A healthy home crowd of 150 local supporters turned out in eager anticipation to witness an enthralling and dramatic conclusion to a see-saw season where Rovers were seldom out of contention of gaining a promotion place.
Rovers started brightly and almost opened the scoring after 6 minutes when a 35 yard Weir free kick was parried by the visitors keeper to the feet of Lafferty who’s shot was blocked by a desperate lunging tackle by Annbanks right back.
Both teams battled hard to gain midfield dominance with the visitors seemingly content to foul any Rovers player who looked like fashioning any attacking phase of play which threatened their goal beyond the centre circle.
On the half hour Rovers McKenna came close with a 25 yard shot on the turn skimming the top of the bar.
Two minutes later McKenna and Grierson combined superbly inside the box only for Grierson shot to be blocked by the outrushing keeper.
Rovers continued to push forward looking for an opening goal which almost came in the 40th minute when another Weir free kick from the right was floated toward the back post only for Lafferty’s diving header go an inch wide of the post.
On 44 minutes another Carluke attack broke down inside the Annbank box with a 40 yard clearance kick falling to the feet of their striker who caught the Rovers defence napping as he rounded two defenders before cutting into the box and unleashing a viscous shot from close range which Rovers keeper Adam Brown got a strong hand to but couldn’t stop the ball trundling over the line.
Half Time – Rovers 0 Annbank 1
Rovers Lafferty had to be subbed at half time ( torn calf ) for Larkin.
Carluke emerged for the second half and displayed an even greater determination with Weir and Cassidy exerting dominance in possession in midfield.
After 55 minutes the old warhorse Weir juggled the ball round 3 defenders before prodding the ball to Grierson on the front edge of the box who neatly laid the ball off to McKenna who’s shot on the turn from 18 yards bulged the net for the equaliser.
Rovers grip on the game tightened by the minute and on the hour mark were denied a penalty as McKenna was pushed to the ground as he ran into the box to get on the end of a low Larkin right wing cross.
This was followed up seconds later when a Biggart cross from the left was ‘shoe leather short’ of being tapped into the net as McKenna launched himself feet first at the ball.
In the 63rd minute Greg Kane was replaced by Stuart Mitchell who immediately tormented his marker with blistering pace as he charged down the left wing delivering 4 crosses in the space of 2 minutes.
After 70 minutes Annbank were reduced to 10 men when their midfielder was sent off for persistent fouling.
In the 75th minute Rovers scored their second and promotion winning goal in bizarre fashion when Weir chipped the ball 20yards into the right corner of the pitch with the visitors keeper running from his goal to shepherd the ball out of play only for him to misjudge the path and angle of the ball as he ran off the pitch with the ball rebounding off the base of the corner flag.
Rovers Larkin was alert to the situation and found Grierson on the front edge of the box who in turn rolled the ball to his left into the path of Mitchell who rifled the ball into the back of the net from 15 yards.
With 4 minutes remaining Rovers were reduced to 10 men when Chedu literally took one for the team by hauling down Annbanks striker who had sprinted clear 30 yards from goal following a finely threaded midfield pass with the resulting free kick sailing over the bar.
Full Time Carluke Rover 2 Annbank 1
Match Report by Ian McKnight
Photos by Billy Quigley