Westwood Rovers edged a very tight game against Kilsyth Athletic to claim their place in the semi final of the Scottish Cup. In a game of very few chances an exceptional early free kick from Rovers left sided midfielder Josh Cochrane sealed the victory with Rovers managing to hold their nerve to come through the tie despite the determined efforts of their opponents.
A large crowd had gathered at Ballerup in East Kilbride for this eagerly awaited contest between two sides in decent form in their respective leagues. The crowd had to brave freezing conditions and the swirling wind for which East Kilbride is well known. The referee kept them and the players waiting for even longer than anticipated by expressing his concerns over both the pressure of the ball and the appearance of one of the nets. Eventually though the game got underway and there was a real sense of both anticipation and nervousness flowing through the chilly air.
It was clear right from the start that the wind was going to restrict the ability of both sides to get the ball down and play on the 3G surface. Despite the rain having eased off the sheer unpredictability of the wind meant each team would be reluctant to take too many risks. Westwood had most of the early pressure without creating a clear chance. Kilsyth too forced an early corner that was expertly flighted in by Mickey Downs but lacking the crucial connection to direct the ball towards goal. Kilsyth’s Andrew McNaulty was trying to get his foot on the ball in the centre of midfield as was his Westwood counterpart Mark Dornan. It was Dornan that won the free kick in the ninth minute which saw Rovers open the scoring and unbeknown to them at the time conclude it too. And what a goal it was from Cochrane. From twenty five yards out in the centre of the goal he curled a beautiful free kick into the net with his left foot. He had taken his time to size up the opportunity and used that time well, sparking much joy amongst anybody of a Westwood persuasion. A great start for the team in yellow and one they would hope to build on.
Just a couple of minutes later Cochrane had another effort at goal from a free kick, this time in a much wider position, which forced Ryan Anderson into a terrific tip over the bar. Cochrane then took the corner but nothing came of it. Jonathan Aitken then made his presence felt for the first time in the match for Kilsyth and gave Westwood a stark example of his pace that could threaten them at any point. Aitken burst through and saw his shot saved by Jamie Picken in the Westwood goal. This was followed by what Arthur Montford used to refer to as a “stramash” with the ball somehow staying out and Kilsyth denied an equaliser. Athletic were clearly demonstrating at this point that there was a long way to go before this tie was over.
Given the tightness of the game Westwood were well aware that a second goal might well put the game out of their opponents reach. Kilsyth were defending diligently though, led well by Jason Weir at the back. Westwood’s Greg Kelly had a wind assisted cross come shot go just over before Aitken again threatened and his teammate Jamie McLaughlin was unlucky with a clever over the shoulder effort which went just wide. That brought about the half time whistle and in a game of very few chances it was Cochrane’s goal that seperated the sides at the break.