Carluke Rovers travelled through to the village of Rosewell in Midlothian for a first ever match in the newly formed Soccer Shop Challenge Cup against Whitehill Welfare from the East of Scotland Premier League.
Injuries and isolations had enabled manager Mark Weir to promote a couple of players from the U20s side in the form of Liam Sneddon and Jamie Murphy. The latter starting in central defence next to the experienced Maxi Neossi.
The conditions were good for a game of football at this time of year however the pitch was uneven and this was to have an impact on any free flowing football both teams had hoped to play.
The game kicked off with Carluke hitting with the breeze. Both teams were feeling each other out initially without much to choose between the sides and neither keeper really called into action. The closest we came to a chance in the first 15 minutes was when a through ball broke to Jordan Lithgow 20 yards out but his left foot shot sailed harmlessly over the bar.
However the whole flow of the game was to change in the 20th minute. With this being a cup game there was 2 Assistant Referees employed on the touchlines and it was the one on the stand side who drew the Referee’s attention to an off the ball incident.
Apparently the Whitehiil number 9 had kicked out at one of the Rovers defender’s. Following consultation with the Referee saw fit to brandish a straight red card for to the Whitehill Welfare striker reducing them to 10 men with over an hour of the game left.
Whitehill didn’t change their set up at this point and simply played with one man up front instead of two and unfortunately for Carluke it was this one man who opened the scoring in the 26th minute. Playing with the number 10 on his back he latched on to a through ball and ran on unchallenged to slot the ball under the advancing Josh Kane in the Carluke goal to make the score 1-0 to Whitehill Welfare.
This slender lead and the fact they were reduced to 10 men enabled Whitehill to adopt an approach of getting men behind the ball and attempt to hit Carluke on the break. It was proving very difficult for Carluke to break down the packed defence and the first half chance came in the 30th minute when a Jamie Dickson corner was cleared off the line. This heralded a series of chances for Carluke. Firstly it was Jonny Wilson and James Frame who linked well together with the resultant shot from James Frame hitting the side netting from a tight angle.
This was followed two minutes later with Frame being the provider. He threaded a lovely pass across the goal to the back post and the onrushing Eddie Haley just couldn’t reach it. Then as halftime approached Carluke spurned what was to be their best chance of the match. A great long ball from Jonny Wilson down the line found James Frame who eluded the defender and hit a fierce shot that the keeper parried but only onto the head of Eddie Haley. Unfortunately for Haley and Carluke he never got any purchase on the ball and with the net gaping the opportunity was passed up.
Halftime 1-0 Whitehill.
The second half started and the pattern of the game was very much to follow the first with Carluke having most of the possession but finding it difficult to break down a packed Whitehill defence.
The first chance for Carluke came in the 49th minute when a good corner from Jamie Dickson broke out to Greg Kane but his half volley was just over the Whitehill bar. Then good interplay between Jonny Wilson and Jordan Conlon found Eddie Haley but he was in an offside position when he slotted the ball in. No goal.
For all their possession however Carluke were finding it increasingly difficult to create any clear cut chances and Whitehill Welfare always looked dangerous on the break. In fact, on the hour mark, they were to give Carluke a mountain to climb when a long through ball eluded the Carluke defence which had been pushing forward with the rest of the team. I t was picked up by the Number 10 of Whitehill who cleverly dinked the ball over the Carluke’s keeper Josh Kane into the empty net. 2-0 to Whitehill.
Carluke manager, Mark Weir made several substitutions in an attempt to freshen things up but despite all Carluke’s dominance of possession they never really looked like scoring the goal that would have got them back in the game. In fact in the 86th minute it was nearly 3-0 when Whitehill’s number 14 broke down the left and squared the ball into number 12 who, with the goal gaping, managed to trundle the ball wide.
This was to be the last action of the game and Whitehill were to run out 2-0 winners. Carluke Rovers commitment could not be questioned but the uneven surface made it very difficult for the flair players in the team to create the chances needed to breakdown a very stuffy rear guard action put up by Whitehill Welfare.Match Report by Stevie Kane
Photography by Kevin Ramage