Football is usually a rollercoaster ride and this match proved the point better than most. A forgettable first half was followed by a brilliant half hour turnaround, only for an incident in the last quarter to leave our supporters feeling a little anxious despite the good result.
John Fraser replaced Andy Millen at the back in what was the only change to the starting line-up against Ayr last week as Kernaghan stuck with the 4-4-2 formation that has proved so successful.Even within the first few minutes of the match, it was instantly apparent that this was going to be the type of match that Clyde fans have learned to loathe over the years; against stubborn and defensive opposition on a tight and bumpy park. The first major incident was a fairly surprising straight red card for Brechin’s Graeme Gibson for, apparently, his high tackle on Jimmy Gibson. The challenge warranted at least a yellow card but it also appeared that The City midfielder had a kick at Jimmy after play had stopped, which could have been the reason for the dismissal. Jimmy was keen to show the effects of the first tackle above his knee and was also booked for giving his adversary a little push on the face for his troubles. The home support was aggrieved with the decision but referee Winter was in no doubt about his card colours. This seemed like the break Clyde needed to take the match by the scruff of the neck but, for the rest of the first half at least, this was not the case. Ross and Gibson struggled to get a grip of the midfield and the home side quickly regained any Clyde possession by crowding the ball effectively. Chris Templeman saw Brechin’s best chance of the match brilliantly saved by Allan Morrison when his header from six yards was clawed out from under the bar superbly by the emerging Bully Wee keeper. Chances were few and far between but just before half-time a scramble in the home side’s box eventually led to Simon Mensing having a net-bound volley cleared off the line.
A tactical change was required and Kernaghan, to his credit, successfully tweaked things. Colin Marshall, who had struggled during the first 45 minutes, was the player sacrificed to allow a change to a 3-4-3 formation for the second half. Stephen McConalogue replaced him to become the third striker and John Fraser moved up into an advanced midfield role on the right. As soon as the second half kicked-off the improvement was visible. Fraser was revelling in his new position and Ross and Gibson began to work their magic in the middle. Play was sharp and productive again and Ian Harty created the first clear cut chance when his low cross was blasted over the bar from the edge of the box by David Hagen. He nearly made amends immediately when his corner was headed, seemingly clearly, over the line by Alan Kernaghan and headed away by a Brechin defender. Despite a huge protest from players and fans alike, the hedge-side assistant referee decided the ball had not crossed the line and play continued. Just when it seemed it would be one of those frustrating afternoons, Fraser and Harty linked on the right and the latter put a fine cross into the box that unmarked Andy Smith headed into the bottom corner. The relief was immense and a mini pitch invasion by the Gypsy Army’s “Singing Santas” was evidence of the delight. Five minutes later, Gibson’s industry and Ross’s vision then combined to release Gibson through the middle and he put a delightful chip over the stranded Soutar and into the corner of the net to make it 2-0. On 65 minutes, Clyde were cruising for a change as Ross released Harty and he put a fine shot into the bottom corner to make it 3-0. His delay in shooting probably fooled Soutar into thinking a cross was imminent but it was a good strike nonetheless. It wasn’t the last big cheer of the day for the travelling supporters as Soutar found himself with the ball at his feet well outside the box and was forced into beating a couple of Clyde players before racing back to his goal with satirical applause and cheering ringing in his ears. Brechin pulled a consolation goal back when Hampshire beat the offside trap, rounded Morrison and slid the ball into the net with McLaughlin arriving just too late to clear the ball. Stephen McConalogue could have made it 4-1 soon after when he ended up one on one with the on loan home keeper, but his shot was well saved. Then, out of the blue, the stand-side assistant referee raised his flag and Kernaghan was shown the red card. It was later revealed that he had attempted to stamp on a Brechin player and will now miss three matches. Pat Keogh made a brief appearance at the back and other than a couple of half chances for the home side there were no other major incidents before the full-time whistle.
An excellent result overall, but to subdue a Clyde support that was as buoyant as it will ever be following the third goal was going to take a major dampener and the Player-Manager’s sending off was it. The next three league games without him will be a big test of the squad’s resolve, but the current signs continue to be encouraging.
STAR RATINGS *****
Morrison **** Excellent first half save at a crucial stage.
Fraser **** Heavily involved in second half improvement.
Mensing *** Not as good as recent weeks but never under pressure.
McLaughlin *** Some poor passing but always competes for the ball.
Kernaghan *** Sending off marred a decent overall performance.
Ross **** Two assists in an improved second half showing.
Hagen *** Lacked a distinctive final ball.
Marshall ** The tight pitch probably didn’t suit his game.
Smith *** Another who came onto a game in the second half.
Gibson **** Lovely goal and did well in the middle overall.
Harty **** Scored and did a lot of running.
McConalogue *** Decent contribution to the revival.
Gilhaney ** Adds something a little different when it’s needed.
Keogh * Hardly touched the ball.
ALAN KERNAGHAN – ""I’d cleared the ball and the boy has come across me and his knee has hit my chest. The red mist then came down and I tried to stamp on his ankle and missed. The linesman saw it and I can’t complain. It was absolutely needless and stupid and I will be fining myself. I’m the same as anyone else in that department.
""It took us a while to get going and the sending off made it difficult. We were probably fortunate to go in level; Allan had a fantastic save from about 6 yards. We’ve got him to thank for that but he’s in it with everyone else.
""We changed it at half-time and came out and looked good for half an hour. We dominated possession, created chances and scored three good goals. Then we let a silly goal in and got panicky but overall it was very good.
""We wanted to go 3 up front and it was silly to have 4 at the back marking their lone striker. Colin was, as you can imagine, disappointed with being substituted but sometimes you have to sacrifice somebody for the good of the team and it worked.
""The goals were good. A good header from Andy, a nice finish from Jimmy and Ian’s was probably the best of the lot considering how far out he was.
""Our problem has been getting the second goal. We’re not too bad at getting the first one but then we tend to change everything that we’ve been doing rather than build on it. I said to the players before the game that we have to start having a go at teams once we score and we did that today. We looked comfortable when we were doing it.
""We’ll need to strengthen the squad and get one or two players in and we’re working on that at the moment.
""We are in a better position that anyone else at the moment and as long as we are top I don’t care who is below us.""
JOHN FRASER – ""It’s a good win and it’s excellent to be top of the league. It was a hard first half, we weren’t up to the pace. Everybody looked more comfortable in the second half and we knew we had to pick it up by 15 or 20%.
""I wasn’t having the best of times in the first half. I’m still not used to the right back position yet. I really enjoyed the second half though; I knew I would have someone behind me and I could try and get forward.
""We need to stay at the top of the league – that’s where we want to be.""
|December 27, 2003