The Friday Night Lights were on for match day twenty-six of the West of Scotland Premiership as Pollok entertained title-chasing Darvel. With the fixture brought forward to avoid a clash with the Scotland versus Cyprus game it was Pollok’s third outing in seven days.
After the defeat to Clydebank the manager made three changes to the starting eleven – Menzies and Fraser dropping out along with the suspended Nelson to be replaced by Mullen, Barr and Buchanan. The stretched nature of the squad was shown by the fact only five substitutes were listed.
The home side were straight on the offensive with a burst forward by Lyon in the opening minute. He passed it wide to Buchanan whose cross found a good area but lacked power and was gathered by Truesdale. Five minutes later Lyon again carried the ball forward this time passing out to the right to Christie. He beat his man and whipped in a cross. A defensive header cleared the ball to the edge of the box where Lyon got a strike in but it was straight at Truesdale.
It was Lyon again testing Truesdale a few minutes later when the Pollok attack harried the Darvel defence into a mistake after they had opted to take a short goal kick. Darvel were then seen as an attacking threat with seventeen minutes on the clock. A long throw was flicked on and hammered towards goal. Longmuir flung himself to his left to palm it away with a stunning save.
Four minutes later Pollok opened the scoring. A free kick into the box was headed out wide. As Docherty went to retrieve it at the right-hand side of the box he was rather needlessly shoved in the back and the assistant referee indicated penalty. Christie stepped up and rolled the ball into the bottom corner with Truesdale going the wrong way.
Having opened the scoring with a penalty the home side doubled their lead three minutes later with a superb individual goal from Lyon. He picked up a loose ball just inside the Darvel half and surged between two opponents. As he got into the box it looked like he might be crowded out but a sharp change of direction left a defender in his wake and generated room for an accurate, right footed strike into the same corner as Christie had found minutes earlier.
Just after the half hour mark Darvel won a corner. It was cleared and Pollok looked to be on the verge of a very dangerous counter-attack when the ball didn’t quite fall into Esplin’s path and his touch got away from him. The ball was quickly returned to the right wing and when the low cross came in Ferguson was there to apply an accurate finish.
From the restart the ball never went out of play again until it was back in the Pollok net and it was a personal disaster for Burns who up until then had been putting in a good performance. A hopeful ball was swung in from the left but Burns was well positioned to deal with it. He got the ball caught under his feet and although he recovered in time to clear his lines he opted to try and dribble out of the box. Having been quickly closed down he tried to pass back to Longmuir but was short and McKenzie nipped in to slot home. A devastating sixty seconds for the Southsiders.
Four goals in thirteen minutes had illuminated the first half but the home side will have been disappointed not to have led at the break.
The second half started with Darvel taking control of the game. A cross in from the right found McKenzie six yards out but his shot was brilliantly saved by Longmuir. A free kick was then floated into the box and headed down. The shot on the turn though crept inches wide of Longmuir’s right-handpost.
With sixty-five minutes on the clock another free kick into the Pollok box led to a stramash with bodies flying everywhere. The ball ended up in the net but the referee had spotted an infringement.
Having been forced back for much of the second period Pollok then re–found some attacking momentum. Burns hit the side netting and Christie dug out two superb crosses from the right which Stuart McCann would have loved to attack. Perhaps it was those moments which proved just how costly his harsh suspension was to Pollok.
Darvel had been making use of their strong bench in the second half as they pushed for a winner and a substitute was involved in the goal. A tackle in the Pollok box led to the ball breaking nicely for Kirkpatrick who was suddenly clean through on goal. Longmuir saved well but the rebound fell for former Pollok striker McKenzie to slot home the winner with two minutes to go.
It had been a good contest with both teams having their periods on top. For Darvel the late winner kept their title hopes alive although they will need a near flawless run into the end of the season. For the home side it rounded off a miserable seven days although the performances in defeat had got progressively better over the three games.
Match Report by Peter Thomson
Photos by James Graham