Discuss the Match | Buy Photos and Souvenirs
A magical strike from Thomas Jordan Graham settled a tense and hard fought semi-final for Glenafton in front of a significant crowd at Pollok Juniors. Banners, drums and a phalanx of St Cadoc's youngsters wearing replica kit added colour and atmosphere to a grey afternoon.
The contest was absorbing throughout. Playing in a fluid 4-3-3 formation, St Cadoc's threatened first, Martin Paul belying his defensive position and flashing a dangerous freekick through a packed box. Glenafton, in 4-4-2, started sluggishly, allowing Jamie Waddell to collect and send Stephen Trainer galloping up the right flank.
Danny Naismith was the first to put his foot on the ball for Glenafton. But it was St Cadoc's who registered the first effort on goal, Waddell meeting Trainer's cross from the left, drawing a parry from Ryan Dunsmuir. From the textbook training-ground corner, Adam Hannah nearly pulled off a smart flick as St Cadoc's enjoyed the first spell of pressure.
The action was herky-jerky as collectively each side took a prolonged look at the other. Glenafton tried to spring counter attacks and switch play laterally to supply roving wide men. St Cadoc's, with an extra man in midfield and an interchangeable frontline, took up diffuse positions in space and burst forth in a series of diagonal lurches and breaks, like surfers carried by waves. Trainer in particular was confident on the ball, with Waddell a reliable dovetail.
It took a fanstastic pass from Jordan Kerr to enliven his teammates. Tyler Campbell tested Rory Bradley with a well struck freekick from 25 yards and then the corner ricocheted into Kerr's path but somehow his close-range effort was deflected over. Glenafton edged into it but St Cadoc's looked more menacing.
Both teams employed high back-lines but Trainer and Hannah were perfect candidates to lurk and investigate space and play in their powerful striker Chris McFadyen. After a flurry of offsides, pockets being picked and overhit passes, Glenafton's Thomas Jordan Graham pinwheeled past two men in a riposte of virtuoso dribbling. St Cadoc's then broke up the field, Dunsmuir denying Hannah's effort.
Paul Kerins ability to glide out past opponents from leftback was a regular highlight and, after he was brought down by Iain McKnight, Martin Paul again tested Glenafton's keeper with a freekick. Hesitation in the Glenafton ranks sent Trainer on another forage but Josh Blackwood calmly ushered the ball to safety. Just as Glenafton's high line was proving inviting, St Cadoc's were aerially vulnerable at the back.
Naismith - all drag-backs and composure - carved out stray seconds of unspent momentum for his side, but it was McFadyen who registered his first attempt after good work from the effervescent Hannah.
Next, Ryan Campbell showed great skill to expertly take then release Tyler Campbell into the first act of a fascinating tussle with Kerins. Waddell was all over the park, dropping deep to enhance his interpretation of events up ahead.
Time and again, though, Glenafton's offside trap was decisive. And soon they seized the initiative. St Cadoc's defence were suddenly straining to reach and Naismith, Campbell and Graham, with glue on their boots, cut bustling, intrepid figures for Glenafton. Naismith - seeing more of the ball - tried a front-heel showboat, while Jonathon Quinn was a strolling, wise-passing presence at his side.
Up the other end, Trainer set off on a crossfield run and Kerins showed great skill to outfox two men but his shot was charged down. Graham gave a glimpse of what was to come when he let three opponents make their own way to the cleaners, and set up Josh Kerr for a dangerous cross. Waddell responded for St Cadoc's with a one-two and shot which was met by Dunsmuir.
Naismith's gorgeously threaded pass prompted an offside, and also anxiety among the St Cadoc's fans who shared a sigh of 'man on' when their team idled in possession. No side could press home any concerted advantage in such an evenly matched contest that had one eye on the final. Instead, the play was studded with pearls of individual skill.
Dunsmuir came sliding out his box to prevent Trainer from scoring. St Cadoc's ended the half strongly when Trainer fired in another shot that was comfortable for Dunsmuir before Naismith powered a header inches wide on the half-time whistle.
Half Time: St Cadoc's YC 0-0 Glenafton Athletic
The sun was out for the second half and it was Glenafton who warmed to the task. In fact, the drumming from the St Cadoc's end only seemed to help Graham, Quinn and Campbell find their rhythm. A ball with the outside of his foot from Naismith was helped on by Darren Gall. And Campbell was all tentacular feet as he cut across the 'D' and set up Ryan Campbell, whose shot was well saved by Rory Bradley.
St Cadoc's could only muster persistence as Trainer won his side a corner. Glenafton in contrast were inflamed and some meandering Quinn and Graham interplay allowed Josh Kerr and Campbell to connect with shots in a goalmouth blur. Only some miracle combination of guts and body parts in St Cadoc's defence delayed the opener.
It came on 56 minutes. Graham collected a neat pass from Quinn 25 yards out and, from out of nowhere, arrowed a glorious low drive beyond the sprawling Bradley. There followed some vocal marshalling of his defence from Dunsmuir as Glenafton resolved to stay in front. Campbell then combined with the substitute Scott Stobbs to cause more havoc down St Cadoc's left.
With Darren Gall capable of devastating Beckhamesque long passing from right back, little wonder Stobbs was so full of daring on the opposite flank, and he had two efforts as Glenafton pressed for a second. Bradley was the busier between the sticks as St Cadoc's had lost their first half spark. Credit was due to both defences; strikers having a hard time peeling away. Bradley epitomised his team's determined spirit.
He bellowed encouragement to his teammates and wasn't shy about intervening outside his box, almost leaving Campbell with an open goal from long distance but for the dogged attentions of a teammate. All the same, St Cadoc's were far from done as an attacking force. Joseph MacFarlane's introduction added impetus and quality to St Cadoc's attack and he produced a good save from Dunsmuir following a swarming team move.
Campbell then showed poise to clip a dipping volley that for all the world looked like it would sail into the top corner and clinch a Glenafton victory but flew over the bar. As the pace quickened, MacFarlane kept his head when all about him were losing theirs to play the game's best pass. Hannah received it, waltzed past his man and fired in a shot that went under Dunsmuir but hit the post. St Cadoc's took heart, and Trainer soon was alive with trickery once again.
In Stobbs, Glenafton had a pacy outlet, while Josh Kerr looked to capitalize on St Cadoc's desperation, flaring up in pockets of space. Still, St Cadoc's threatened and MacFarlane embellished a brilliant personal second half display with a Cruyff turn inside the box, winning the corner from which Hannah's header was cleared off the line.
McPartland was a tower of strength for Glenafton and, for all the plugging away and every piece of skill from MacFarlane, Waddell - trying to rediscover his passing range - and Trainer, a clever pass from Naismith helped run down the clock.
In a dramatic close, St Cadoc's had claims for a penalty. After inspired work from Kerins, Martin Paul - up from defence in a final throw of the dice - tumbled in the box. But the referee was unmoved and it was Glenafton who found room in behind for one final incursion, Campbell blasting over after an impressive run.
A tight encounter, as is so often the case, decided by a slice of individual mastery. Glenafton now set their sights on Bonnyton Thistle and cup glory.
Full Time: St Cadoc's YC 0-1 Glenafton Athletic