The dream continues to look like reality as Clyde held on to win a five goal encounter at Love St. A stout team performance allied to some great finishing saw Clyde extend their lead at the top of the table.
The question prior to the game was how would Clyde compensate for the missing player/manager through suspension? New signing Stuart McCluskey filled the gap with Mensing switching to left back and Fraser filling in at right back but otherwise the team was along the now familiar lines.
St Mirren began with expected vigour but it was Clyde who carved a great chance after five minutes. Harty fired the ball across the box and Smith looked certain to score from only six yards out until Woods pulled off a great save. The goal wasn’t long in coming though as after about 15 mins Smith nodded the ball into the path of Harty who had a clear sight of goal from the edge of the box. His first shot was parried into the air by Woods but the striker coolly lobbed the keeper with his second attempt. Sadly the joy was very short lived as St Mirren replied within a couple of minutes. Mensing was beaten rather easily by McGinty and his cutback was met with enough by Dunn to steer the ball into the far corner. Clyde soon regained the lead with a fine individual goal from Smith. Marshall burst down the right and fed the ball to Smith at the edge of the box. With Hagen unmarked to his left Smith decided to turn into traffic. He beat a defender and then prodded the ball past Woods with ease. Saints weren’t to be outdone and Gillies flashed a header just wide from a corner and then saw his shot from the edge of the box roll just wide of the post as half time approached.
As expected Saints came out with their sleeves rolled up and had a go at Clyde and it didn’t take long for them to get back on level terms. A contentious foul on Clyde’s right was quickly taken and a Saints forward was barged to the ground in the box for a stupid penalty. Gillies took the kick and Morrison parried the ball into the air only to see Gillies nod the ball over him into the net. For whatever reason the referee ordered a retake and this time Andy Millen stepped up and drove the ball home. Clyde were beginning to fall under heavy pressure at this point and Saints seemed to get every decision that was going from the referee. Morrison was feeling the pressure as he had a couple of fresh air lunges at crosses in this spell. Gibson was replaced by Doyle with Fraser switching from fullback to central midfield. A rare surge by Harty earned Clyde a corner and McLaughlin powered a header into the net from six yards out. The game was really stretched as Saints again looked for an equaliser and Clyde were further hampered by injury to Mensing. The solution was to bring on Gilhaney and move Hagen to left back. Keogh soon joined the battle as well replacing Smith. Murray missed a great chance for Saints in front of goal but skewed his shot wide with the goal gaping. Saints resorted to route one and McLaughlin mopped up most of the pressure and Clyde again had the luxury of playing most of the final minutes in the opposition half.
Overall it was a gritty performance without the midfield flowing as we would have liked. Smith and Harty are forming a fine partnership and McCluskey’s no nonsense style will please the fans.
STAR RATINGS *****
Morrison *** Some fine stops but missed a few crosses today.
Fraser *** Applied himself well but looked troubled at times as a right back.
Mensing *** Solid enough game but not the same player on the left.
McCluskey **** A fine debut performance.
McLaughlin ***** Great goal and showed real appetite today.
Ross *** Reliable performance as usual.
Hagen *** Not seen much in attack and keeps the left tight.
Marshall *** Not seen much in attack either but always looks to play football.
Smith **** Continues to prove the doubters wrong and score too.
Gibson *** Struggled at times but put in a good shift for the cause.
Harty **** On form and working his socks off – can’t ask for more.
Doyle *** Difficult task but stuck to it well.
Gilhaney ** Shored up the left but not much chance to shine.
Keogh * Little time to make an impression.
ALAN KERNAGHAN – "The most important thing is that we took care of what we had to do. It maybe wasn’t as conclusive as it could have been but we’ll take them any way they come. It was a real tough challenge and a real close game.
"I think the difference between this match and our defeat near the start of the season here shows the improvement we have made. The change of formation has made us more solid defensively, although we gave away two soft goals today. I know we couldn’t do much about one of them though.
"Stuart McCluskey looked a little bit shaky in the first half but had a pretty commanding second and won some important headers. It’s only his 3rd game in 3 or 4 months so that was always going to be the case. I know what qualities he has and he showed them in the second half.
"I’ve unfortunately put myself in the position of having to win back a place in the team and I’ve no-one to blame but myself. If Stuart and Mark keep doing what they’re doing then it will be difficult to get back in."
MARK MCLAUGHLIN – "We’re delighted with the three points that will keep us top of the league for a couple of weeks anyway.
"I thought their penalty was really soft but the referee only has a split second and he’s given it. I was right next to it and I didn’t think it was a penalty.
"I think today showed the fighting spirit in the squad – we win as a team and we go down as a team.
"I thought Stuart McCluskey did really well. We hadn’t really spoken much before the game as he only trained with us on Thursday and Friday. We were a bit scrappy in patches but that’s to be expected. He defended really well and is strong in the air. I’m sure he’ll go on and get better.
"We’ll just keep playing away and as long as we are winning it doesn’t matter what anyone else does. We’re taking each game as it comes at the moment. There are still 5 or 6 teams that will feel that they can win the league."
GUS MCPHERSON – "I can’t fault the effort and commitment of my players but when you lose goals like we did today then it is going to hurt you. It’s a sore one to take.
"I thought at 2-2 there was only one team that looked like winning and then we have lost a goal from a set piece.
"Clyde are at the top of the league on merit and are able to grind out results away from home. There’s no doubt about it, they are a good team.
"Andy Millen played well as is usually the case against an old club. He has nothing to prove at all but he approaches every game the same."
ANDY MILLEN – "I wasn’t worried about taking the penalty because I’ve put plenty past Morrison in training! He knows what way I usually put them and went the right way.
"If you take today’s game you can see the differences between Clyde and St.Mirren. Clyde’s team have been together for the best part of two years and even when they are not playing well they are strong enough to go and grind out results. And that’s not a slur on them because there is more to their team than just the "big, strong" tag. Their mentality is to dig in and drag a result out. Today it showed because I felt St.Mirren deserved more than they got out of the game.
"I think Clyde have a great opportunity, but I’m sure a few other teams will tell you that as well. Football is a rollercoaster ride and Clyde are going up the way at the moment. Only time will tell whether or not that will continue.
"Every team can beat each other in this league, the only difference is the consistency some have shown."
|January 3, 2004