Carluke Rovers returned to league action this week and welcomed table toppers Bellshill Athletic on Saturday to the John Cumming stadium. Both teams were coming off humbling defeats in the Scottish Cup the week before with Bellshill losing to Auchinleck and Carluke suffering a sobering defeat against Clydebank. Carluke welcomed back striker Paul Donaghy who had missed the Clydebank defeat through suspension.
The game kicked off with Carluke playing into a slight breeze at the exposed Cummings stadium and it only took 60 seconds for them to take the lead catching Bellshill cold. Ciaran Lafferty picked up the ball midway inside the Belshill half and laid it off to Ross MacNeill. The winger got to the byeline and cut the ball back to Craig Grierson who, with his back to goal, turned and fired off a shot through a ruck of players into the bottom right hand corner to make the score 1-0 to Carluke.
Bellshill were not to learn from the early lethargy and were stung again in the 5th minute when a simple lofted ball through the middle by Stephen Larkin was controlled with his head by Ciaran Larkin who ran on unchallenged and placed the ball into the bottom right hand corner again leaving the Bellshill Keeper, Ben McDougall helpless. This made the scoreline 2-0 with Carluke scoring with their first two attempts on goal.
It took a shell shocked Bellshill till the 12th minute to create their first chance when Andrew Gilchrist found Jamie Stewart and his resultant shot was brilliantly tipped onto the bar by Carluke Keeper KP McAllister.
After the shock of the first 5 minutes Bellshill started to settle into the match and both midfields saw plenty of the ball as expected from this top of the table clash with the occasional half chance being created. It was one such opportunity that saw Ciaran Lafferty volley over from a tight angle in the 27th minute.
Bellshill were not be out done however and the in form Carluke Keeper McAllister was called into action twice within 2 minutes.
Firstly Bellshill striker Lee Nicholl had a long range shot which was deflected forcing McAllister to parry it away and then in the 34th minute a scissors kick volley by Bellshill’s Andrew Gilchrist was brilliantly pushed round the post by the Keeper.
However just as Belshill were starting to control possession in the midfield Carluke effectively killed the game of as a contest with a wonderful goal by Ciaran Lafferty. As Bellshill were pressing the ball was intercepted by Carluke midfielder Craig Grierson just outside his own box. He looked up and saw Lafferty up front with only one marker. He launched a great long pass which Ciaran latched onto. Lafferty then turned his marker, looked up and saw that Bellshill Keeper, McDougall was off his line and fired in a dipping shot over the head of the stranded Keeper and into the empty net from 25 yards. A brilliant piece of opportunism that had Bellshill trudging off at half time knowing that it was a long way back for them. 3-0 Carluke at halftime.
The goal at the end of the first half had taken much of the fight out of Bellshill and the second half was to be a turgid affair with both defences on top. Carluke had an effort on goal in the 62nd minute when a Paul Donaghy shot from 12 yards was blocked by Young in the Bellshill defence.
This was quickly followed by the best chance of the second half when good hold up play by Bellshill striker McGuire enabled him to thread the ball through to Liam Scott who, with just the Keeper to beat, saw his shot well saved by the feet of McAllister in the Carluke goal.
Regardless of the scoreline this was a game of very few chances with both defences playing well. Carluke’s central defensive partnership of Cassidy and McKenna coped admirably with everything that Bellshill could throw at them and the versatile McKenna had a particularly good game at sweeper and never looked in any trouble. The game eventually fizzled out with no more real opportunities and Carluke ran out comfortable 3-0 winners thanks to their first half goal spree.
For their part Bellshill will be wondering what hit them in those first 5 minutes when they found themselves 2-0 down with the game barely underway. Carluke were very clinical and took all their chances when they presented themselves and this proved to be the difference between the two teams.
Carluke have now beaten the two sides who were top of the league in their last 2 games and next week welcome Shettleston to the Cummings Stadium who are undefeated this season after a good start to their campaign. The kickoff is 2pm on Saturday 12th October and it should be another cracker!Match Report by Stevie Kane
Photography by Kevin Ramage