Today Carluke turned their attention to the Scottish Junior Cup with the visit of Auchinleck Talbot who have won the Cup on 13 occasions including the last 2 times the tournament has been played. With a club of their stature a large travelling support was expected and indeed turned up. This combined with Rovers own support made for a wonderful atmosphere and what turned out to be a pulsating cup tie.
If the task ahead for Carluke wasn’t going to be difficult enough, injuries and other commitments meant Rovers had to draft in three of their U20 development team to the starting lineup and like the rest of their colleagues they did not disappoint.
The game kicked off and Auchinleck were always going to enjoy a lot of possession but with the wind in their face they adopted a long ball approach in the first half using the breeze to hold the ball up. The Carluke defence coped admirably with this tactic and it took till the 17th minute before Auchinleck carved out their first real chance. Some good inter play outside the Carluke box saw the ball threaded through to their No9 but his shot, when through on goal, hit the outside of the Carluke post.
This was a warning for Carluke that they did not heed as only 5 minutes later Auchinleck got the opener. A run down the left was finished off with a low cross into the box. Auchinleck No11 somehow managed to get his head onto the ball when it looked like it was behind him and nestled it in the bottom corner with Adam Brown having no chance in the Carluke goal. 1-0 to Auchinleck after 22 minutes.
In previous weeks Carluke have conceded a second goal very quickly after the first and it nearly happened again. Once more it was their No11 with a header at the backpost which was net bound only to be cleared off the line by Greg Kane.
Carluke were working hard all over the pitch to contain Auchinleck but they still managed to carve out a couple of chances again from cross balls. This time No2 ran down the right and his low cross found Auchinleck No7 whose low header also rebounded wide off the Keeper’s right hand post. Then it was an excellent save by Brown in the Carluke goal with his feet to thwart the Talbot striker from a deflected shot.
While it stayed 1-0 Carluke were still in the game and indeed Auchinleck were to rue those missed chances in the 34th minute. Carluke won a direct freekick just outside the box. The wall did it’s job but the ball broke to under 20 recruit Dominic Small in the midfield and he unleashed a 25 yard piledriver which left the Auchinleck Keeper, Andy Leishman, rooted to the spot as the ball rocketed in the top corner sending the Carluke support into raptures. Although the equaliser was against the run of play Rovers had competed well with Auchinleck and were restricting them to a limited number of chances and so were deserving of this goal.
This goal also raised the confidence within the Carluke players and they started playing with more belief moving the ball through defence into midfield and keeping more possession. There was only to be one more effort on goal in the first half when Kane just managed to deflect a near post shot by Talbot’s No9 wide of the post on the 6 yard line when it looked like it would sneak in. The first half finished 1-1 with Carluke very much still in the tie.
Auchinleck changed their tactics in the second half with the wind at their back. They dispensed with the long ball and started playing the ball on the deck. However Carluke were to maintain their workrate and if anything restricted Auchinlck to even fewer chances in the second half. Maxi Neossi in particular was having a great game at sweeper breaking up moves and distributing the ball out from the back. That said a team like Auchinleck will always create chances and again it was a cross ball that was met by their No9 whose close range effort hit off the post. This was quickly followed by the same player heading over the bar in the 61st minute unchallenged.
Carluke were working very hard all over the pitch and still posed a threat to Auchinleck when the opportunity arose. One such chance came when Callum Neill and Dominic Small combined well after good possession by Carluke resulting in a great left foot shot by Neill being blocked by an Auchinleck Defender.
Then Auchinleck got a throw in on the left and took it long into the Carluke box. As with most crosses the Carluke rearguard coped well and cleared the ball out of the box. It broke though to the Auchinleck left back. He shot through a ruck of players from about 20 yards out and unfortunately for Adam Brown in the Carluke goal the ball took a slight deflection leaving him with no chance. To the relief of both the Auchinleck team and their large travelling support they were back in front in 72 minutes. 1-2
Auchinleck pushed for a third to kill the tie off and indeed thought they had got it but the assistant referee raised his flag and an offside decision went in Carluke’s favour. As long as it was 2-1 Carluke were still alive and with a game that went directly to the lottery of penalties at 90 minutes Auchinleck were getting nervous and this was reflecting in their play. In the 84th minute a mix up at the back involving the Auchinleck Keeper and a defender almost allowed Carluke striker Dailly to nip in and touch the ball home but they managed to clear the danger just in time. Despite their continued endeavour this was to be Carluke’s final chance and Auchinleck saw the game out winning the tie 2-1.
Albeit a defeat this was a brilliant performance from a Carluke team missing half a dozen experienced campaigners but the lads who replaced them did themselves and the team proud. Hopefully they will take this level of performance and belief into next Saturday’s game at the John Cumming Stadium against Glasgow United and start climbing the league.Match Report to follow
Photography by Kevin Ramage