Carluke Rovers took on the daunting task of entertaining Greenock Juniors at home on Saturday with the visitors sitting top of League One with only one defeat in 8 games. Carluke on the other hand came into the match having lost their last 3 games and low on confidence.
With this in mind the Rovers Manager, Derek Wilson made some personnel and positional changes with most noticeably Stephen Larkin coming into centre midfield and Shaun McKenna moving from midfield to sweeper. Also the return of Craig William Charles Grierson to the midfield was to prove to be a big bonus.
The game kicked off with Carluke hitting into a strong wind but in the first 10 minutes play was restricted to midfield with neither Keeper called into action. It wasn’t till the 12th minute that that the first chance was created when a freekick from Guthrie of Greenock found Scott Miller and his close range effort was trapped under the feet of Carluke Keeper KP McAlister.
This scare sparked Carluke into action and in the 15th minute when Craig Grierson turned his man on the left wing and fired in a low cut back cross which was missed by Stephen Larkin and cleared to safety. This was followed 10 minutes later when the same player shot over the bar following a Mark Weir corner.
At this stage of the game Carluke were taking it to the league leaders and were starting to dominate the proceedings and the chances. On 29 minutes Grierson found a bit of space against his marker and got a great shot off from 16 yards forcing Graham Black in the Greenock goal to make an excellent save down to his right. This was followed a minute later when Larkin picked the ball up in midfield and drove forward before threading a lovely pass to Paul Donaghy whose well timed run eluded the Greenock defence allowing him to unleash a shot which Black was a match for making another great save.
Carluke continued to press for the opener and Larkin and Grierson were linking up well with the forwards. The two players combined to set up Ciaran Lafferty who found the net with his effort when one on one with the keeper only for it to be ruled offside.
Craig Grierson was having a growing influence on proceedings following his lay off from injury with probing passes to the front line which was causing the Greenock defence all sorts of problems. It was one such pass to Ciaran Lafferty in the 42nd minute with the resultant shot cannoning off the right hand post to safety.
At this stage the Carluke faithful in the crowd were thinking they were never going to score despite their dominance but in the 44th minute, just before halftime, Carluke made the breakthrough their good play had deserved.
It was Grierson who again found some space on the right and delivered a great cross into the middle of the goal which was met by striker Ciaran Lafferty who volleyed the ball in from close range to make the score 1-0 to Carluke in the 44th minute to the relief of all associated with the Rovers.
However just as everyone was looking forward to their halftime pie and Bovril Greenock got the break of the ball on the right hand side when a mix up between 2 Carluke players and a slip by new signing Van Nuil allowed Miller to run along the byeline. He proceeded to cut the ball back to Alan Frizzell who dispatched his shot into the empty net with Carluke Keeper McAlister helpless to stop it.
This was Greenock’s first real chance of the game and a deflated Rovers team left the pitch at halftime coming to terms with the chances missed and why they weren’t ahead. Halftime 1-1.
Carluke Rovers started the second half having to put the disappointment of that late equaliser behind them. At the same time their goal had given Greenock a lift and they started the second half with a renewed confidence. In fact it took Greenock only 2 minutes to have an opportunity that had eluded them for 45 minutes in the first half. In attempting to make a clearance from the right back position Conor McDonald only managed to clear it infield, just outside the Carluke box. The ball was fed back into the box resulting in a goalmouth scramble which was finally cleared.
On 50 minutes Van Nuil of Carluke won a tackle in the centre of the park and released Ciaran Lafferty who sped down the right and cut the ball back across the six yard box which just eluded the outstretched foot of Donaghy.
There were a couple of half chances for both sides as the half wore on but the second period was a more even contest than the first with the teams cancelling each other out.
That was until the 81st minute as any chance of Carluke winning the match seemed to have dissipated when Paul Donaghy received his second yellow card for dissent and was sent off.
With Carluke down to 10 men they appeared to settle for what they had and take a point from the match. However with only three minutes to go Carluke’s McDonald got the ball on the right, just inside his own half, and went on a run down the wing. Good interplay between him and Grierson saw him cut inside running across the park and he unleashed a left foot shot which crashed against the underside of the bar bouncing over the line and out again with the Greenock keeper rooted to the spot. It was a goal fit to win any game and he was engulfed by his teammates in the celebrations which followed.
There was no further scares for either team and the game finished with a well needed victory for Carluke 2-1. This keeps them in the mix near the top of what is going to be very competitive Division.Match Report bt Stevie Kane
Photography by Kevin Ramage