underlined when, minutes before half-time, Yates ghosted in at the back post taking the defence completely unaware to knock home Dickson’s cross and restore the two goal lead.

Thursday, 22 December 2016 07:57

Rudden inspires Rangers rout over Queens

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Rangers swept aside Queen’s Park in the Glasgow Cup with a Zak Rudden hat-trick inspiring them to a relaxed 6-0 victory. It took Rudden and Rangers just seven minutes to open the scoring and they never looked back from there, with their goalkeeper Billy Kinnear a virtual spectator throughout. The impressive Daniel Finlayson added to an assured and confident performance at the back by getting the second, with Matifadza Zata and Matthew Shiels ensuring that victory was beyond doubt before the half-time whistle. Rudden completed his hat-trick with goals at the start and end of the second half to put some extra gloss on the scoreline.

The opening five minutes gave no indication of the whitewash to follow as both teams probed one another and had a corner apiece, but it didn’t take long before an individual piece of brilliance from Rudden set Rangers on their way.

Skilfully cutting inside down the right, he danced along the by-line, using stepovers to twist and turn between three defender before beating Elliot Anderson at his near post with a fierce shot.

Credit to Queen’s Park, they didn’t let their heads drop at the first sign of trouble and carved out what would be their best opportunity of the match in response. A throw-in down the left hand side went to Ronan McLaughlin who held play up and set-up Declan Walsh on the edge of the penalty box for an effort that looked destined for the far top corner before curling away at the last moment.

Having only narrowly been beaten 2-1 by Rangers earlier in the season, Queen’s would have felt they were capable of getting back into this but it proved to be a costly miss as Rangers began to impress their superiority on the visitors, with Billy Gilmour forcing Anderson into a good save with his legs. The resulting corner should have put Rangers two ahead but Finlayson’s header went just wide.

Even at this early stage, centre back Finlayson looked a tough prospect for Queen’s Park to bypass. A good reader of the game, he was quick to intercept their forward passes and strong in the tackle if it came to it. Although not wearing the captain’s armband, he was talkative, marshalling his teammates, and organising those in front of him.

He was also proving a serious danger from set-pieces and if he improved his heading accuracy he could easily have grabbed three or four goals for himself in this match. As it was he gave Rangers some breathing space by scoring the second from close range. Rudden took a short corner with Gilmour whose shot from the corner of the penalty box looked to be heading in but Finlayson made sure by nodding home under pressure.

Much like the Rangers first team, their u17s played a fluid 4-3-3 formation with Rudden the tip of the spear and Zata and Shiels down the flanks around him but willing to swap sides or drop deeper as the supporting Gilmour and Cameron Palmer came forward.

Zata was the quietest of the front three in the first half but he lit the game up with a magnificent curling effort into the top corner just after the half hour mark. Anderson was at full stretch on the dive but could do nothing about it.

It was hard to see a way back for Queen’s Park from three down and it would have been worse were it not for the heroics of Lewis Magee. The Queen’s captain was proving his worth with a series of important tackles and blocks at the back as Rangers poured forward. Both Rudden and Zata were denied almost certain goals thanks to the intervention of Magee.

Queen’s thought they’d found a lifeline when Andy McLaughlin put the ball in the back of the net but he was ruled offside. Rangers would then also see the linesman’s flag deny them a goal when Shiels looked to be scoring after great skill from Gilmour, only for Zata to be penalised for trying to steal what already looked like a certain goal. It was a half of contrasts for Zata who showed flashes of brilliance and madness in equal parts.

There was nothing but brilliance from Rudden however and he played a major part in the final move of the half, delightfully dummying a through ball, taking out the defence and allowing Shiels to get through one-on-one and finish through Anderson’s legs.

Tuesday, 13 December 2016 11:48

Queens see off Partick in City of Glasgow Cup tie

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A cold wet evening in Lochinch Playing Fields provided the stage for a City of Glasgow Cup clash between Queens Park and Partick Thistle. The conditions were perfect for both side’s youngsters to put their talent on display. 

Queens Park gained the upper hand in the opening few minutes, showing tidy and patient football, Partick on the other hand offered a much more physical threat. Thistle adopted a 3-5-2 formation throughout the first half, a tactic that seems to be prominent throughout the majority of their age groups.

It was Queens who drew first blood, when an angled pass was fired into the feet of Arron Mooney who raced down the inside left channel, cut inside to beat the central defender, and slotted the ball underneath the ‘keeper to open the scoring for the away side.

The physical aspect of the game was very much present, collisions and meaty challenges constantly on the table, although the referee clearly tried to allow the game to flow, despite having to deal with a high number of fouls.

Queens 4-2-3-1 shape proved to be a handful for the Thistle group, and their high-energy style and constant pressing was proving a real thorn in the side of Thistle, who really struggled to create clear-cut chances as a result.

The second goal was a result of this pressing, with the lively Arron Black chasing, harrying, and making life uncomfortable for Partick’s players. A stray ball kindly dropped to centre forward Ronan McLauchlin, who found himself with time and space, and he calmly volleyed home to make it 2-0 to Queens.

Eventually the ball found itself into the Queens half, providing an opportunity for Thistle to get themselves back into the cup-tie. Thistle pressed with intent in the closing stages of the first 45, Gallasso giving everything to drag his team away from defeat. They couldn’t find their goal before half-time though, despite Grainger, Last and Galasso all combining well in possession, and using their width to attack Queens.

The cup-tie very much became a back and forth affair until James Grant, who was often the creative outlet for Queens, regained possession in the centre and angled a pass out to the lightning fast Mooney. Just as before, he cut inside and slid the ball across to Black, who smashed home to put his team three goals to the good, and dampen the spirits of the Thistle team. 

Tommy McIntyre’s side were looking to bow out of this year’s UEFA Youth League with a positive result, but faced with such formidable opponents, this proved to be a tall order. A frosty Cappielow was no obstacle to a skilled and clinical Barcelona side, no doubt containing future stars to be reckoned with.

A Jordi Mboula Queralt double helped the visitors cruise to a three goal lead at half time. Barcelona looked lethal at every venture into the final third. Celtic enjoyed good spells and possession but by contrast lacked the killer instinct of their opponents.

Celtic had begun positively with Anthony Ralston getting down the flank on 2 minutes to set up Calvin Miller who flashed over the bar, but instead it was Barca who stunned the hosts to take the lead on 8 minutes. It was Queralt’s first sight at goal, and cutting in from wide he proceeded to lash an unstoppable drive from the angle past the helpless Ross Doohan.

With a spring in their step Barca almost doubled their advantage 3 minutes later, when Jeremy Guillemenot found space in the box to head Gyeolhee’s cross against the bar.

Celtic had to regroup and began to look more comfortable in possession, albeit vulnerable to lethal and punishing Barcelona breaks into the final third. Kristoffer Ajer is a formidable presence in the middle and his driving run almost had the Celts level, as he played in Regan Hendry, but he couldn’t find the target with his effort.

Ajer then went on a fine driving run on 31 minutes to the edge of the box, but unfortunately the end product again didn’t match the fine build up play.

Celtic needed to make Barca pay with every sight of goal, as they continued to threaten on the break. There was a double escape firstly as Sam Wardrop made a perfectly timed tackle to thwart the ever dangerous Queralt. A couple of minutes later and Doohan was called into action, tipping a goal bound Guillemenot shot onto the post and wide.

And the visitors doubled their lead on 34 minutes, as Oscar Mingueza sprayed a precise through ball to Queralt in the box. The forward’s instant control teed him up perfectly to turn shoot low past Doohan.

On the balance of play Celtic didn’t deserve to be 2 goals down, as they continued to press and build the play in midfield. Miller had another sight of goal on 41 minutes after a driving run into the box but again couldn’t find the target.

 

Two minutes later and Barca were up the other end to put the match out of sight, as Cletic lost possession in midfield. Dani Garcia played a quick one two into the box to angle a low shot past Doohan.

Wednesday, 16 November 2016 18:21

Pollok prevail after Giffnock cup thriller

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In the first round of the SYFA West Region Cup, Giffnock SC White, who sit in sixth place in the Paisley Johnstone & District League Division 3, met Pollok United SA who are 2 places off bottom spot in Division 2.
 
The deadlock was broken very early on after a mix up at the back between Giffnock's defender and goalkeeper allowed Pollok's number 11 Buckley to roll the ball into an empty net. Immediately after Buckley was involved again this time running down the wing then pulling it back to McCrory who stepped inside the box and powered a shot into the top left corner leaving Gordon with no chance of getting near it.
 
Giffnock came close to responding with McCormack nearly taking advantage of the defenders slip after Wilson played a great through ball but the number 16 could only find the wrong side of the post. Soon after though Buckley was involved again this time playing the ball in behind to find Gillion whose shot from a tight angle did not trouble gordon in the Giffnock goal.
 
McCormack was again played through by a lovley pass from just inside his teams half, he then dribbled through and got the better of the defender but was quite fortunate the Pollok goalkeeper could not keep hold of the ball, the number 16 then took his shot from just in front of the six yard box and even though the Pollok defender got to it he could not stop McCormack from making it 2-1 before half time.

The last final of a jam packed weekend at Parklea saw Arthurlie come away convincing winners of the Tom McPhillips League Cup, as they defeated Drumchapel United in the summer swelter. And it never looked in much doubt from the outset, as the Barrhead side dominated proceedings to see out their season in style.

Arthurlie though never quite reached the standards they set themselves in a scrappier second half, with both sides perhaps toiling in unseasonal heat on a perfect Summer’s day. The end proceedings were largely pedestrian until James McTaggart put all doubts aside with seven minutes on the clock.

A couple of early chances set the pattern, with McTaggart coming close to opening the Arthurlie account in the opening stages. Drumchapel keeper Jack Hamilton was to have a busy time of it, as the defenders in front of him were stretched to cope with the movement of the Arthurlie attackers.

Ross Mundy was proving the driving force in midfield, and tested Hamilton’s handling skills on 17 minutes after a quick flowing move. His passing vision was also picking out the space in behind as an opener seemed only a question of time.

It arrived on 19 minutes. This time the danger came down the flank, and Shaun Clark’s pinpoint pass found Dean Whitehorn free in the box to head home the opener.

Mundy was to have another rasping shot saved a minute later with Arthurlie first to every ball in midfield at this stage. The midfielder could have extended the lead further but couldn’t get hold of a free header in the box on 27 minutes.

Drumchapel were being pushed ever deeper and could not exert any real pressure on the Arthurlie back line. The second goal arrived on the half hour after a defensive mix up allowed Paul Brown to nip in and beat Hamilton from close range.

But for all their chances the Arthurlie lead only remained at only two goals. Another pinpoint pass by Mundy had Morgan Duncan bearing down on goal, but Hamilton stood up well to block the shot on the half hour.

 

It was a game swung both ways, played in sweltering extra time heat in Port Glasgow . In the end PFD United emerged as worthy Tom McPhillips League Cup winners on the balance of chances at Parklea, but only after being pushed into extra time by Accies. The game’s decisive moment may just have been late on when Accies were reduced to 10 men, which PFD were to take full advantage of in the additional time against tiring opponents.

Perhaps PFD might have wondered why the game was not beyond Accies in normal time, having carved out by far the best of the opportunities. Instead it was Accies who gave them a lesson in finishing to take the lead on the cusp of half time. But United regrouped to eventually lift the Tom McPhillips Cup and cap a successful season.

Both sides set up in 4-4-2 formation as the game began a midfield chess match, with neither side quite stamping their authority on it. Both were earning set pieces around the box, allowing the respective keepers to get an easy touch of the ball for the opening 20 minutes.

The first real test for Stephen Mooney in the Hamilton goal was to pick the ball out of his net on 21 minutes as his side were undone from one of these set pieces. This time Connor Gunn’s free kick caused some hesitation in the defence and Alan O’Malley was on hand to nip in and score at the far post.

PFD were looking rampant and threatened to put the game out of sight two minutes later, but Charlie McQuillan could only shoot over after good feet had got him through on the Mooney’s goal. Up front Patrick Carrigan was also causing chaos with some tricky runs beyond the Accies defence, but unable to convert opportunities.

Hamilton’s best effort on target to this point was a Robbie Torrance strike from the edge of the box, which the PFD keeper handled to parry clear. They turned it round though, against all odds, to go into the lead at half time.

Firstly, a great run down the right by Aaron Black found the winger in space to pick out Robbie Torrance in the box. He tapped home the equaliser from close range. And Accies went one better again as they took the lead right on the ref’s whistle for the break. It came down the opposite flank, as Reece Patrick Coyle found Cameron Wray with a good through ball to cross for Stephen Coupland unmarked to finish.

Glenvale were just about deserved League Cup winners, but by the tightest of margins in this one goal final. Captain Sam Walters’ first half goal was in the end all that separated two very evenly matched sides at Parklea.

Both these two have had a creditable league season, with Glenvale still in the chase for the title, and Airdrie lying in fourth. For a one goal game it was still pleasing on the eye. Both teams obviously expounded the merits of passing football. The ball spent a lot of time on the deck with patient play building from the back.

Perhaps the key to Glenvale’s success was in wide areas, with wing backs David McNair and Andrew McColl keeping the pressure on their opponents throughout. For all that, though, Airdrie defended well, and it was to take a set piece to undo them in the first half.

After early opportunities for Declan Curran and Kyle McLaughlin, the goal arrived from the corner kick. Curran’s corner swung in, and Walters rose above a packed defence to guide his header past the keeper on 24 minutes.

In response Airdrie were restricted to long range opportunities, getting nothing from Walters and McLaughlin at the heart of the Glenvale defence. Michael Ralston fired just over on the half hour, before Findlay Beck forced a first save from Aiden McMahon four minutes later to parry wide.

It was beginning to look as though it would take something special to open up the Glenvale defence as the half wore on in a tight midfield contest. Yet it was still up in the air as the referee blew for half time with Airdrie just a goal down.

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