Glasgow Island maintained their 100% record at the start of the season with a hard fought 2-1 victory against MSM. Island’s third win in a row pulls them level with Burnbank and St. Davids at the top of the table. Goals from Chris MacLeod and Cally Mackay were enough to see off their physical challengers from Coatbridge.
However, the game was spoiled by an inept display of refereeing and a terrible surface on which flowing football proved impossible. The referee inexcusably failed to send off two MSM players for brutal fouls on Andrew Dunn and MacLeod respectively during the closing stages.
Glasgow Island started brightly, forcing a couple of early corners – one of which Dunn should perhaps have done better with at the far post. Despite its initial liveliness the match quickly descended into a scruffy battle. After an impressive start to his Glasgow Island career Robert Shirkie found the going tougher as the midfield was regularly missed out by both sides. However, Shirkie and midfield partner Steven Campbell displayed their defensive nous and positional intelligence with a disciplined performance.
With Shirkie and Campbell providing a midfield shield, Dunn and Neal Bowman defending solidly in the wide areas, and DJ Smith and debutant David Carty commanding in the centre MSM were largely restricted to half-chances and set pieces over the course of the match. MSM’s only first half opportunity came when Carty and ‘keeper Greg Broadhurst over-elaborated to present a chance to the hosts, however the opposition striker delayed his shot and allowed Broadhurst to recover and save well at close range.
Glasgow Island were not making much impression on the MSM defence either; with MacLeod’s tame shot their best chance of the opening period. Jonny Gray, making his debut up front also came close, just failing to connect with Mackay’s clever flick-on – the ball disappearing agonisingly inches past his outstretched leg. The first half ended meekly and the half-time team talk called for greater intensity and urgency, allied with better decision making in the attacking third during the second period.
Almost instantly, the half-time chat paid dividends. Kevin Macaulay picked out Mackay in space who in turn fed MacLeod with a delicate through ball. The Island winger surged clear of the defence before casually slotting the ball between the goalkeeper’s legs. The second goal followed soon after, MacLeod hurdling two rash tackles before being cynically hauled down in the box. Mackay sent the ‘keeper the wrong way from the spot to double the advantage.
MSM pulled a goal back soon after when Dunn gave away a penalty from an opposition dead-ball. Unsighted, the Island left-back was unfortunate to see the ball cruelly bounce against his arm. The MSM striker dispatched his penalty with the same aplomb as Mackay had at the other end. The Coatbridge side threatened sporadically thereafter but lacked a cutting edge up front and were too often reduced to hopeful punts in the direction of the box. Island went close to furthering the lead on a couple of occasions, MacLeod’s long-range drive sailing inches wide and Mackay’s tricky run nearly forcing the MSM centre-back into an own goal.
In the later stages the experience of captain Macaulay and Mackay proved invaluable as they helped Island wind down the clock as MSM lost their composure in a flurry of wild tackles and dissent. Number 9, the appropriately named ‘Hatchet’, raked his studs down Dunn’s ankle, incredibly avoiding a red card; and one of the Coatbridge defenders should also have been giving his marching orders for a dreadful over-the-ball lunge on MacLeod. Glasgow Island were admirably disciplined as their opponents’ collective temper frayed, and this was enough to see out an important win in the context of the season.
The outstanding performers on the night were DJ Smith, defending bravely against the second-half aerial onslaught; and Chris MacLeod and Cally Mackay in attack, running the immobile MSM defence ragged in the second half. Glasgow Island will undoubtedly be pleased to escape from the notorious Whifflet stronghold with maximum points. Similarly, manager Murdo John Graham will be delighted with the fighting spirit shown throughout and the flashes of inspiration from MacLeod and Mackay that ensured victory.