Bonnyton Thistle and Rossvale BC took each other by the neck all the way to penalties in the LSK West of Scotland Cup, with the side from Ayrshire taking the win 4-3 on penalties. Bonnyton went ahead after an even half hour and doubled their lead minutes later; two half volleys into either corner from Jordan Craig and Ewan Barrie. Rossvale’s effectiveness on the right hand side opened up their path to drawing level, via a Glen Stokes cross finished by Darren Simpson and a whipped free kick from Joe Bradley. A stale second half led to penalties and Gavin Currie grabbed the headlines.
Blustery winds and intermittent spells of rain in the first half did little to deter both sides from attacking, the fast-paced nature of the opening exchanges checking the ‘typical cup tie’ box. Both are close in the West of Scotland YFL league table, Thistle in third and Rossvale sixth but the former has played four games more. This was the first meeting between the two sides this season though in previous years these clubs have been known for their cup successes.
Bonnyton striker Steven Hill forced the first save of the match after six minutes when Thistle launched a counter attack, something that would become a theme for the opening half hour. Left winger Chris Gardiner nipped the ball in between the goalkeeper and defender from the edge of the box but Hill’s toe-poke was averted by the fingertips of Gareth Watson. Hill would go close again ten minutes later, hitting the post after Rossvale fluffed their lines at the back, but he would have to wait until the shootout for his next chance.
Rossvale had their fair share of beef with the referee in the first half. The first incident came when tricky winger Simpson sped down the left, drawing Bonnyton centre back Blair Larmour out of position to cover for Kyle Finnie at full back. Simpson was able to find forward Conor Clark in the vacated space inside the box. Clark had a tight angle to score from but he stabbed the ball at goal after jinking past Andy Strachan – only to then be tripped by out-rushing goalie Chris Murchie. The Vale striker was upended and claims for a penalty ensued, but to no avail.
Bonnyton’s opening goal caused some debate too, with claims of handball in the run-up largely ignored. Nevertheless, nothing can be taken away from Craig’s magnificent half-volley on the half-hour mark.
The game was evenly balanced when the ball fell to Craig about 25 yards from goal and he lit rip with a Steven Gerrard-esque drive from the edge of the box to put his team in pole position to advance to the next round, wheeling away as the ball nestled in the bottom corner.
Two minutes later Rossvale were again at odds with the referee when Hill was played through 1v1 against the goalkeeper and allowed to go on unopposed despite cries of offside. Watson this time came to the rescue as he rushed out and smothered the ball from Hill’s feet 16 yards out.
Things could have been so different however. In between the penalty claim and Bonnyton’s goal Simpson again exposed Bonnyton down the right but his cross couldn’t be converted by Glen Stokes’ head. Rossvale had been moving the ball with more conviction in this spell too but they couldn’t find a cutting edge.
With 15 to go until half time Bonnyton elected to switch their wingers, David Shedden and Chris Gardiner. A couple of minutes later, Rossvale followed suit as Stokes and Simpson swapped sides. It was unclear at the time if it was to combat what Bonnyton had done or to exploit a potential weakness but by half time it was obvious that Rossvale had got the better of the tactical mind-games.
Before that however, Thistle grabbed a crucial second goal to give them some breathing space. After a flat spell for both sides, Barrie, Stuart Davidson and Hill exchanged some one-touch passes in triangles on the edge of the box, with the former starting and finishing the move. He continued his run from the 30 yards out into the penalty box and slammed home a half-volley low into the left corner.
Bonnyton’s right side had been pursued by Rossvale consistently in the first half. Vale’s 4-4-2 allowed them to be direct and the wingers did a great job of giving the team width. Numerous diagonal balls across the pitch had Bonnyton worried and now the raw pace of Stokes would be able utilise them, with Simpson preferring the ball to feet. Stokes had the ball played to him in the final third and he was urged to get at the defence. He crossed to the idle of the box and it was the man he had switched with who attacked the ball, taking a superb first touch that helped him evade the defenders either side of him and another to smash the ball into the roof of the net.
Rossvale’s second goal came from the left side too. Bonnyton conceded a free kick out wide following some sustained pressure from the away side and Joe Bradley whipped the ball in with the inside of his right boot. It evaded everyone in the box and landed in the bottom corner and with less than five minutes until half time the score was all square once more.