Ralston: It Shows How Fickle Football Can Be

Interview with Stewart Ralston for programme v Petershill 3-10-15

Stewart, this is our first interview for the programme since before the last Petershill game in the Sectional League Cup quarter final. So, today’s match represents a full circle so to speak.  In that game, Petershill went two nil up and then we got a goal back through Alan Mackenzie.  But we didn’t make any progress in the second half.

Yes, I thought Petershill were quite comfortable in the second half with their two one lead until the last minute when John Sweeney went through and beat a couple players but couldn’tget his shot away.  But over the piece, Petershill deserved their win.

The opening league fixture at home to Troon appeared to offer a good opportunity to make up for that defeat, but we had a really disappointing day.  They scored two great goals from outside the box.

I think it was a game that turned on a decision by the referee.  We were one nil down and then Alan Mackenzie beat two players and was brought down just as he was about to pull the trigger six yards from the goal.  For me, it was a stonewall penalty and a red card.  The referee chose not to give it.  Troon were pretty comfortable on the day and deserved to win.

In that game we were short in depth on the bench. Was that a contributing factor?

Yes, for the first two weeks of the season we were affected by a combination of holidays, suspensions and injuries.  It meant we lacked options to change things

The next week, a local derby against Arthurlie seemed to be a great chance to get some points on the board.  Obviously you missed at that game, but what were the management team’s views of that game.

It was a holocaustic start - we were two goals down in twominutes and half our team hadn’t even touched the ball.  We made a change at half time by bring on Paul Gallagher and that steadied the ship, but in this League you cannot give any team a two goal start and then expect to win the match. Selection Issues were still problem, with Taz being out injured and Gallagher nursing his knee injury; we were limited for options in that match.

In that game we had Del Hepburn sent off

Yes inexperience and frustration were to blame.  The referee didn’t give a foul when Del thought he should have got one.  But at this level, you can’t say certain things to the referee and not expect to get punished.

A dreadful start as you say…

Yes and it shows how fickle football can be.  We had come out of the League Cup section playing good football and scoring lotsof goals, albeit against lower league opposition  We had playedreally well against St. Anthony’s and scored four and scored eight at Neilston which is a notoriously difficult place to go.  So it was looking like we were on good form. And so the two opening league results were a surprise.

There are no easy fixtures in this league as everyone recognises and the third league fixture was away to Irvine Meadow.  But we got our first point there and probably deserved to win.

We changed the formation there to a 4-1-4-1 with Finlay Frye sitting in front of the back four and played Davie Winters up front himself.  That seemed to solidify us and gave us a platform to play and I thought we played well.  We were deservedly up one nil; I thought we were controlling most of the play and I thought we had largely nullified their main attacking threats.  Again, I think we were hard done to by a refereeing decision, which allowed a foul on our goalkeeper. At the time it looked like a clear foul on Jordan and, subsequently, the video and stillphotographs both confirmed that he had two hands on the balland in control of the ball.  Their player charged in and hit Jordan further up the arm which led to the ball squirming loose. Jordan had the bruises to show where their player had connected with him.  Our players were slow to react because they were waiting for the ref to whistle.  Even then Mark Sideserf got back to clear the ball off the line but it bounced off their player and into the goal.  But I thought overall, we played really well and we took alot of positives from that match.

The next game was even more positive as we won our first League game of the season at home to Kilbirnie.

Yes Davie Winters scored two early gaols, both of them due to the Kilbirnie defence failing to stop Chris Walker in the air.  They then got a goal back and you could see the fickleconfidence I am talking about as we didn’t play well after they scored.  There wasn’t much in it and then they had a man sent off.  We had chances to settle the game but never chose the correct option to finish of the moves.  By the end, Kilbirnie were throwing caution to the wind, playing with four up front and it took a couple of great saves from Jordan Longmuir very late on to secure all three points.

And then against Hurlford in my opinion we played really well against a top team – the League leaders.  You must have been very disappointed to come back up the road with nothing to show for it

I thought we competed well and again nullified their biggestattacking threats.  We tweaked our shape to try to nullify their winger who had, for him, a relatively quiet day although he did score with a fluke cross that just found the perfect spot.  We had a couple of half chances as well as a great free kick goal from Tam Hanlon. In the second half we didn’t go into our shell.  At 11 v 11, I thought we were the better team.  When they had a man sent off I thought we were still on top. Again, we had opportunities to make the extra man count but we chose the wrong option.  Ultimately we were undone by a free kick whenwe were slow to react to the second ball.

Colin Williamson had a great run and shot on goal that went narrowly past.

Colin has taken a few games to settle in at Pollok.  We challenged him to have more of an influence on the team and we thought he did that against Hurlford.  And Finlay Frye was used to nullify the threat of their winger.  Finlay has played well in recent weeks for us.  I thought Robbie Winters did well.  We started with one up and them moved Stevie Higgins from midfield up to play up top with Robbie.  Davie Winters was suffering from the injuries he took against Kilbirnie the week before.  That was the first game that David Winters has not started for us since he came to Pollok. Alan Mackenzie has not been fully fit since the start of the season.

You mentioned our now signing Stevie Higgins.  What made you sign him?

His sharpness, pace and eye for goal and how he fitted into the group. He’s only 19 so he’s got plenty to develop.  He came through the ranks at Motherwell and we spoke to the Academy development director there as part of our background look at him.

Mark Sideserf got badly injured in the Hurlford game.  What’s the latest on him?

He played for us at Shotts and never missed a game in two and a half years.  He has come to Pollok and got a bad eye injury early on and then this.  He is going in to hospital tomorrow (Thursday) to have it assessed.  I thought it was a terrible tackle on  him.

Turning to our opponents on Saturday, Petershill.  Every League match is a tough one.  

They have had a hoodoo sign over Pollok in recent years.  We have played them a couple of times since we came to Pollok and lost both games.  They are a very good Premier League quality team, very street-wise.  They are particularly hard to beat if they go a goal up.  They can defend a lead really well.  It would be interesting to see how the game would go if we managed to get the first goal. It will be a really hard game.  As I have said before, we are work-in-progress.  

Many thanks to Stewart Ralston for taking time after training on Wednesday night to talk exclusively to the programme.