On Saturday it was the turn of local rivals Lanark United to visit the John Cumming stadium for this McBookie Leauge One clash. This was always going to be a difficult game for Carluke with Lanark currently sitting top of the league and Rovers still finding their feet under new management team of Mark Weir and Kenny Neil.
Weather conditions had improved during the day and a healthy crowd had turned out for this local derby. The game started quietly with both teams feeling each other out and there was not much in the way of goalmouth action. However this all changed in the 7th minute when Eddie Haley picked up the ball in the opposition half and fed it out to James Frame who charged down the right wing and delivered a great cross. The ball eluded the outstretched hand of Gareth Hallford in the Lanark goal but not the head of former Lanark player Jordan Conlon who nodded the ball into the empty net from close range. 1-0 to Carluke.
This goal should have settled Carluke but their lead lasted only 2 minutes when it was the turn of a former Carluke player to return the compliment and snatch an equaliser. A long free kick was crossed in from the left and Mark Haddow rose higher than anyone else to send a looping header over Adam Brown in the Carluke goal to make the score 1-1.
For most of the first half defences were on top and there were very few chances but in the 20th minute Carluke had a lucky escape when a shot from Hugh Kerr was pushed skyward by Brown in the Carluke goal. It looked to going in but when the ball bounced in front of an empty goal it hit the bar, came out, and was cleared to safety by Brown.
Lanark created another chance in the 28th minute when Ian Watt created an opening for himself but his shot from a slight angle was wide of the Keeper’s left hand post. This was to be Watt’s last competitive action as 4 minutes later he lunged into a tackle on James Frame and the Referee deemed it serious enough to brandish the red card without any hesitation.
Despite this sending off there was to be no further action in the first half and the teams went in at one a piece with everything to play for.
Carluke must have started the second half the more confident of the two teams as they were now playing against 10 men but as so often the case sometimes the 10 prove more formidable than the 11 and this was the case on Saturday. In fact the second half was not 30 seconds old when Lanark took the lead. There didn’t seem to be any danger when Adam Brown in the Carluke goal went to collect the ball but it appeared to get caught under his feet. As he tried to recover Lanark striker Kieran Brannan got his foot on the ball and it trundled in at the near post giving Lanark the lead for the first time in the game.
This goal set Carluke back and at the same time gave Lanark a belief that they could get a result. On the hour mark Hugh Kerr hit a speculative volley from distance over the Rovers bar. Then further self inflicted damage was done when a long clearance from Lanark eluded the Carluke defence and left keeper Adam Brown on a race for the ball with Kieran Brannan. Unfortunately for Carluke Brannan got their first and in the resultant collision Brown brought him down and a penalty was awarded. The keeper was booked and the penalty was duly dispatched by Lewis Hill to give Lanark further breathing space at 3-1.
Despite these setbacks Carluke pushed to try and get something from the game. James Frame broke through the middle of the Lanark defence and slipped the ball to Jamie Dickson whose shot from close range was well saved by Gareth Hallford in the Lanark goal. Then it was the turn of Carluke captain Mark Cassidy whose 25 yard shot was tipped over the bar by Hallford.
In the 84th minute James Frame was pulled down outside the box by Lanark’s Cammy Lawson. The resultant free kick was taken by Jamie Dickson and he gave Hallford no chance as his powerful shot from 20 yards nestled in the bottom of the net with the Lanark Keeper rooted to the spot.
At 3-2 it was set for a grandstand finish but it never really materialised, despite all Carluke’s efforts and the game petered out with Lanark taking all the points and cementing their position at the top of the table.
Next week Carluke travel to Maryhill for what will be another tough game with a 2pm kickoff.Match Report by Stevie Kane
Photography by Kevin Ramage