Whitletts Match Report
ARDEER THISTLE 0 - WHITLETTS VICTORIA 5
Vics gave manager Rikki Ryland the perfect birthday present as they turned in a five star performance to kick off their Ayrshire District League campaign.
Relegated from the Superleague last term, Ardeer are amongst the clear favourites for promotion this season but were swept aside by a devastating display from Vics with striker, Tony Balfour recording his THIRD hat trick of the fledgling season. But with almost a full squad to choose from for the first time this season, Ryland will be more than happy with the performance of his side as a unit.
In the opening seconds Vics almost took the lead but Michael O’Conner couldn’t quite connect properly with a Balfour cross, while Ardeer swept downfield and when David Mathieson failed to clear the danger Ryan Morrow toe-poked the ball inches wide.
But it was Whitletts who began to take a grip on the game. Balfour saw his audacious chip clawed away by Paul McCann and then had a shot from the corner of the six yard box blocked by the legs of the big Thistle keeper after he had robbed a defender of possession on the bye-line.
With the Vics forward line giving the Thistle defence a torrid time a goal always looked on the cards and it came in the 20th minute. An O’Conner cross bounced kindly inside the box and Balfour shrugged of the attentions of centre half Brian Gilmour before firing an angled drive past McCann into the corner of the net.
It was no more than Vics deserved and the Vics’ striker almost got a second but his volley from a Jordan Mullen free kick was straight at McCann. McCann then denied O’Conner at his near post after skipping past the challenges of two Thistle defenders.
Ardeer had their moments on the counter attack and Morrow should have equalised when he was set free after some good play by Gareth Armstrong but with just Ally McInnes to beat the Thistle striker fired wide of the target.
Vics immediately broke upfield and O’Conner had a ‘goal’ ruled out for offside after McCann had parried a Sam McFall shot and four minutes from the interval Ardeer’s hopes of taking anything from the game were dealt a blow when player-manager Derek Gemmell, who had only been on the park six minutes as a substitute, was shown a straight red card for a foul on Eddie Graham to deny a clear goalscoring opportunity. From the resulting free kick, Balfour’s deflected effort was pushed over by McCann.
Thistle almost snatched an equaliser before the break when a long ball forward was superbly controlled by Armstrong but the former Ayr United striker was denied by a superb save from McInnes.
Vics started slowly in the second period but soon got into their rythmn with Balfour being denied by a great saving challenge from Kevin Ramsay and from the resulting corner McFall headed over an O’Conner cross after the Thistle defence had failed to clear their lines.
But 10 minutes after the restart Vics finally secured their second of the afternoon. Again McCann did well to parry a McFall shot but Balfour was on hand to fire the rebound high into the roof of the net.
Any notion of an Ardeer fightback were dispelled eight minutes later when Balfour completed his hat trick. Graham setting up Balfour inside the box before turning to fire past McCann.
McFall then saw his effort from a Balfour cross deflected inches wide while a Blair block denied Balfour again from an O’Conner cross. Ardeer continued to try and find a way back into the game the the impressive Armstrong was again denied by an equally impressive save by McInnes.
But the reality was it was all Vics by this stage and O’Conner almost got the fourth but couldn’t bring a Balfour cross properly under control at the back post with the goal at his mercy.
Vics looked to have scored a fourth with ten minutes remaining when Balfour rounded McCann in the box only to be brought down by the Thistle keeper as he was set to roll the ball into the empty net but amazingly instead of awarding a spot kick referee Gallagher yellow carded the Vics striker for diving! Even Ardeer assistant manager Peter Kean was heard commenting that it was a stonewaller.
However Vics were not to be denied and late in the game they scored a quick fire double. In the 87th minute from a Tommy Sloan corner, Mark Ferris rose at the back post to head home from six yards and then in the final minute O’Conner finally got the goal his hard work had deserved as he ran onto a through ball, poking it round a defender before unleashing the ball past the onrushing McCann for the goal of the game.
But this was a superb team effort from Vics, solid at the back, powerful and skilful in the middle and dynamic upfront. The benchmark has been set for the rest of the season.
1. McCann 2. Blair 3. Tan 4. Ramsay 5. Gilmour (Gemmell 35) 6. Bruce (S. Reid 61) 7. Hogan 8. J. Reid (Hamilton 61) 9. Armstrong 10. Maxwell 11. Morrow
Subs (not used) 16. Colligan
1. McInnes 2. Mathieson 3. Ewart 4. Buchanan 5. Mullen 6. Black 7. Kerr 8. Graham 9. McFall 10. Balfour 11. O’Conner
Subs (not used) 12. Longair 21 N. Sloan
Referee: Liam Gallagher