Saturday 15 April 2017, 14.00, Abbey Park

A first visit to Abbey Park and also a first visit to the town itself to take in the West Region Super League Premier Division match between Kilwinning Rangers and Cumnock Juniors.

Formed in 1899, Kilwinning Rangers began as a juvenile club and initially shared facilities with then senior side Eglinton Juniors.  They joined the Junior ranks in 1902.

After winning their first trophy in 1905 with the Ayrshire Cup, they became the first Junior side from Ayrshire to win the Junior Cup in 1909.  Remarkably, nine of the team that won the trophy was from the town itself.  They followed this up by being losing finalists the following season.

They won the Ayrshire First Division for the first time in 1921 and were losing finalists in the Junior Cup again the next season. They’ve won the Ayrshire First Division a further nine times, although these days, it is step 3 of the pyramid system in the West.

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While they have won a number of trophies over the years, many of them have been at a local level and they have very much been an up and down team, with several relegations and promotions on their CV.

Season 1998-99 was to their best ever, with six trophies procured, including a second Junior Cup win.  A fitting centenary season.  Another first for them came in 2003-04 when they won the second ever West Super League crown and became the first Ayrshire team to do so.  The ups and downs have continued since then, with the majority of their time spent between the second and third tiers in the West.

As recently as 2013-14 season they were relegated to the Ayrshire District League, but consecutive promotions have given them a welcome return to the top Division this season.  They won a play-off against Shettleston to take their place in the West Super League Premier Division.

Kilwinning Rangers have been known as “The Buffs” since at least 1900, although there are contrasting ideas how the name first came about.  The most credible story seems to be that they original played in a buff colour strip.

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It’s been a tough season for the Buffs and they sat second bottom going into this game, although have games in hand on most of those around them.  A draw at Hurlford United in their previous game after winning at Pollok the week before shows there are still signs of life.

The two bottom sides are relegated and the 3rd bottom club plays the 3rd top club in the First Division in a home & away fixture with the winner playing in the top league.

Kilwinning have signed Kilmarnock youth striker Lewis Morrison on loan until the end of the season, and centre-half Michael Morris from Fauldhouse United in their bid to avoid the drop.

Cumnock Juniors were formed in 1912 and bagged their first trophy four years later when they won the Ayrshire Cup. They have won several Ayrshire trophies over the years, including the Ayrshire First Division 11 times.

They reached the Junior Cup Final in 1950, but were losing finalists.  They returned in 1979 and lifted the trophy, a feat which they repeated in 1989.  The ‘80s were a particularly successful time for ‘The Nock’ with four Ayrshire First Division titles and 11 cup wins, culminating in that second Junior Cup triumph.

A fourth visit to the Junior Cup Final came in season 2007-2008, but they were to leave empty handed.  They lost their top division status the following season but bounced back straight away.  Relegation came again in 2014-15, but again it was a one season stay, winning the West Super League First Division the next year.

Although not completely out of the woods yet in terms of keeping their top league status, they sat in sixth place coming into this game.  They had won their last three league games including most recently, a 6-0 win over Kilbirnie Ladeside.

There’s a lot of work currently going on at Abbey Park and from what I’ve seen, it’s already a lot better than it was.  Down one side there are cabins which provide catering, a hospitality bar, toilets, a club shop and the changing rooms.  There’s a covered enclosure behind one goal.  Work is being done on the terracing behind the uncovered goal and there also seems to be a lot of other work going on.  Unusually, the dugouts are on opposite sides of the pitch and Kilwinning are one of the sides that writes up the teams on a board before the game.  (I wish they all did this).  A ground with real character and with the Abbey in the background.

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Monti had an ambitious attempt at the Cumnock goal in the second minute from the left hand side, but dragged it wide.

Strain took his time to clear the ball forward in 4 minutes and slipped as he went to clear when a Cumnock forward came to close him down.  He managed to get the ball away but it was a lucky escape for the Buffs keeper.

A ball forward by Cumnock in 7 minutes found Anson, who half volleyed goalwards from the edge of the box, but it was too high.

Morrison burst into the Cumnock box in 8 minutes and went down under a challenge from Wood.  The referee brandished a yellow card to the youngster for diving.  Although the incident happened at the opposite end of the ground from where I was standing, it looked like he had been caught.

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In 11 minutes, Monti turned away from Crawford and got to the by-line before putting the ball across the face of the Cumnock goal, but it was just out of reach of Morrison.

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A Cumnock through ball in 12 minutes found Anson who struck the ball into the net via the post, but the flag was up for offside.

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Those early incidents faded away as the game became a bit of a struggle to watch, with both teams guilty of giving the ball away with several misplaced passes.

The home side came forward again in 25 minutes and Monti played the ball back to Coleman, whose cross was headed towards his own goal by Wood, and Johnson did well to turn the ball behind.

A loose clearance by Cumnock in 30 minutes came to Monti, who tried a dipping volley, but it drifted wide.

Cumnock took a quick throw in down the right in 37 minutes which sent Anson away down the right.  His ball across goal from the goal line came to Montgomerie who fired into the net to give Cumnock the lead.  The goalscorer ran to the covered enclosure behind the goal and shouted “get it up yous!” in the direction of the crowd.

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I’m not sure what Samson did when the goal was scored, but it upset Strain in the home goal who was shouting to him that he was going to do him the next time he came into the box.  Not an overly friendly bunch.

Cumnock’s Lundie was caught in possession in 40 minutes by Morrison and he fed Monti who took the ball on before seeing his deflected shot go just over the bar.

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Just before half time Cumnock won a corner which saw Maitland receive a booking for disputing the decision.  Montgomerie took the corner which found the head of Crawford, but his downward header was held by Strain.

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Cumnock led at half time in what had been a disappointing first half.

Kilwinning’s Coleman and Cumnock’s Montgomerie picked up yellow cards in 47 minutes after they had clashed off the ball in Buffs box.  They seemed to have a bit of a wrestle on the ground.

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With 49 minutes gone, after a shot was blocked the ball came to Morrison on the left for Kilwinning.  He played the ball into the middle first time and it hit Wood and came back off the post.  The second time Wood had almost put through his own goal.

A poor ball out of defence by Kilwinning in 53 minutes gave the ball to Montgomerie whose cross was headed just wide by Anson, although the flag went up anyway.

There was a chance for Muir in 61 minutes on the left hand side of the Kilwinning box, but Strain managed to block before smothering the ball.

If the first half was scrappy, the game had gone full Scooby now.  It was also becoming very niggly.

A terrible pass back by Kilwinning in 65 minutes gave Anson an opportunity, but Strain just got there first.

Monti took a Kilwinning free kick from 25 yards in 67 minutes, but put it narrowly over the bar.

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Kerr was the next player to go in the referee’s book in 68 minutes, for blocking Samson on the sideline.

A high ball forward by the home side in 70 minutes saw Monti go down holding his face with McKenna the nearest player to him.  A foul was given but no cards displayed.  Hanvey curled the free kick over the bar.

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Lewis crossed into the Cumnock box in 73 minutes where Monti got his head to it only to see the ball come back off the post.  Moffat was following up though and smashed the ball into the net for the equaliser.

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In 74 minutes, Anson was running in on the Kilwinning goal but under pressure, he couldn’t get a decent shot away and Strain gathered.

Cashmore became the second Buffs player booked for diving, this time on the half way line, in 75 minutes.

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A Monti throw in into the Cumnock box in 76 minutes hit a defender on the arm before it ended back with Johnson, but nothing was given.

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The home side were starting to put the pressure on looking for a winner and were starting to get crosses into the box.

Kilwinning won another free kick around 25 yards from goal in 86 minutes and Monti had another pop at goal, but this time it went wide of the target.

In 87 minutes, Muir had a powerful effort from distance at the Kilwinning goal, but it was too high.

Cumnock’s McRobbie crossed in 89 minutes from the right and it came to Muir who saw his shot blocked behind, although he claimed a hand had been used.

In injury time Strain was out quickly to smother the ball after Anson had headed the ball down in the box.

A point apiece at the final whistle which was a better result for the away side and they looked the happier of the two.  Not the greatest of games with neither side producing much in the way of flowing football.

Monti showed some good skills up front for Kilwinning and Anson was a real handful for the home defence with his strength and hold up play.

Full Time: Kilwinning Rangers 1 Cumnock Juniors 1

Admission: £6

Kilwinning Rangers: 1 Adam Strain, 2 Joe Coleman, 3 Sam McCloskey, 4 Isaac Kerr, 5 Michael Morris (Hanvey 59), 6 Tommy Maitland, 7 Lewis Morrison (Cashmore 59), 8 Liam McGuinness, 9 Carlo Monti, 10 Ben Lewis, 11 Bryan Boylan (Moffat 52). Subs: 12 Ricky Hanvey, 14 Ian Cashmore, 15 Darren Moffat, 16 Findlay Frye, 17 Martyn Campbell.

Cumnock Juniors: 1 Darren Johnson, 2 Keiren Wood, 3 Steven Crawford, 4 James Lundie, 5 Stephen McKenna, 6 Del Esplin, 7 Keir Samson, 8 Paul Burns, 9 Scott Anson, 10 Raymond Montgomerie (McRobbie 77), 11 Andy Muir.   Subs: 12 Callum McRobbie, 14 Nathan Porte, 15 Fraser Bryden, 17 Louis Kerr.

Referee: Stephen Graham

Programme: £1.50.

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