Today’s visitors to the John Cumming Stadium were the unbeaten Shettleston Juniors. Before the kickoff players from both sides lined up with red placards with the message, “show racism the red card”. These were not the only red cards that would be on show!
Judging by league positions this was going to be a keenly fought contest without many chances at either end and this transpired to be the case. The first real opportunity came for Shettleston in the 7th minute when Ross Barclay broke into the Carluke box but just as he was about to shoot Van Nuil made a timely interception with the ball going out for a goal kick.
Carluke first effort on goal came in the 9th minute when good inter play between Lafferty and Weir with the ball being laid off to Stephen Larkin who shot past the left hand post of the Shettleston keeper.
The game was to turn in Rovers favour in the 12th minute when Shettleston striker Steffan Graham was shown a straight red card for a foul on Van Nuil. It seemed harsh so early in the game with Van Nuil not showing any after effects but there was not a lot of protest from the other Shettleston players.
The sending off however didn’t have a major impact on the flow of the game with both teams cancelling each other out. However Carluke were to suffer a blow when top scorer Ciaran Lafferty limped off injured after only 20 minutes to be replaced by Stuart Mitchell.
Although down to ten men Shettleston were very much in the game and the next opportunity was to fall to them when on 25 minutes Ross Barcaly flashed a free kick low across the box but there were no takers. Carluke were not to be outdone and a similar ball was crossed in by Stephen Larkin but it was just missed by the outstretched foot of Paul Donaghy at the back post.
However in the 31st minute Shettleston broke the deadlock in the most bizarre fashion. They were awarded an indirect free kick when a Carluke player was adjudged to be offside. Centre Half, Daniel Irvine launched a long, speculative ball into the Carluke box from inside his own half but it travelled even further than he expected and was heading for the Carluke crossbar when Keeper McAllister tried to push the ball over. He only managed to push it onto the bar and the ball fell downwards with the Keeper and landed in the back of the net. An incredible goal from their own half. 1-0 to Shettleston.
Things were to go from bad to worse for Carluke when captain Mark Weir and Shettleston midfielder Jonathan Howat were booked for niggling with each other. Worse was to follow as within two minutes of this booking Mark Weir inexplicably tackled the same player from behind on the touchline leaving the Referee with no option but to show a second yellow and give the Carluke Captain his marching orders in the 37th minute. This evened things up following the earlier Shettleston sending off.
Fortunately for Carluke no further mishaps were suffered and the half time whistle gave them time to regroup.
However the second half was only 5 minutes old when a corner on the right was met by Samir Khan-Young who rose unchallenged and from 3 yards bulleted a header in the bottom left corner to make the score 2-0.
To Carluke’s credit the heads did not go down and they started playing some better football pushing Shettleston back. Their efforts were rewarded when Conor McDonald running from right back chippied the ball through to Stuart Mitchell in the box who did well to lift the ball over the keeper from 100 yards to make the score 2-1 and give Carluke hope.
In fact as Carluke continued to press they should have had their equaliser in the 70th minute when Mark Cassidy, who was now playing further forward, got the ball to Ross MacNeill on the wing who whipped in a great cross to Paul Donaghy who only managed the slightest of touches with his head sending it wide. A better contact from 6 yards out would surely have found the back of the net.
Carluke were to pay for this miss only 2 minutes later, when despite several opportunities to clear at the back they only managed to feed the ball to Shettleston’s Ross Barclay who fired the ball past McAllister from the penalty spot to make the score 3-1 to Shettleston.
Carluke continued to carry the fight to Shettleston and a couple of half chances including a header by Cassidy at the backpost which was saved by the keeper and twist and shot over the bar from Ross MacNeill had the local support thinking that Rovers had missed their chance to get back into the game.
However in the 79th minute Carluke finally got a break when a mishit shot by Ross MacNeill found the head of Paul Donaghy who knocked the ball in from close range to make the score 3-2 for Carluke with 10 minutes left to play.
Carluke continued to press and thought their luck was changing but it wasn’t. In the 81st minute Stephen Larkin let the ball roll past him unaware of the presence of the Shettleston midfielder and in his attempt to recover the ball clipped the ankle of his opposite number sending him to the floor. The Referee handed him his second booking for this offence and off he went along with Carluke’s hopes of getting back into this match. It was a harsh second booking by the Referee but not surprisingly ended the game as a contest with Shettleston running out eventual winners 3-2.
Next week Carluke welcome Lesmahagow to the John Cumming Stadium in what should be a interesting local derby. Kickoff 2pm.
Carluke Rovers would like to thank today’s match ball sponsor, R & A Group Ltd.Match Report by Stevie Kane
Photography by Kevin Ramage