League Hamilton Palace.
Blantyre 1 AC Milanda 2
Scorers - Kelly (2)
Team - Mitchell, MacDougall (Fawns), Preston, Thomson, Di Falco, Grehan (Daly), Macdonald, Murray, Kelly, McGinley, Johnstone. Subs not used: Evans, Harley, O’Neill.
MILANDA showed once again that they will fight all the way to beat the drop by chalking up their fourth successive victory. But it took a dramatic Colin Kelly goal in the dying minutes to see off relegation rivals Blantyre. The Lanarkshire side had beaten Milanda 3-2 with a last-gasp strike earlier in the season at Stepford so Milanda were delighted to turn the tables.
Kelly had also got Milanda off to a flyer with an early goal which was cancelled out by a Blantyre penalty in a second half that the home side probably shaded. As with the previous match against Glasgow Islay, a draw might have been the fairest result at Hamilton Palace but results are what matters at this stage of the campaign and, thankfully, Milanda have picked up the knack of getting them lately.
The match was only two minutes old when Milanda took the lead. Kevin Grehan’s through ball caught the Blantyre defence waiting for an offside whistle that never came and Kelly went on to loft the ball over the keeper and into the net. It looked to some of those on the sidelines as if referee Gordon Hay had got it wrong but although Martin Johnstone was in an offside position, Kelly was onside and so the goal stood, despite Blantyre’s protests.
Milanda, with trialist Jason McGinley slotting into midfield on the left, could have added to their lead before the break but the final pass wasn’t quite good enough at times. They were also unlucky when a Paul Murray corner caused Blantyre problems and the ball was eventually cleared off the line.
But the home side were always a threat and it took some good goalkeeping by Ross Mitchell and solid defending by the guys in front of him to ensure Milanda reached the break with their lead intact.
Seven minutes into the second period, Blantyre equalised from the penalty spot after Gary Di Falco had pulled down one of their forwards. It was a sloppy goal to lose because Milanda had been guilty of failing to clear their lines a couple of times in the build-up to it. However, with so much time still to be played there was never any threat of heads going down and Di Falco, who had been having an excellent match, didn’t let the incident bother him.
The only problem was that the momentum had switched slightly and Blantyre began to take a grip of the game. Good defending and goalkeeping kept them at bay, although Milanda were grateful to Kelly again when he cleared the ball off the line following a set-piece.
Injuries to Neil MacDougall and Kevin Grehan didn’t help Milanda’s cause but substitutes Andy Daly and Craig Fawns went on and got stuck in.
Finally, with two minutes to go, Milanda made the breakthrough again. Set-piece specialist Murray curled in a corner from the right and Kelly headed home from almost on the goal line.
With some stoppage time to be played due to injuries, Milanda had to sweat a little until referee Hay blow the final whistle but they got the job done.
MOM: Another superb team effort with everyone playing a part but Colin Kelly was the main man with two superb goals and an excellent goal-line clearance into the bargain.