On Saturday the much delayed start to the new West of Scotland Football League finally got underway with Carluke Rovers hosting local rivals Wishaw at the John Cumming stadium in Carluke. Unfortunately, there were no fans allowed to witness what was a pulsating match with both teams going all out to get a winning start.
The game kicked off with Carluke playing with the wind at their backs and it didn’t take long for them to start putting Wishaw under pressure. In the 8th minute a good run through the middle by Lewis Murdoch resulted in the full back being brought down 25 yards from goal. The resultant free kick from striker Kwaku Nyame was straight at the Wishaw keeper for a straightforward save. Then in the 13th minute a through ball by Greg Kane was picked up midway in the Wishaw half by James Frame who evaded a Wishaw tackle and found space for a shot which he dragged wide of the far post. It was Frame again in the 15th minute who had a great cross field run, cutting in from the right, to find himself space before dragging his shot just wide of the right hand post again.
At this stage of the game Carluke were in the ascendancy with Wishaw restricted to a couple of speculative shots from distance which went aimlessly over the bar. However the flow of the game was soon to change when Rovers right back, Gary Livingstone pulled down a Wishaw striker in the 25th minute with a last ditch tackle which was justified in the booking that followed. Unfortunately Livingstone did not learn from this and went to ground 5 minutes later in another tackle resulting in a second yellow reducing Carluke to 10 men for the last hour of the game.
This forced Carluke to make changes with the removal of unlucky striker Nyame and the arrival of Mark Cassidy into defence to address the departure of Gary Livingstone. This was an earlier than expected introduction for the returning Rovers skipper following injury in a friendly some weeks ago.
The sending off gave Wishaw renewed belief that they could get something out the match and in the 35th minute they nearly broke the deadlock. A throw in from the right fell to the feet of Wishaw Number 15 but his shot from 12 yards was well blocked by the Carluke rear guard. Carluke continued to press though and a good break in midfield saw the ball past to the industrious Jordan Conlon in midfield and his shot from 25 yards hit the top of the Wishaw bar. There was to be no more action in the first half with it ending 0-0.
As the second half got underway Carluke were under no illusions of the task ahead, hitting into the wind and down to 10 men. The first real chance of the second half fell to Wishaw in the 50th minute when a cross from the right found a Wishaw striker at the back post and his shot from a tight angle was pushed round the post by Adam Brown in the Carluke goal. Only a minute later Wishaw created another chance when a shot by their Number 6 rattled the post before being cleared to safety.
Brown in the Carluke goal was having a good game and commanding his area well. In the 58th minute he was called into action to thwart a Wishaw attack coming out to meet the onrushing Wishaw striker and stifling his shot resulting in a goal kick for Carluke.
The early pressure from Wishaw in the second half was to pay off for them when in the 60th minute Chris Patrick received the ball 20 yards out and fired a low shot into the bottom left corner of Carluke’s goal making it 1-0 to the visitors.
It was going to be difficult for the 10 men of Carluke to get back into the game as striker Eddie Haley was ploughing a lonely furrow up front but in a dramatic turn of events Rovers only had to wait 2 minutes to get n equaliser. James Frame collected the ball 30 yards out and went on a mazy run evading a Wishaw defender and unleashed a fierce shot which nestled in the bottom of the Wishaw net making it 1-1.
This goal gave Carluke new belief and it was Frame again, who had tormented the Wishaw defence on several occasions, who picked up the ball and ran at their rearguard evading two tackles before finding himself one on one with the keeper. Unfortunately for him and Carluke the Wishaw keeper did brilliantly to block the resultant shot from close range.
As play swung from end to end it was Carluke who created another excellent opening. A good run and pass by Jordan Conlon found substitute Mark O’Reilly who did well to create some space to get away a shot with a clear look at goal but his shot lacked any power and was easily collected by the Wishaw keeper.
This was followed a minute later by full back Lewis Murdoch who broke with pace from the midfield but again his shot was too direct and easily saved by the Wishaw Keeper.
Carluke were to rue these misses when in the 84th minute Wishaw substitute Kieran Coleman fired in a great cross from the right over the heads of the Rovers defence to be met by fellow sub KB Grant who guided the ball into the back of the Rovers net from a tight angle to make the score 2-1 to Wishaw.
Carluke were to have one last chance however when James Frame found space but his shot was well saved by the Wishaw keeper who had looked confident all game. This was to be the last action of the game and the relief of the Wishaw players and management was there for all to see as they ran out winners 2-1.
Although defeat was disappointing for Carluke Rovers the performance was anything but. If they can maintain this form and keep 11 men on the pitch they will be a force to be reckoned with in this Conference B. Although there is no promotion or relegation this season there is still a league and cups to be won.
Photography by Kevin Ramage