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Glenafton Athletic had to divert their attention from the looming SYFA Challenge Cup final that is looming in order to take on a spirited Crosshouse side at Dam Park last Saturday. The teams met in the league on the very first day with that game ending in a 1-1 draw and this tie would be similarly close. Eventually, Glenafton were able to hold on for a gritty 2-1 win and lift the trophy.
With the sun shining brightly, the first chance fell to the Scottish Cup finalists inside 3 minutes. Glenafton won themselves a corner following some frantic end to end opening exchanges and the cross fell to midfielder Johnathon Quinn, but he scooped his shot over from just outside the six yard box.
Crosshouse had their first sight of goal a few minutes later. Nathan Ross picked the ball up thirty yards from goal and swiftly turned and played a superb through ball into the path of speedy winger Lewis Menzies who advanced into the box. He duly slotted past Ryan Dunsmuir in goal but the 'goal' was ruled offside by the linesman, much to the dismay of Menzies and co.
Jordan Graham had looked dangerous early on from the left and kept up his threat with a couple of testing strikes. His first came from twenty yards after he cut inside and worked some pace, only to narrowly shoot over. It did look as though Darren Gorman had it covered though. Graham's second effort was a lot more threatening however after he connected with a cross on the half-volley but ir flew just over the crossbar.
Glenafton were the more dominant team after 25 minutes but Crosshouse had looked dangerous on the break, particularly thanks to the pace of Menzies and the likes of Ryan Kulezich and CJ Duncan who were creative forces from the midfield to attack.
And that early dominance did pay off for the Glens despite the best efforts of Crosshouse as Graham made it third time lucky, rolling home a half-volley from ten yards after a good cross from the wing.
Crosshouse seemed to pick themselves up after going down and became determined to seize any opportunity to get back into the game. They had played well so far and were unlucky to be losing and Menzies saught about using his pace to immediate effect. The attacking midfielder went on a surging run down the right past three Glenafton players before defender Robbie Allan intervened. The danger was only over temporarily however and CJ Duncan picked the ball up and he and Ross Barlow played some nice stuff in midfield before the latter worked some shooting space on the edge, only to fire his low shot straight at Dunsmuir.
Dunsmuir is well known for his kicking range and this proved to be a cause of danger for Crosshouse whose spell of pressure was interrupted by a half chance for Glenafton. Dunsmuir launched a long kick down the middle that Ryan kirkland atcentre half for Crosshouse could only half-clear from inside the box. Josh Kerr was the profiteer as he latched onto the loose ball but his left-footed effort from the penalty spot narrowly missed the target. A sigh of relief for Kirkland and Crosshouse.
That misss proved to be key as 5 minutes later in the 40th minute, Crosshouse brought themselves level. After a momentary lull and drop in tempo, an excellent cross from Menzies on the right hand side was matched by a well-timed run from Nathan Ross who won the battle in the box to be first to the ball and he duly poked home with a volley. 1-1 with 5 minutes to go until half time; it stayed even right up to the whistle.
Half Time: Glenafton Atheltic 1-1 Crosshouse BC
The second half started tentatively with neither team gaining control of the period in the opening 15 minutes. Again, it was glenafton who did have slightly more of the ball and they did well at keeping things simple, playing some nice football in the process. A couple of header were the only real sights of goal for either team in the first 15 minutes after the restart.
Menzies was the first to have a pop at goal and he could have scored with his effort. Kulezich picked up a loose ball on the edge of the box after Jordan Kerr's miskicked clearance. He in turn played in menzies on his right but he could only fire wide across the goal form thirteen yards.
After 68 minutes the game was fairly quiet, but this would all change when poacher Ryan Camobell conjured up an intuitive piece of striker's play when he nipped in to make it 2-1 for Glenafton. Following a mix-up in communication between defender and goalkeeper, Campbell chased the ball and man down and lurked in wait for his chance and eventually managed to sneak in to stroek the ball past Gorman and into the net from close range at an angle. 2-1 to Glenafton with around 20 minutes to go.
Crosshosue perhaps felt hard done by after having the chances to go ahead themselves and on 70 minutesw they went close from a couple of set pieces.
Then, came the superb string of saves from both 'keepers. First up to wow the crowds was Gorman as he prevented Campbell from notching his second goal of the day with a terrific save following a header. Moments later in the 77th minute, Dunsmuir pulled off a breath-taking double save to deny Crosshouse the equaliser they craved. He made two great stops one after the other showing great reactions and halted the Crosshouse pressure for another 5 minutes.
The next time Crosshouse came calling on Dunsmuir's goal was from a free kick but the big man stood firm and saw it out as Steven Gray's effort curled off target.
Again Dunsmuir was called upon in the closing stages, this time to deny Barlow. A pin-point diagonal ball down the field from Kulezich found the midfielder on the run but his cross-come-shot was anticipated and caught well by Dunsmuir.
The game was now swinging from end to end in the last five minutes as Crosshouse looked to salvage something from the game. The boys in black and red had a goal disallowed for offside once more to their frustration; Stuart Gray latched into a through ball and placed the ball past Dunsmuir with style, only for the flag to be raised.
Quinn went close for Glenafton with an unorthodoz outside-of-foot effort on 87 minutes that Gorman had to scramble to save. Glens kept up the pressure as Campbell saw another header saved by Gorman on the line in stunning fashion before Scott Stobbs had a 'goal' ruled offside in the dying stages.
Crosshouse came close to scoring with the last kick of the game as a dangerous corner missed everyone and almost crept in at the back post before bouncing wide.
That was how it finshed though and Glenafton ran out champions after a gritty performance. Crosshouse will feel hard done by and they battled well and played some nice stuff, but the resilience and that 'winning mentality' was shown by Glenafton and that looked to be the main difference. An exciting game of football with nice stuff played by both sides; a good showcase for football in Ayrshire. Now Glenafton looked ahead to the Scottish Cup final! A big thank you also to Rosebank Under9s, who were ballboys for the day! Well done lads.
Full Time: Glenafton Athletic 2-1 Crosshouse BC
Ryan Dunsmuir was simply superb in goal for Glenafton today. His outstanding double-save was perhaps the key moment in the match, allowing his team to go on and win. Jordan Graham was also a threat throughout and Robbie Allan and Josh Blackwood were fairly solid at the back.
Crosshouse goalie Darren Gorman was also brilliant today. He made a number of good saves. CJ Duncan also played very well in the middle as did Ross Barlow, while Nathan Ross did well before being subbed and Lewis Menzies was a handful.