Kyle Simpson reports...
Saturday seen the clash of the titans, two favourites for the Challenge Cup, Harmony Row Y.C taking on Knightswood Juveniles at Alex Ferguson Park. Despite the weather doing its best to ensure the players and fans had a torrid time, it wasnÔÇÖt to succeed.
You would have been forgiven for thinking that the weather had succeeded, after the first five minutes seen the ball out of play more often than not in what looked like a nervous encounter. However, this changed and it was Knightswood who first settled into a rhythm. For the first ten minutes of the game they played some good football with most of their threat coming from skilful right midfielder David Weir, Harmony Row unable to cope with his burst of pace and silky turns. The first real threat came when KnightswoodÔÇÖs Striker Marc McDaid timed his run beautifully, getting in behind the back line to latch on to a wonderful through ball that took out the defence. However, as he burst towards the box he appeared to be tripped by Marc Sherry but the referee waved play on leaving the Knightswood team and supporters incensed at what appeared to be the wrong decision. This proved to be a turning point with Harmony Row almost immediately finding their feet and winning a free kick on the edge of the box. The duty fell to Captain Steven Slater who came close, skimming the bar with his free kick. Slater was at it again only minutes later, receiving the ball on the edge of the box and turning his marker and shooting low which brought a smart save from Steven Hall.
What was proving to be an entertaining game became marred in more controversy when Knightswood striker McDaid was sent off for kicking out at centre back Sherry. The incident happened after twenty minutes when Sherry was shepherding the ball out of play then McDaid suffered a rush of blood to the head and lashed out at Sherry. The referee was quick to bring out the card, which McDaid and Knightswood can have no complaint, and calm the situation. Despite being a man down it was Knightswood who threatened next. Winning a free kick, they swung in the ball causing confusion which led to the ball looking goal bound until Marc Howson appeared to head off the line. After that, the rest of the first half was all Harmony Row. Taking advantage of the tiredness down the KnightsbridgeÔÇÖs right hand side, midfielder Chris Gordon and left back Shaun Quinn combined to great effect. Quinn was driving forward at every occasion and passing and moving with Gordon.
The first goal came after thirty one minutes when the diminutive Gordon used his pace to drive down the wing, skipping by Weir who cut across him and appeared to foul Gordon. The referee playing advantage, Gordon burst into the box and was about to pull the trigger when defender Kieran McDade slid in bringing Gordon to the ground. Penalty and a yellow card. Gordon picked himself up and shot low to the keepers left with an inch perfect shot that no keeper was saving. Five minutes later it was Gordon who was terrorising the defence again, cutting in from the left and curling the ball onto the outside of the far post. There was still time for more chances and on 43 minutes, centre back Pedram Ardalani picked up the ball in his own half and surged forward. With Knightswood sitting deep and backing off, Ardalani got to 25 yards and played a sumptuous pass between two players onto the feet of Gordon who found himself in the box and with only the keeper to beat. With the form Gordon had been showing already there was never any doubt that he was missing and he calmly slotted the ball into the net giving Harmony row a two goal lead at the interval.
The second half seen a much more spirited display from Knightswood would need to come out fighting if they were to get back into the game. It was impressive stuff from Knightswood who were pressing higher up the pitch and chasing down the ball. The energetic display almost paid off immediately when a mistake from Quinn allowed Kyle McAulay to step inside but fired over from 13 yards. The second half seen much of the game played in the middle of the park with very few clear cut chances being created. The next chance again fell to Knightsbridge after 58 minutes when Ryan Craig met the corner but was always stretching and headed just wide of the left hand post. Once again the referee was involved in controversy when he turned down a penalty claim after a cross struck the arm of the defender. As you would expect, this was met with much derision from manager Ian Donnelly who was furious.
The game went on though and Knightswood steamed up the pitch, winning a corner. Again, when it was played in there was confusion in a defence that had not looked comfortable with cross all game. Being a man down and chasing the game soon took its toll on Knightswood who began to tire, allowing Chris Mclaughlin to take control of the game. For the whole game he bossed the midfield and dictated the tempo, splaying passes left right and centre and putting in a man of the match performance. He played the ball out to the flying winger Keiran Donaghy, who was like lightning down the right wing, who then slid in a wonderful through ball to Slater who was one on one with hall but he went with power when placing it might have been the better option. For the last half hour Donaghy tormented Graeme McLaren who simply couldnÔÇÖt cope with the twisting, turning and bursts of pace from Donaghy. Donaghy again face to face with McLaren left him confused as he produced some step overs leaving McLaren going one way whilst Donaghy slipped inside but could only shoot over from his left foot. By the time Knightswood brought a save from Calder in the 88th minute, they had been truly beaten with Harmony Row looking comfortable since McDaid was sent off. And so it ended 2-0 to Harmony Row in what was an encounter packed with some great passing football.