A large crowd descended on Merksworth Park this afternoon in the hope of not only observing a good game of football but with the desire to see their team through to the final of the Scottish Junior Cup. Kick off was delayed, to allow entry to the hundreds of fans queued up at the gates. An orange walk past by the park in what can only be described as an act of asininity. Dalry was already chock-a-block with football supporters, yet someone permitted the walk to coincide with the match, which was the greatest day in Dalry Thistle’s history as they attempted to put the small Ayrshire town on the map. Surely the walk or the match could have taken place at an alternative time?
So after a 15 minute procrastination – it was game on. Would Dalry make it a historic victory or would Musselburgh be heading for glory later in the season? As a neutral, deep down, I did hope to envisage history being made today and the celebrations that would have followed.
It was almost a replica of the scenario at Olivebank last weekend; the younger Thistle fans, singing from the off, to the beat of the drum and the rather restrained Musselburgh support. It was 13 minutes before we were treated to some goalmouth action, and it was the visitors who led the way, when Beveridge released King via a neatly headed ball into the box. The danger however was averted with ease for a corner. From that corner, Gibson met the ball in the air but headed just over the bar. Gibson would cause Dalry problems for the remainder of the game, from set pieces played high into the area. Dalry’s first move forward of any note, was from a free-kick in the 16th minute. The ball was played from just right of the centre circle, high into the oppositions box by Potter, which found the head of McKinnell, whose on target effort, was direct at the keeper.
Next up Burgh, another corner, this time floated in from Matt King on to that man Gibson’s head, but to his dismay Stewart produced a fantastic save, his fingers sending ball over the bar. From the second corner, Dalry broke swiftly as Sanderson drove forward, all the way from his own half till he was bearing down on the keeper. His shot however, went narrowly wide. One of many misses Dalry would rue later in the event. Seconds later, Sanderson was set free down the right from a long ball, his shot forcing Renton into action, with a display of agility to palm the ball over the bar. However, the Dalry striker was ruled to have controlled the hall with his hand.
The Dalry fans continued with the drum beat and a variety of songs, to maintain the atmosphere as the game slipped into an unremarkable affair for a while, not unlike the previous meeting of these two clubs. Then the characters swapped places when Gibson met yet another corner with his head. It appeared to be an innocuous effort but Stewart in-goal fumbled the ball into his own net, to give the visitors the lead. Thistle were now two nil behind on aggregate, with only the extreme optimists in the crowd offering them any aspirations of making the final. The Dalry fans were hushed – for the time being.
However, the home players, have this never say die attitude and immediately responded to their disappointment by forcing Athletic into conceding two corners. Canning sent in one corner which fell at the feet of two Thistle players but none succeeded in burying that much-needed goal. The ball finally cleared in a haphazard fashion. Dalry continued to press when Sanderson had a decent break on the right, sent in an enticing low drive come shot, but no one was able to meet the ball to convert it.
Possibly the best chance Dalry had in the first half was a beautifully floated in free-kick, by Bell, which was met by the head of McKinnell, whose following header was parried onto the bar by keeper Renton, with the rebound being sent harmlessly wide. Another golden opportunity to bring the scores on the day into parity.
40 minutes on the clock and last weekends “The Juniors” man of the match Chris King, sent in a wicked free-kick from the touch-line deep into the home side’s half. The cross caused keeper Stewart trouble as he frantically palmed the ball away to safety. Dalry had a number of set piece opportunities, typically coming from the right but come what may, they could not find the net.
Right from the start of the second half, Musselburgh looked like a team who wanted to progress to the next round – The Final. Within seconds they had a corner plus three times they pushed forward in a matter of minutes, their best effort coming from a shot from King, which was well blocked by the Merksworth defence. The visitors displayed classy football when Kris Renton put Noble off down the left-wing. Noble and Renton, passed the ball accurately between them, finally releasing the ball to King, who took the ball on the volley, unveiling a wicked shot, which only just missed the target. Relief for Dalry. Again David McGlynn’s side searched for the second goal when Beveridge sent in a dangerous ball from the right but Dalry mopped up the threat this time. All of the above occurred within four minutes of the second half commencing. What a half time team talk that must have been! The visitors did not stop there, for Kris Renton pushed forward at pace, releasing a shot, which must have taken a deflection for yet another corner.
Dalry finally made the break into enemy territory from the left-wing; the ball being played across field to the feet of Andy Bell, who must have thought he had scored but his shot was blocked on the line, resulting in confusion in the penalty area, but the chance was gone. Dalry were awarded a penalty when a player was brought down in the box. Their fans rose in expectation of what they have become accustomed too – the second half destruction of visiting teams! Up stepped Craig Menzies, sending the keeper the wrong way, only to see his effort hitting the post. At this point, one was wondering if Thistle were cursed, and they would never break their duck. You simply cannot expect to miss possibilities as good as the ones Dalry had passed over and expect to make the Scottish Junior Cup Final. Can you?
Yet another fantastic effort was to unfold as Bell hit a ferocious shot from distance, giving the Musselburgh goalkeeper little hope of reaching the ball, despite an athletic dive but once again, it was not to be as the ball smacked the left upright and away to the sanctuary of the Burgh defence. A fabulous effort worthy of a goal.
The young fans under the enclosure were resonant, driving their heroes on, searching for the equaliser. The chants of “Theestle, Theestle” inspired the home side as they refused to give up.
Musselburgh themselves, missed a couple of golden opportunities to ensure the game was well and truly over. Kris Renton one on one with the keeper, could not believe his eyes as the keeper saved with his foot. I was astounded myself that Stewart got anything on the ball to save the day. Even his team mates looked on is disbelief! The visitors maintained the pressure through King but after an mazy dribble to enter the penalty area, beating two players in the process, yet his shot missed by a country mile. It wasn’t only Dalry who could fail to hit the target it seemed. 15 minutes to go and Renton decided whatever King could do, he could do better. Breaking from the left, beating two defenders as he entered the box, he let fly only to see his shot blocked and cleared.
With 75 minutes played, Dalry were awarded a free-kick, twenty metres out, just right of centre. Up steps Canning, who fired a wicked shot, bending it around the wall, slipping it just inside the right upright, with Keiron Renton finishing up entangled in the side net. Game on. I did not believe a goal would come Thistle’s way but when it did, the racket from under the enclosure increased, sensing their side may force this game to penalties.
Soon after the equalise, Tansey broke down the right, sent in a low cross, which Morgan took off the toes of fellow player Renton, but shot wide. That really should have been game over. With five minutes to go of normal time, the Dalry fans were in uproar, when the man in the middle failed to award a penalty for what they deemed hand ball after Canning sent in a powerful cross. However, the Thistle players did not seek dispensation, suggesting there was no claim to be had.
Twice Dalry attempted football suicide, presenting the ball to the opposition when trying to pass the ball across field, fortunately for them, the visitors did not capitalise on their mistakes, the latter only due to Stewart producing yet another awesome save. In the dying minutes, sub McCann offered a brilliant cross pass to Hay, who was on the opposite side of the park, wide on the right, nevertheless Hay’s cross was intercepted by Tansey, who drove forward on the left, heading towards the by-line when he was scythed down, cynically by Kerr. The referee had no option but to issue him a second yellow and ultimately the dreaded red card and off he traipsed for an early bath.
It was only seconds before the referee blew for full-time and ended the fairytale for the Ayrshire town of Dalry and their local club. It had been a brave effort by Thistle but it was not to be. You could argue about the missed chances of Dalry but the truth be told, Musselburgh missed just as many, in what was a highly entertaining game.
Congratulations to Musselburgh Athletic, their huge travelling support, who will now face Auchinleck Talbot in the final in May. I think we should offer thanks to the young Dalry contingent under the enclosure, for not only was their behaviour exemplary but they provided the game with a fantastic atmosphere, not often heard at junior matches.
Man of the Match: Where do I start. Sanderson in the first half, for some incredible runs forward, teasing the Burgh defence and Chris King for another good performance, although nowhere near his offering last week. But I will go for James Canning of Dalry, for a peach of a free-kick and numerous defence splitting passes during the 90 minutes.
Dalry: Stewart Hay Fleeting Menzies McKinnell Potter Bell Patterson Sanderson McMillan Canning Subs: Ward Brown McCann Strain Seymour Russell Cussack
Musselburgh: Renton Gordon Noble Gibson Kerr Morgan Shand Beveridge Renton C. King M. King Subs: Tansey Russell Porteous Ramage Mitchell Murray Adams
Written by thejuniors.info