Saturday 25 March 2017, 15.00, Christie Gillies Park
The Lowland League game between Civil Service Strollers and East Kilbride.
It’s a first viewing of Strollers since the incredible game they had against East Stirlingshire in August, when the visitors won 8-3.
In their first season in the Lowland League, they were sitting in 10th spot in the sixteen-team league in the lead up to this game, well clear of any relegation worries. Things didn’t look great after they lost 5-0 at home on the opening day to fellow newcomers Hawick Royal Albert, but they have improved as the season has gone on and won their most recent game against Edinburgh University.
It’s a third look at East Kilbride this season, with our last sighting in December. Kilby were 10 points clear of East Stirlingshire with four games to play, leaving them needing just three points to secure the title. While they had started to show some signs of nerves in the run in, they looked a shoe-in for the Championship and entry into the play-offs for promotion to the Scottish Football League.
The pie stand was closed when we arrived and although there is sometimes food available in the clubhouse bar, there was no sign of anyone with food or drink.
With 3 minutes gone, Strollers’ Boyle was subjected to a crunching tackle by Woods, when the ball had already run out of play for a throw. The referee was content for no action to be taken. It was certainly a hard challenge, but there was little malice in it.
The home side put together a decent move in 9 minutes, with Newall finding Finnie, who played a one-two with Ballantyne, before shooting over the bar.
Boyle was still feeling the effects of that early tackle and had to go off after 15 minutes.
In 17 minutes, EK’s Woods fired a ball into the Strollers’ box from the left, but Watson was well placed to clear.
Two minutes later, Strachan picked up the ball on the half way line and burst into the Strollers’ half. Churchill chased him all the way into the box and the EK player went down under his challenge. Penalty.
Winter took the penalty and although Burnside got his fingertips to it, it was right in the corner and found the net to give East Kilbride the lead.
Russell played the ball across the face of the Strollers’ goal in 22 minutes and it came to McLean at the back post. Laird did enough to manage to get the ball behind. Strachan’s corner was played back to Gibbons, who struck for goal well, but it was straight at Burnside.
East Kilbride continued to put the pressure on and Woods’ cross from the byline in 23 minutes was sent goalwards by Winter, but it went over the bar.
A minute later and Strachan set up Coll whose shot from distance was well over the bar.
Strollers were becoming more and more under the cosh, but in a foray forward in 25 minutes, Ballantyne found Stewart on the edge of the box, but his volley went wide.
Woods played a one-two with Winter to get to the Strollers’ by-line in 32 minutes, but McLean couldn’t get on the end of the cross.
Winter was brought down around 20 yards from the Strollers’ goal in 37 minutes, but Burnside managed to turn Strachan’s free kick round the post.
A fine run down the left by EK’s Woods in 44 minutes saw his cross powerfully headed at goal by McLean, but it hit Dingwall and deviated away from goal.
The visitors were a goal up at the break and looked likely to get the required win to give them the league title.
A trip to the bar at half time revealed that there was no food available.
In the opening minute of the second half, Coll was set up on the edge of the Strollers’ box, but he dragged his shot wide.
McLean ran into the Strollers’ box in 51 minutes and went down under a defender’s challenge. It looked like there had been minimal contact, but the referee pointed to the spot.
Winter stepped up again but saw his kick brilliantly saved by Burnside.
The hosts broke forward a minute after the penalty save and Finnie turned away from Coll in the EK box and went down in a tangle of legs. Another penalty.
Stewart despatched the kick to make it 1-1.
With an hour gone, Churchill went down in the EK box . He seemed to get a toe to the ball and was then caught. The referee didn’t agree.
Strollers’ Dingwall was booked for a late tackle in 61 minutes. He was quickly followed into the book by team mate Laird, as he caught Capuano as he crossed from the right.
After looking well off the pace in the first half, Strollers were really making a game of it in the second period and showing a lot of fight.
A ball into the Strollers’ box in 78 minutes looked for McLean to get on the end of it, but the defence cleared.
McBride, who had come on as a sub for East Kilbride in 69 minutes, had to limp off in 80 minutes after a fairly short cameo.
Clapperton became the latest Strollers’ player to receive a yellow card in 80 minutes, for what the referee deemed to be persistent fouling.
An acrobatic effort from McLean in the Strollers’ box in 81 minutes went over the bar as both sides looked for a winner.
A free kick for EK was swung into the box by Russell in 83 minutes, but Burnside was out of his goal to punch clear.
Churchill did well for Strollers up on the left hand side in 86 minutes and cut into the box, but under pressure, he fired wide.
Up the other end a minute later, Strachan got to the by-line and his cut back seemed to strike the hand of a defender, but the appeals of the EK team were in vain.
Stewart charged forward for Strollers in 88 minutes and was unceremoniously taken out by Howie, who was booked.
Strachan had a shot blocked on the edge of the box in the final minute and there was also a scramble in the Strollers’ box in injury time, but the defenders threw themselves in the way and got the ball clear.
There was still time for Gibbons to pick up a caution from the referee for catching a Strollers’ player with a high boot.
Not what EK wanted and it was clear to see the disappointment of the players at the final whistle. In contrast, the home side were delighted with their point.
It had looked like the champions elect were going to walk it in the first half, but a combination of good defending and poor finishing meant they were only a solitary goal in front at the break. A much improved performance by Strollers in the second half, and they could even have nicked it at the end.
Most impressive for me were Strollers’ forward Finnie and defender Watson and for East Kilbride, Strachan and Woods.
While EK would undoubtedly win the league, it was delayed another week by the resilience of the home side.
No reply from Strollers’ twitter, so I hope the team is correct.
Full Time: Civil Service Strollers 1 East Kilbride 1
Civil Service Strollers: 1 Stuart Burnside, 2 Craig Newall, 3 Robbie Laird, 4 Joseph Dingwall, 5 Johnathan Watson, 6 Scott Clapperton (Torrance 85), 7 David Stewart, 8 Ian Ballantyne, 9 David Churchill, 10 Jordan Finnie (Smith 83), 11 Jordan Boyle (Campbell 15). Subs: 17 Torrance, 12 Smith, 15 Paul Campbell, Shaun Turnbull, Alex Brown.
East Kilbride: 1 Matt McKinley, 2 Fabio Capuano, 3 Barry Russell, 4 David Proctor, 5 Craig Howie, 6 Kieran Gibbons, 7 Sean Winter, 8 Bernard Coll (McBride 69, Victoria 80), 9 Russell McLean (McNeil 85), 10 Adam Strachan, 11 Paul Woods. Subs: 12 Ross McNeil, 14 Joao Victoria, 15 Martin McBride, 16 Scott Stevenson, 17 Declan Hughes, 25 Jacob Kean.
Referee: Grant Irvine