Despite losing an early goal at a packed Carmuirs Park, Camelon Juniors hit back to take a one goal advantage for the second leg of the Scottish Junior Cup semi-final at Loch Park on Easter Sunday.
Teeming rain and a stiff wind greeted the two sides as play got underway with the Mariners set to play into the teeth of the elements. With the wind at their backs the New Cumnock side were quick off the blocks with Michael Reilly and Aaron Connolly combining well. From the right wing Connolly picked out Cameron Marlow in the six yard box only for the midfielder to scoop his shot over the bar.
But with just three minutes on the clock Camelon found themselves behind when Connolly’s through ball caught the home defence flat footed. That left Cameron Marlow clean through on Richard Barnard and the Camelon keeper looked to have done enough when he forced him toward the bye line. But from the tightest of angles, and the help with of the wind, the Glens’ man somehow managed to find the net with an effort that went in off the far post.
Despite the conditions, both sides were giving early signs that this was going to be a cup cracker and five minutes later Barnard made a stunning point blank block to turn Marlow’s header round the post. Shortly afterwards Glenafton keeper Brian McGarrity would also prove his worth when he dived low to his right to push away a Blair Batchelor shot.
End-to-end stuff remained the order of the day and in the 26th minute Camelon were back on level terms when Colin Leiper got on the end of James Donaldson’s free kick to force the ball home from close range at the second attempt.
Four minutes later Camelon went close to taking the lead when Gary Kelly shot just wide but Glenafton did likewise when only a timely tackle by Alan Benton denied Findlay Fry with Barnard stranded off his line.
With the wind and rain at their backs, Camelon would dominate the second half to such an extent that no serious questions were asked of Barnard. Colin Allison’s pace and movement both on and off the ball was causing the Glenafton defence all sorts of problems as the Mariners pushed forward and he was denied what looked a solid penalty claim when he was bundled off the ball. Goal king Kevin Kelbie also had a similar claim waved aside before Allison, Marty Wright and Batchelor all went close with headed efforts.
As play wore on time and time again the Mariners were whipping in crosses from both left and right wings and in the 77th minute one of these lead to the winning goal when Glenafton’s Craig Menzies headed into his own net as he attempted to clear. That led to wild celebrations among the Camelon players but also a red card for Andy McGown for gesturing to the away fans. That will see him miss the second leg on Sunday but it was hard not to feel for the big defender. He had taken dog’s abuse from that section of the Glenafton support who had also been guilty of throwing flares on to the playing pitch.
His dismissal saw Allison sacrificed to be replaced by defender Eamon Fullerton as Camelon held on for a comfortable victory. At full time Kevin Kelbie was awarded the SJFA man of the match by vice president Harry Lawrie but every Camelon player deserves praise with both Derek Ure and Colin Leiper coming in for special mentions.
Managerless Camelon will have former players Myles Hogarth and Davy Flynn in their technical area again for Sunday’s second leg which is shaping up to be a highly entertaining affair if this game is anything to go by.
Supporters buses will leave the social club at 12.30 p.m.
Anyone wishing to travel should contact secretary Robert McTaggart who will be in the social club from 6 p.m. on Friday where the William Hill Scottish Cup will also be on view.