AC Milanda 5 Red Star Baillieston 2.
Scorers - Kelly 2, Lawson 2, Macdonald
Team - Fawns, Di Folco, Evans (Trialist 2), Thomson, Binnie, Daly (Reid), Macdonald, Trialist 1, Kelly, Murray, Lawson. Sub not used: McLaughlin.
MILANDA finished their season in spectacular style with a well-deserved victory over the GDSML runners-up. Having come within a minute of holding the league champions four days earlier, the boys knew they were capable of giving Red Star Baillieston a game. But the performance and result exceeded all expectations, especially with a number of key players missing.
The loss of regular keeper Ross Mitchell plus Martin Johnstone, Dave O’Neill and Scott Preston from the team that had almost held Invac at the weekend was always going to be difficult to cope with but the players who took over were simply excellent.
Milanda’s little band of supporters, including Andy Scott, Davie Crawford, Kevin Williamson, Thomas Addison, injured skipper Kevin Grehan and Jim McGowan, were impressed by what they witnessed - and rightly so.
But will it be enough to save Milanda from relegation? The answer to that is in the hands of Invac and Glasgow Islay who play the last Premier Division fixture of the season at Nethercraigs on Saturday. If Invac win, Islay go down. Any other result and Milanda go down. But that’s for another day. For the moment, let’s just savour what happened in this game.
The home side got off to a superb start with a goal after two minutes. Jim Binnie and Paul Murray combined well to send Russell Lawson down the left and he crossed low for Colin Kelly to gather and shoot home from close range. Red Star appealed that Codger had been offside but referee Finlay MacDermid was adamant the goal was good.
If the visiting team were annoyed about that, they were apoplectic eight minutes later when the match official awarded Milanda a dubious free-kick they hadn’t claimed for just outside the box.
Red Star had further cause for rage when Lawson stepped up and plonked the ball in the net.
Lawson and Kelly were giving the Red Star defence all sorts of problems and in the 17th minute they combined again to create a good opening that Codger fired off target. Red Star were playing some good football and it was no real surprise when they cut the deficit in the 32nd minute following a superb run from their tall central midfielder. The big man got through again before the break but Craig Fawns produced a fabulous save to keep Milanda’s lead intact.
The second half was only nine minutes old when Red Star equalised with a ferocious shot from the right side of the box that Fawns touched but couldn’t stop. This was now a huge test of nerve. The momentum had turned the opposition’s way, so how would Milanda react?
The answer was emphatic – with more goals. Three of them in a six-minute period to be precise. They could have been 3-2 ahead in the 67th minute when Murray placed a low free-kick into the net but the ref chalked it off because he was busy dealing with more Red Star dissent and hadn’t blown for the set-piece to be taken. When the official had sorted that out, Lawson took over free-kick duties and forced an excellent save from the keeper.
Mark Reid replaced Andy Daly, who had put in a great shift on the right of midfield, and the substitute came close to scoring with a strong shot. The Red Star net finally bulged again in the 72nd minute when Lawson coolly fired the ball into the corner after tremendous build-up play by Kelly and Reid. But the opposition could not be written off and it took an out of this world block by Gerry Evans to stop their danger man netting from close range.
That proved a real turning point because Milanda promptly scored their fourth in the 76th minute when Roddy Macdonald scored with a shot that took a slight deflection on its way to the back of the net. Two minutes later, it was 5-2. Kelly took advantage of a lucky break of the ball off the referee – you can imagine what Red Star thought of that – and powered into the box to fire home.
A three-goal advantage with 12 minutes left for play put Milanda in a commanding position and there was no way they were going to let that advantage slip.
There was even time to give trialist No.2 a run up front following an injury to Evans as Milanda saw the game out.
MOM: Half the players, perhaps even more, were candidates for man of the match. Craig Fawns played exceptionally well in goal and the defence in front of him was solid. Full-backs Gary Di Folco and Jim Binnie were strong in the tackle and cleared their lines well, while Andy Thomson and Gerry Evans dealt capably with the threat through the middle. The way Evans handled the Red Star danger man as he surged forward from midfield was particularly impressive. Andy Daly, Mark Reid, Roddy Macdonald, Trialist 1 and Paul Murray worked their socks off in midfield – literally in Macdonald’s case because he had to leave the field to put on shin pads after being reported to the ref for not wearing any. The men in the engine room were sometimes outnumbered but never stopped grafting. Their efforts allowed Colin Kelly and Russell Lawson to terrorise the three-man Red Star defence and they really produced the goods with a couple of goals each. For that reason, man of the match is a joint award this time to our two strikers.