Highlights from Mark Donnelly
League leaders Pollok travelled to Beechwood Park to take on the defending champions Auchinleck Talbot in Matchday 11 of The McBookie West Region Premiership. Pollok showed six changes from their Scottish Cup win up at Forres as the manager shuffled the pack in an attempt to stop the Auchinleck Talbot juggernaut.
Auchinleck started the game full of purpose and forced some early corners as Pollok struggled to get out of their own half playing into a strong headwind. It was from Auchinleck’s third corner in the sixth minute that McCracken was able to rise unchallenged and send a powerful header into the net to give the home side an early lead.
Pollok managed to work their way into the game and created a few half chances with Fraser and Stuart McCann being just unable to find the correct connection to trouble Leishman in the home goal.
The game had a bit of ebb and flow to it as the clock hit the twenty minute mark and Auchinleck mounted another attack. McLauchlan appeared to have snuffed out the danger with a robust challenge in which he appeared to get the ball. However, referee Chris Gentiles, decided he had taken too much of the man with the ball and awarded a free kick twenty two yards out. Shankland stepped up and delivered a powerful, curling right foot shot round the wall and into the top corner of the net.
Auchinleck remained the dominant side until the interval and Lumsden had to produce a number of saves to keep the score at 2-0. With the game becoming increasingly niggly the referee’s half time whistle was a bit of a relief.
Pollok started the second half with much more intent and should have scored in the 50th minute. In a very rare lapse, the Auchinleck defence allowed a long ball to evade them and Duff was clean thru in the inside left channel with only Leishman to beat. His low shot though was pulled wide and the onrushing Dallas couldn’t quite manage to squeeze it home at the far post.
Moments later a good run and cross by Stuart McCann was deflected towards goal by a backtracking Auchinleck defender and Leishman had to make a smart save to push it round the post and prevent an own goal.
With the game now a bit more end to end Auchinleck had their own near miss when a flowing move ended with a back post header skimming the bar after a delightful cross from the right.
On the hour mark Auchinleck broke up a Pollok attack on the edge of their own box and moved swiftly up the park. Pollok had a couple of opportunities to get a in a challenge before Sideserf managed a scuffed clearance from just inside the area. Unfortunately for him the ball broke to an Auchinleck midfielder who laid the ball off perfectly for left back Pope who had time to measure his shot and rifle it into the top right hand corner from twenty five yards.
Pollok kept going and were rewarded with a goal from substitute Esplin. A free kick was floated into the box and Gallacher headed down for Esplin who provided a neat finish past Leishman. It was to prove to be the end of the scoring despite further half chances at either end.
Auchinleck were deserved 3-1 winners and in so doing completed a full year unbeaten in the league. It is unlikely there has ever been such a well drilled and consistent team in the history of Scottish Junior football. Their biggest strength is they have no weakness. For Pollok it was a third league defeat of the season but the first where you would have to acknowledge they were beaten by the better side.