Carluke Rovers made the journey to the west coast today to play Greenock Juniors in this West of Scotland League game. In the reverse fixture earlier in the season Greenock had inflicted a heavy defeat on Carluke and the team were determined to avenge that result. The Rovers still have a lengthy injury list but were pleased to welcome back Jonny Wilson who started on the bench. Also in the starting lineup for the first time was central midfielder Josh Fullarton on loan from Forth Wanderers.
The game was played in showery conditions with a strong wind blowing down the pitch. Carluke won the toss and decided to play into the wind in the first half. The grass surface was in good condition in spite of the earlier heavy rain and both teams coped well initially with the conditions.
Th game kicked off and as early as the first minute Greenock carved out a chance which was ballooned over the bar at close range following a cutback from the byline.
Greenock were enjoying the bulk of possession but Carluke had the occasional foray into the opposition half and one such visit nearly produced the first goal.The ball broke to James Frame on the right and he ghosted past the left back but his shot went into the side netting from an angled drive.
Apart from this opportunity Greenock were controlling the first half and creating chances and so it was inevitable in the 24th minute that they would get the opener. It came from a corner floated to the back post to be met by a side foot volley from close range by the Greenock No4 to make the score 1-0 to Greenock and no more than their play deserved.
Carluke managed to hold out for a further 9 minutes before conceding the second. The ball was crossed into the box and was bouncing around the six yard box when a Carluke defender was adjudged to have pulled down the Greenock No9. The Ref pointed to the spot but it did not look as if the player had been touched. The same player slotted the ball past Keeper Adam Brown. 2-0 to Greenock.
This second goal resulted in a mini collapse by Carluke Rovers and they proceeded to lose another 2 goals in quick succession. In the 39th minute the ball was played to the Greenock winger who looked offside but the Ref played on and the ball was played across the goal to the Greenock No6 who calmly converted to make the score 3-0.
Then 3 minutes later they got a fourth when their No9 latched on to a long through ball and dispatched it past Brown in the Carluke goal to make the score 4-0. It was now looking like the scoreline could be equally as bad as the previous encounter between the teams and Carluke were relieved to get to the break without conceding further.
The goals in the first half came from poor marking and sloppy play and there appeared to be a lack of leadership on the pitch. It was with this in mind and to try and turn the tide coach Kenny Neill, standing in for Manager Mark Weir on the day, decided to make sweeping changes. He brought on the experienced Jonny Wilson and Greg Kane into midfield and Connor Cowan wide on the left. It was hoped that with these changes and the wind at their back Carluke could make a better fist of things in the second half and put some respectability on the scoreline.
The second half got underway and if anything the wind had increased in velocity. Carluke started to play with more composure and the passing was more accurate but Greenock were still dangerous and they nearly extended their lead further when a 20 yard freekick had to be well saved by Brown in the Carluke goal. There was renewed spirit in Carluke’s play and they were now closing down the Greenock side much quicker. In the 59th minute Carluke finally breached the Greenock goal. Connor Cowan fought to win the ball on the left and played a pass through to James Frame who then went on one of his trademark runs. He dragged the ball past 2 unsuspecting Greenock defenders and calmy passed it into the far past to make the score 4-1.
Within four minutes Carluke had reduced the deficit still further when again James Frame cut in from the right and fired a low shot into the bottom far corner. 4-2 after 63 minutes.
Carluke were now in the ascendancy but Greenock were still dangerous and it took a goal line clearance from Kane following a corner to keep the impetus going. Into the wind Greenock were finding it difficult to get out their own half but they were defending well and limiting Carluke to half chances. One such effort followed a great cross into the box from Dylan Duddy finding the head of the hard working Mark O’Reilly but he couldn’t get enough purchase on his header in front of goal and the ball drifted wide of the target.
A goal at this stage of the game for Carluke would have set up a grandstand finish but it wasn’t to be and Greenock held on to record a 4-2 victory. Although this was a disappointing defeat Carluke showed good fighting spirit in what was a game of two halves and if they hadn’t conceded three goals in the space of 7 first half minutes the outcome could have been different.
Next Saturday Carluke Rovers are back at the John Cumming Stadium with a 2pm kickoff against Thorniewood United for another difficult game following the 3-3 draw between the teams earlier in the season.Match Report by Stevie Kane
Photography by Kevin Ramage