Pollok opened the 2019/20 West Premiership League campaign against a Beith side they had faced in their last home game of the previous season as the battle for third place reached its climax. The two clubs will have aspirations to be challenging at the top end of the table again this season.
The season started in bright sunshine in front of a crowd of 605 who spread themselves out around the four sides of Newlandsfield as many opted to try and catch some rays rather than huddle under the terracing roof.
Pollok – with new signings McLauchlan, Duff, Esplin and Dallas making Murdo MacKinnon’s first eleven – started the season shooting up the Newlandsfield slope. A couple of early whipped crosses had no takers as the home side began on the front foot.
After 11 minutes some great work by Danny Boyle saw him break into midfield and feed a lovely pass out to Gary McCann. His cross was only inches too high to allow his brother Stuart the chance to get his header on target.
As the half progressed both teams struggled to maintain good possession but there was no lack of effort or endeavour. Then in 35 minutes in the midst of another midfield tussle Jamie Henry produced a sumptuous pass over the top of the Beith back line which allowed Stuart McCann to evade the offside trap and rifle home a right foot strike at the goalkeeper’s near post. An extremely classy finish to put Pollok 1-0 ahead.
Pollok continued to have slightly the better of the game and as half time approached captain Gallacher made a surging run from his new right back position and his low cross from the bye line was knocked out at the front post for a corner. And from that corner Pollok doubled their lead. Gallacher rose bravely to bullet a header low into the net. In doing so he collided with Beith centre half, Middleton. Both players needed treatment but it was Middleton who had come off worst. After lengthy treatment, during which time the referee blew the half time whistle, he was helped from the field. He was unable to continue in the second half and it is to be hoped the injury was not as serious as it appeared.
The half time substitution meant a reshuffle for Beith as they looked to get back into the game. Middleton’s replacement, McKenzie, was full of energy in driving his team forward although he did pick up a yellow card for a crude challenge on the always threatening Duff. Despite their increasing attacking intent Beith were finding clear cut goal scoring opportunities difficult to create against an impressively solid Pollok back line.
A momentary lack of concentration from the Pollok defence at a set piece on 62 minutes saw Sheridan allowed a free header which he connected with powerfully. Unfortunately for him his downward header bounced up and over the bar.
Pollok were now showing what modern football hipsters would call excellent ‘game management’. Their two banks of four in defence and midfield were working together as well drilled units to deny Beith any time or space from which to build penetrating attacks.
As the game entered its closing stages Beith did create a couple of decent chances – a header over the bar from an excellent McGlinchey cross and then a shot dragged just wide of the far post – which if either had been converted would have made for a very interesting finale.
Pollok saw the game out for an excellent opening day victory against a hard working Beith side who will win plenty of games this season. Pollok didn’t have a failure in their ranks with McLauchlan being the pick of the bunch in winning a well-deserved Man of the Match award.
Goal footage from Davie Brown & Mark Donnelly
Highlights from Davie Brown & Mark Donnelly