Match Report: Pollok 1 – 0 Auchinleck Talbot

The opening day of the 2023/24 West Of Scotland Football League Premier Division saw Pollok play host to Auchinleck Talbot in the pick of the day’s fixtures.

With the Maxi revolution in full flow during the close season there were only three survivors in the starting line-up who played in the last day defeat at Largs in May – Rumsby, Christie and Forde. Making their competitive Pollok debuts were Fry, Burrows, Forrester, Hutton, Lindsay, McKenzie and Maley. Three others would take their bows from the bench.

The game kicked off in bright sunshine with a mixture of optimism and trepidation around the ground as both teams started new eras with long serving stalwarts having departed. After a cagey and tepid opening few minutes it was the away side who found their form first. A nice move through the middle of the park saw Talbot in on goal but Forrester made a superbly timed last ditch tackle to avert the danger.

Forrester was also involved in Talbot’s next big chance to open the scoring. A corner was swung in from the right and missed by the Talbot player with ball hitting the unprepared Forrester on the hand. Penalty kick. Boyd stepped up but sent the ball over Fry’s bar and the home support breathed a sigh of relief.

The home side managed a shot on goal in the 11th minute when Maley broke down the left and after trying a one –two with Forrester got the break of the ball to send a curling effort towards goal but it was comfortably saved.

With communication still an issue in the Pollok rearguard Auchinleck continued to look dangerous and perhaps should have taken the lead in the 24th minute. A quick break out of defence saw a dangerous cross come in from the right wing. Fry made a good block but was stranded when the ball was crossed back in to Smith. He wasn’t quite fully set but will have been disappointed to send his effort wide with only a couple of defenders on the line to beat.

A few minutes later Pollok had their first big chance of the game. An Auchinleck clearance was returned by Hutton just over the top of the outrushing defence. McKenzie had a swing at it as it dropped over his shoulder but put his effort over the bar. Perhaps leaving the ball for Forde would have been the better option.

McKenzie was again off target a few minutes later with a low shot from the edge of the box but at least he was now seeing a bit of the ball, which was something that his work-rate most definitely deserved. With the game now more even the home side had the final chance of the half as Lindsay played an intelligent ball over the top but McKenzie couldn’t quite get the headed connection he was looking for and it was a routine save for the goalkeeper.

Right-back Burrows – who had taken a knock towards the end of the first half was replaced by Barr for the second half.

Talbot had a long-range effort sail wide and then in the 54thminute Pollok very nearly took the lead. A dangerous Maley cross had been cut out at the expense of a corner. Christie’s corner might well have been going in but was headed clear from under the bar. It fell invitingly for Forrester whose acrobatic effort was on its’ way in when it hit his teammate, McKenzie, on the goal-line.

A Maley free-kick from a dangerous position went over the bar whilst at the other end a cross from the left was punched out by Fry. The follow up shot was goal bound but well blocked by Forrester.

With Kerr, Anderson and Gallacher all on for debuts the Southsiders were looking as dangerous as they had all game. A Christie shot was well saved and seconds later Fry had his palms stung by a rasping drive as both teams looked for a winner.

Just as many in the ground were giving up hope of seeing a goal, the opener arrived, and it was certainly worth waiting for. Some nice passing in the middle of the park involving Hutton, Lindsay and Forrester saw the ball arrive at the feet of Gallacher on the left wing. He cut inside the box and curled an absolute beauty into the top corner for a stunning debut goal.

Pollok were able to see out the remainder of the game fairly comfortably. Auchinleck will no doubt rue their failure to take the first half chances that came their way but the game was decided by a strike of the highest quality.

After a nervy first fifteen minutes the home side had produced a gritty and resolute performance against a team that will no doubt be towards the top end of the table come season’s end. Pollok’s spirit and work-rate will have sent the home faithful away believing success this season is achievable.  

Man of the Match: Andrew Gallagher

The youngster’s cameo may have only been a short one, but it was crucial as he netted an outstanding winner with less than ten minutes left to play.

Manager’s Reaction:

 Full Match Highlights

Match Report by Peter Thomson

Photographs from James Graham & Finlay Thom