Highlights from Mark Donnelly
Goal action from Mark Donnelly
Pollok travelled to Beith for match day fifteen of the McBookie West Premiership looking for their first win in five league games. There were five changes in the starting eleven from the previous week’s cup win with Lumsden returning in goal, Evans in at right back, Henry and Stuart McCann back from injury and a debut for new signing Jordan Shelvey.
Pollok – playing all in red – started the first half kicking down the famous Bellsdale slope. Beith had the first couple of attempts from outside the box but neither were on target as both teams eased into the game. In the fifth minute Henry took a poor touch and overstretched in trying to redeem the situation. Fortunately the Beith player took evasive action and Henry escaped with a yellow. Five minutes later Beith’s Ramsay sought to even the score with a crude challenge on Henry to pick up a yellow card of his own.
No real pattern had developed when in the twelfth minute a long clearance from Lumsden fell to Esplin who fired an excellent ball to Shelvey on the right wing. The debutant played it first time into Forde whose turn and touch created space on the edge of the box. Forde showed great awareness to decline the opportunity to shoot and passed the ball to Stuart McCann who confidently slipped the ball past Grindlay in the Beith goal.
Pollok were now in the ascendancy and doubled their lead midway through the first half. Some great control on the left of the box by Fraser forced Sheridan into conceding a corner. Although the corner produced nothing Pollok kept Beith pinned in and when a deep cross from Sideserf reached the back post it was Shelvey who rose highest to head to the ball down and over the line for his first Pollok goal.
Almost immediately Beith were back in the game. A short throw near the corner flag was won by the Beith forward who hooked the ball across goal. Sideserf managed to head it to the edge of the box where it was headed goal-wards by McKenzie. A significant deflection wrong footed the diving Lumsden and Pollok’s two goal advantaged had lasted barely a minute.
Beith immediately went in search of an equaliser and Ramsay fizzed one just wide of the post from outside the box and then Lumsden had to look lively to save at the feet of Frize.
As the game approached half time Pollok carved out a couple of chances with McCann having a header blocked and Forde just failing to connect with a Shelvey header across goal. Then in first half injury time came the game’s most controversial moment. Henry won the ball in the middle of the park as the Beith midfielder lost control of it. The referee deemed Henry had caught his opponent and produced a second yellow. Pollok would take their turn playing up the slope with only ten men.
If the first half had ended badly for the away side the start of the second was no better. Almost straight from the kick off McIlroy was given time and space on the edge of the box and his low strike found the bottom left hand corner. Beith were now level on goals, one up in men and playing down the slope.
It looked bleak for Pollok but with the defence standing firm and Esplin covering every blade of grass in midfield they steadied the ship, and began to display an attacking threat once again. In the 55th minute a slick passing move put Forde clear and although his shot beat the keeper it slid past the far post. This effort was quickly followed up by two more Forde shots – both on target, both well saved.
With Pollok enjoying a great spell it was important they took advantage and in the fifty ninth minute they did. A beautifully weighted pass from Fraser in the middle of the park found Stuart McCann who ran at Noble and after a bit of trickery was brought down. A stonewaller not protested by the defender. Fraser stepped up and fired the penalty right down the middle to restore Pollok’s lead.
Although Pollok were now in the ascendancy they had a narrow escape when Beith were allowed a free header at the back post. It was headed back across goal but fortunately went wide of the post.
With Beith looking for an equaliser and Pollok intent on attacking whenever they could more goals seemed inevitable. With ten minutes to go a Beith attack was crowded out inside the Pollok six yard box and Fraser carried the ball out to the halfway line. Substitute Gary McCann took over and dribbled past a couple of players before switching it to Evans. He fed Stuart McCann down the wing and in an almost carbon copy of the previous penalty incident he took on Docherty and the result was exactly the same – the referee pointing to the spot. This time it was substitute Dallas who took on the responsibility and he calmly slotted the ball into the bottom left hand corner.
With four minutes to go McLean passed up a glorious chance to set up a grandstand finish. After a flowing Beith move down the right wing a low cross into the box was met by a sliding McLean but he could only watch in agony as his effort trundle the wrong side of the post with Lumsden beaten.
It was Pollok who finished the game on top and rounded the scoring off in the last minute. A long ball from Lumsden was missed by everyone and Gary McCann was alert to the possibilities. He ran beyond the Beith rear-guard and coolly slotted the ball home from the edge of the box. A goal each for the McCann brothers and an assist for Lumsden was a perfect end to a sensational ten man performance from Pollok.
Those who had stayed away from a chilly Bellsdale Park to watch Scotland on the television grind out a win in the warmer climes of Cyprus had missed out on a great advert for Scottish Junior football. Seven goals, a red card, numerous yellows and some very attractive and inventive football. It was exceptional entertainment and from a Pollok point of view a very welcome three points ahead of a home tie with Troon in the Scottish Cup this weekend. Peter Thomson