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Easthall Star visited Maryhill Juniors and snatched the points with a late goal in a freezing cold encounter at the Firhill Complex.
Maryhill kicked the game off in icy temperatures and set out on the attack from the outset. The home side’s first attack saw a swift move down the left wing and a deep cross to the far post. Unfortunately for Maryhill the cross was slightly over hit before being cleared, but it was a sure sign of intent from the hosts.
Ironically, the game had a fiery opening and the ball was battered around the park at lightning pace to the sound of the chattering teeth of the spectators. There was, however, a lack of clear openings as much of the play took place in the middle of the park.
The first attempt on goal came after around ten minutes when Maryhill’s Steven Bell turned and shot from the edge of the Easthall box and saw his effort zip wide of the target.
As Easthall began to settle they began to play some nice stuff. Maryhill had their keeper, Martin McGeachie, to thank as he kept them in the game on the 25 minute mark. Easthall carved the Maryhill defence into thin slices when a pin-point exchange between Adam Al Kasby and Calum Ridge teed up Logan Kelly on the penalty spot. Kelly sent a right footed shot against the base of the post before the ball bounced out for a goal kick. It was a great move and Kelly was unlucky not to hit the net.
Easthall came within inches again moments later through some individual brilliance by Ridge. The Easthall forward pulled out to the left wing and the ball found him in acres of space. Ridge strode forward before cutting in-field and firing a right foot bullet that shaved the top of the crossbar on its way over.
This period of Easthall dominance was led by the impressive Martyn Hutchison. Hutchison has impressive feet, a surging burst of pace and is capable of running the length of the park with the ball glued to his boots.
As the first half drew to a close, the game evened up once again and both sides were at a cold stalemate. Opportunities were few and far between mainly due to solid defending on both sides. Aaron Johnstone and Ben Ewing were impressive at Easthall’s rearguard while Kieran Furay and Gary Mullins were equally solid for Maryhill.
Conor Delaney stung the palms of Thomas McCourt between the sticks for Easthall with an effort from 25 yards and the keeper happily gobbled up the attempt with ease. Meanwhile in the dying seconds of the half, Easthall’s Hutchison unlocked the Maryhill defence with quick feet and a dummy but his shot was well saved by McGeachie with his legs.
Half Time: Maryhill Juniors 0-0 Easthall Star
Maryhill came out for the second half and aimed straight for the jugular. Moments after the restart, Furay got his head onto a corner kick and glanced the ball marginally wide of the target. Easthall found themselves pegged back and fighting against waves of Maryhill pressure.
Some impressive play by Shaun Donnachie for the hosts led to the ball finding its way to Darren McCarron and he fired a fine effort just over the bar from 25 yards.
Maryhill then went charging down the right flank and the ball was sent in to meet the boot of Donnachie but his snap-shot flashed over with the keeper helpless. Easthall were on the ropes, but they were fighting.
Easthall nearly opened the scoring against the run of play through a Sean McKinnon free kick. From 20 yards, slightly right of centre, McKinnon cracked an absolute gem of a free kick that seemed destined for the top left corner of the net. McGeachie, in the Maryhill goal, threw himself across his line and tipped the ball onto the cross bar in what was an absolutely breathtaking save.
Off the hook, Maryhill continued to pile on the pressure and were soon denied by the game’s second world class save. Thomas Clark pounced on an Easthall defensive error and with the goal gaping he seemed certain to score. The left foot shot was heading for the net then McCourt somehow got across his goal to sensationally claw the ball away.
With ten minutes remaining and both sides battling for a winner, Maryhill’s Alexander Bentley cut in from the left touchline and went searching for the top corner with a swerving right foot shot. McCourt confidently plucked the ball out of the air under his crossbar and sent Easthall forward.
Then with just a few minutes to go, Maryhill were hit by a sucker punch. Easthall attacked down the right flank and some good work by Daniel Cameron led to the ball being pinged to the far post. Hutchison was waiting unmarked to nod the ball into the empty net and land a cruel blow to make it 1-0.
Maryhill went searching for an equaliser in the remaining minutes and they nearly got it after Bentley twisted and turned his way through the Easthall defence. He sent a cross to the far post but an exceptional challenge by Craig McCallum on the line kept the visitors’ goal in tact. Then with the last attack of the game, Bentley again forged an opening for a cross into the box, which found Josh Boyd in space, but McCourt stood up to the effort and Easthall kept a firm grip on the points.
Easthall had to dig deep for the victory and it is one that will warm them up nicely for the rest of the season.
Full Time: Maryhill Juniors 0-1 Easthall Star