The powers that be, have provided magnificent facilities for football. The weather had provided glorious sunshine for the players to excel and show their skills; so what was the actual game like? Carluke are an old club having been formed in 1897, playing their games on the traditional grass surface at Loch Park. So it was with great trepidation that the players took to the field of play of their new home. Could they secure the fairytale win on their opening match against Benburb of Glasgow?
The game started and you could sense the home fans were on tenterhooks as the referee blew his whistle for the inception of football at the John Cumming Stadium. It was the visitors who created the first opportunity when Clark drove a low shot from just outside the box but his effort was a metre off target. After four minutes,they had another attempt, when after some lovely passing around the Rover’s box, Waddell sqaured the ball for McKenna, who hit the ball sweetly, straight at keeper McLachlan. The Carluke side appeared nervous and didn’t settle at all in the first twenty minutes, unable to string two passes together in the early stages, whilst Benburb’s confidence grew as they pushed the ball around with ease.
Their first effort was a free kick from Weir, 25 yards out. The fans waited in anticipation before his shot appeared to take a deflection then struck the bar. Carluke could consider themselves unlucky not to be one up. Twenty-eight minutes played and Benburb hit man, Asante found himself through with only the keeper to beat. As he sped into the box from the right, McLachan narrowed the angle well, pulling of a fabulous save. Despite constant pressure from the visitors, it was the 38th minute before the deadlock was broken. A delightful strike from Clark gave the diving McLachlan no chance as the ball rifled into the top right corner, out of his reach. A super strike worthy of an opening goal at any venue. Two minutes later, the Govan side scored again. Waddell was presented with a free kick in a central location 25 metres from goal. He hit a peach of a shot, which swung away from the keeper, for another fine goal. Not the start Carluke players and fans were hoping for!
Benburb were first to every ball in the first half, preventing the Lanarkshire side from settling on the ball. Something must have been said to instil some passion into the team in blue for the appeared after the break and immediately looked like a different team. From the whistle they drove forward resulting in an attempt from McStay, which didn’t trouble goalkeeper Quinn. However they were caught napping seconds later as a long ball played Asante through on his own, facing the keeper, he made no mistake this time. Another top drawer strike.
I rarely venture on to the sidelines for my photos but for this one I couldn’t have been closure to the action. Asante was being watched closely by the Carluke defender’s, often too close for his liking, complaining of being kicked, held back or obstructed, and he may well have a case. He did however get on with the match and simply raised his game to contend with the attention afforded to him.
Carluke were certainly playing with more enthusiasm and were looking dangerous when moving forward. After 61 minutes, after some head tennis in the visitors box, McPake back headered the ball towards McStay. The ball sat nicely for the striker, permitting him to strike the ball in the air, which in turn produced an excellent save from the Benburb keeper. As the ball rebounded from the keepers save, amidst some confusion in the defence, the ball broke for Reid, who thumped the ball directly at the man with the gloves. Carluke were becoming the force one would expect from a promotion challenging side. They had found some passion and were now matching Benburb in every aspect of the game. Nevertheless, as they pressed forward, they left themselves thin at the back. Benburb had the ball in the net as McKenna, cleverly outwitted McLachan, leaving the keeper on the floor at his near post. With the angle too severe for McKenna to score, he squared the ball across the area for a simple tap in for Waddell. The referee awarded offside against McKenna – it remained 3 – 0 to the Bens.
Midway through the second period, Benburn delivered a lovely ball over the top of the Rover’s defence, and it appeared that Waddell and Mackenzie were offside by some margin. “Play on” said the man in the middle, after a fine save by the keeper, McKenzie shot high over the bar from the rebound. A wasted opportunity for Benburb.
Carluke pulled a goal back after 73 minutes when number 12 crossed the ball onto the head of Arnott, who headed the ball passed a helpless Quinn. The fans sensed a comeback was on the cards as Carluke started to show they could play some entertaining football on occasions. A second goal almost arrived when McStay headed narrowly passed the post. Similarly Arnott found space for a shot and with the keeper diving in the wrong direction, must have thought he had scored. Quinn however scuppered that notion as somehow he got his foot to the ball – another brilliant stop. The game was balanced now, as Rover’s found some consistency in their play, and an expectant crowd sensed another goal wasn’t far away.
Carluke’s tormentor, Asante broke down the right but before he could deliver the ball into a waiting forward line in the box, Jackson scythed the athletic Asente down. Another metre and it could easily have been a penalty. From the resulting free kick, Waddell provided a cross high and towards the back post, eliminating keeper McLachlan. The ball was met by MacKenzie, who duly dispatched the sphere into the small gap between the post and numerous bodies to make it four goals for the men playing in black and orange stripes.
As the game drew to its conclusion, Benburb’s substitute Howe, considered an attempt to displace him off the ball, an illegal tackle. The referee thought otherwise but as his challenger departed the scene with the ball, Howe opted for revenge, applying a deliberate tackle from behind to bring down number 12 of Carluke. His adversary rose immediately pushing Howe as the referee managed to come between the rowdy pair. Yellow cards all round but could easily have been two red cards. sensible refereeing was applied to an irrational situation.
Carluke continued to seek another goal with two overhead kicks. The first from McPake, which brought the opposition’s keeper into action for yet another splendid save and the other from McStay, who failed to connect correctly and thus not troubling Quinn.
So not the fairytale start to their initial game Carluke had hoped for, losing by four goals to one. The neutrals amongst us would have wished to see a home win but it was not to be. And let us not be kidded, this was an impressive and often dazzling performance from Benburb, who will take a lot of positives from this match. Rover’s will have to wait for their first win on their newly adopted home.
Carluke: McLachlan Reid Jackson Moffat Weir Haddow McPake Savage McStay Arnott Weir
Subs: Frame Barton McNab Pollock McFarlane
Benburb: Quinn Gillan Wright Carroll Smith Lovering Clark McKenna Asante Waddell MacKenzie
Subs: Lavery Hepburn Howe Dewar Tinney Neil Brophy
Man of the Match: One man stood out from the crowd today as he harassed and teased the Carluke defence, with some tantalising football. Asante is the juniors MOM today. A close second was the Benburb keeper Quinn, for if it was not for his performance, the score would have closer than it finished.