This was an enthralling spectacle for the neutral in the Ayrshire sunshine as these two table toppers fought it out on Loudoun Academy. In the end it took two late free kicks to settle matters, as AC Irvine stole a march on Galston to stay just a point behind Largs Colts at the top.
Two such well-matched sides can often cancel one another out in these league stalemates but instead we were treated to a match played like a cup tie, with both attacks on top and going all out for the win. In the corresponding fixture earlier in the season Irvine had run out easy winners but Galston have progressed as a team this season and look a much more confident, fluid outfit.
The visitors in fact led at the break, and seemed to have frustrated an Irvine attack which had had the bulk of the chances. Blair Craig and Owen Densham spearheaded a dangerous front line but couldn’t make crucial early breakthrough. Instead Galston grabbed the initiative and it was only in the second period that Irvine asserted themselves, with the assistance of Adam Carruthers’ late free kick heroics.
With Irvine quickest out of the traps the stage was set for high tempo end to end football. Craig and Densham linked up well in the opening 10 minutes as the latter got the first of goal. Home keeper Cameron Sloan was equal to it to just palm to safety before clearing his lines. Moments later Kieran Allan was almost in on the end of Charlie Padden’s delivery into the box with Sloan again alert to the danger to punch clear.
Galston kept pushing up in response, refusing to be pegged back in their own half. A couple of surging runs in midfield by Jai Ewing gave them their first sight of the Irvine goal as David McGill shot straight at Kieran Devenny on 12 minutes. McGill was showing plenty of trickery down the right channel, as the home side tried to exploit space in behind the Irvine back line.
And the end to end tempo continued as Galston went on to break the deadlock on 18 minutes. McGill again found space down the right to this time centre an inch perfect ball for Stephen Gray in space to head home at the far post.
Irvine looked for an immediate response with Craig and Padden firing wide just minutes later. A goal behind and frustrated at not finishing off chances, it seemed to knock the stuffing out of the hosts, as Galston went on to have a better spell in the run up to half time. The visitors could even have doubled their lead right on the break as Gray went just wide from Daniel Wamuziri’s cross ball delivery.