In the last two decades Arthurlie and Pollok have vied for league titles and all the major trophies but given the league standings before Saturdays match many people were of the opinion that this was the biggest game the two clubs had contested since the Scottish Cup final back in May 1998.
Both games were played in beautiful sunshine, Saturday was a lot colder though, and more pleasing for the Barrhead side was the result was identical as Arthurlie ran out winners by four goals to nil.
Arthurlie started the game brightly and after eight minutes they went ahead, James Marks latched on to a through ball before coolly slotting a low side footed effort past Graham Black in the Pollok goal to open the scoring.
Pollok tried to get into the game now but for their possession they were limited to long range attempts as they were closed down quickly by the home midfield where Alan Muir was to have his best game for Arthurlie. On twenty minutes Roddy Hunter let fly with a speculative effort from distance that had Lie ‘keeper Jamie Ewings rooted as the ball cracked off the underside of the bar before bouncing clear.
Four minutes later Stephen McKeown went on a mazy run beating three players before cutting inside but his shot was weak and easily taken by Black.
At the thirty six minute mark came the games first talking point when Marks clashed with Darren Brady, the two players squared up to each other and Marks made a gesture with his head which the referee took as intent and flashed a straight red card.
With a man advantage the Pollok supports spirits were lifted as they looked to get back into the game but on 43 minutes a moment of pre stupidity from Brady levelled the sides at ten men a piece.
Brady and Paul Stewart went for the ball with Stewart hitting the deck, Brady didn’t look to pleased with how Stewart had went down and in an act of petulance dragged his studs down the side of the Arthurlie hit man’s head which was spotted by the far side assistant referee who alerted referee Steven Reid and Brady was correctly sent packing.
While the first half was probably an even encounter the second half was virtually one way traffic and after only two minutes the home side doubled their lead, a free kick from the right was headed off the crossbar by Muir and debutant Sandy Hodge was on hand to head home the rebound.
Three minutes later and Stewart finally ended his drought, after starting the season so prolifically, netting twenty one times, Stewart hadn’t scored since the last day of 2011 which was over 1160 minutes playing time. McKeown ran into the box and was felled by Jonathon Carter and Stewart stepped up to fire the resulting penalty past Black to make it three.
Carter tried to redeem himself from long range two minutes later but his effort didn’t cause Ewings any problems. It was another long range effort from Paul McQuilken minutes later, but again Ewings took comfortably.
Arthurlie were proving more lethal in front of goal though and after twenty three minutes went four ahead when Stewart shot home at the near post for his twenty third of the season.
Kevin Bradley made a good run on the half hour mark but as he continued his run after playing the ball wide left James Lundie was on hand to intercept and clear the danger, a minute later and first Bradley then Brian McGinty and Carlo Monti all had efforts blocked by the home defence who refused to give up their clean sheet.
The matched finished with a comfortable four nil victory to the Barrhead side that no one can deny they deserved, the three points also lift Arthurlie out of the bottom three and into ninth position but they are not safe just yet.
Kilbirnie in bottom place are all but doomed as they would need to win their remaining four games and rely on other sides dropping points. Largs Thistle sit second bottom on twelve points but have eight games left to play including home and away matches with Arthurlie, Pollok are on twenty points with home and away games against Auchinleck Talbot along with a trip to Irvine Meadow and a home match with Largs Thistle still to play.
Arthurlie sit on twenty three points with Largs home and away and Ashfield at home to complete their fixtures. Auchinleck are next also on twenty three points but they have eight games to play and won’t be involved in the dogfight at the bottom. Cumnock’s win on Saturday moved them to twenty five points but they only have a trip to Auchinleck left this season so aren’t out of the woods just yet.
It promises therefor to be a thrilling end to the season albeit at the wrong end of the table while Petershill sit at the top having completed their fixtures and wait for Irvine Meadow and Auchinleck Talbot to complete their fixtures to see if their total of forty three points will be enough to secure the title.
Report by Archie Leech
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