Invac 2 AC Milanda 1
Scorer - Macdonald
Team - Mitchell, Evans, Preston, Thomson, Di Folco, Lawson, Macdonald, O’Neill, Kelly, Murray, Johnstone. Subs not used: Binnie, Daly, Fawns, Harley, McLaughlin.
SURVIVAL is no longer in AC Milanda’s hands after a heartbreaking late loss to an Invac side that retained the GDSML Premier Division title by taking full points. Milanda needed four points from their last two games to be sure of beating relegation but the ending of their four-game winning run leaves them in a precarious position. Now they need to beat league runners-up Red Star Baillieston in their last game and hope that Glasgow Islay finish their programme with a defeat at Invac. Two big asks for sure but not outwith the bounds of possibility.
It would be stretching the truth to say Milanda deserved a point at Nethercraigs on Saturday because, in addition to their goals, Invac also hit the frame of the goal on four occasions. But the team certainly gave a good account of themselves and would have had a draw if referee David Ross had blown the final whistle just 60 seconds earlier. They say everything in football balances out over the course of a season and Milanda have scored their share of late goals in the past few weeks so we can’t really complain.
Having been hammered 10-2 at home by Invac earlier in the season, Milanda went into the game as heavy underdogs but gave as good as they got in the first 15 minutes.
Colin Kelly created a couple of half-chances with his pace but the Invac goal survived. Ross Mitchell came to Milanda’s rescue with a magnificent save after the defence had been carved open in the 17th minute. The keeper tipped a shot on to his right-hand post and behind for a corner.
Unfortunately, poor marking from that corner saw Invac take the lead through Craig MacDonald. There was a chance for a quick equaliser when Paul Murray played in Martin Johnstone down the inside-left channel but, as the keeper came out to him, the striker lost control of the ball at the vital moment.
Invac almost scored again with a volley from outside the box following a set-piece but Murray, on the line, headed the ball up and off the underside of the bar and away to safety. One of the Invac players scooped another good chance over the bar with only Mitchell to beat and the home team also struck a post from a free-kick just before the break.
Perhaps fortunate still to be in the game at the break, Milanda made a better start to the second period and Kelly shot wide following a Murray free-kick. Mitchell had another superb save and Invac struck the woodwork twice more before Milanda levelled things in the 78th minute. A Johnstone cross from the left was fired back across goal by Russell Lawson - back in the side after months out due to work commitments - and Roddy Macdonald reacted quickest to stab the ball home.
A well-worked goal and deserved reward for a team that refused to buckle.
Five minutes later, Johnstone was inches away from connecting with a free-kick that Lawson had whipped in from the right. But disaster stuck in the 89th minute when, with the ball bouncing around a packed penalty box, Andy Westwater got the split-second he needed to blast it into the net for the winner.
There was only time to restart the match before referee Ross brought it to an end.
Invac had won the league for the second year in a row and Milanda were left to ponder what might have been.
MOM: Another good performance with everyone playing a part. Ross Mitchell was excellent in goal, the back four, for the most part, looked solid and from middle to front, the team always carried a threat. Scott Preston and Andy Thomson were again impressive as a central defensive partnership, while full-backs Gerry Evans and Gary Di Folco complemented them. Martin Johnstone and the lively Colin Kelly made sure the Invac defence never had a moment’s peace and these two had good service from midfielders Russell Lawson, Roddy Macdonald, Dave O’Neill and Paul Murray. Mitchell, Preston, Kelly or Johnstone could easily have been man of the match in this one but the award goes to Macdonald for getting through a ton of work in midfield and still finding the time to score.