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Match Report : Ardrossan v Whitletts

Ardrossan took a giant step towards the Superleague with what, in the end, proved to be a comfortable victory over Whitletts at Winton Park.
Vics’ were punished yet again by a poor start to the game. Not for the first time it took then 15 minutes to get into the game but while they may have got away with that in some other matches, Winton took full advantage and the only surprise was that the home side only held a one goal advantage after that spell!
It took Winton only two minutes to take the lead. Stevie Kerr mistimed a tackle at the edge of the box and from the resulting free kick Ryan Caddis left Ally McInnes rooted to the spot as his free kick settled in the corner of the net.
Winton poured forward with the Vics’ defence at sixes and sevens but despite creating a number of openings, poor finishing let them down badly. In one such opportunity, Lee McCrae was left with an open goal at the back post only yards from goal yet somehow managed to return the ball across the face of goal from where Graham Longair’s challenge denied John Johnstone.
Finally Whitletts settled and in the 15th minute they mustered their first attack on the Ardrossan goal and Lee Holland’s strike was saved by Michael Wardrope. Two minutes later a stunning save from the Winton keeper at full stretch denied Michael O’Connor who looked set to score with a diving header from eight yards.
Neither defence looked too clever under pressure and Connor Browning fired just wide for Winton while at the other end Vics’ penalty appeals were waved aside by referee Kevin McElhinney after Craig Breen handled inside the box.
Within seconds of that decision, Ardrossan doubled their advantage. McCrae finding acres of space down the left flank and his low cross was turned into the net by Johnstone from close range. Caddis could have added a third but fired straight at McInnes but in the 37th minute Vics got themselves back in the game. A superb flick by Jim Wilson released Tony Balfour who shrugged off the attentions of Matt Bennett to race clear into the box before firing low past Wardrope for his 30th goal of the season
Moments later O’Connor’s drive was deflected just over while Gary Russell fired just wide from 25 yards as Whitletts pressed for the equaliser but just before the break Caddis should have restored Winton’s two goal advantage but he screwed his angled shot out for a throw in!
The second period failed to see any clear cut chances created in the opening stages with a Johnstone floated cross into the danger zone that McInnes had to parry clear being the only piece of action worthy of note apart from Winton boss Chris Strain being sent to the stand by the referee after words said to the official following a Longair challenge on McCrae that also saw the Vics’ assistant manager and Winton’s Caddis both booked.
Winton had the better of the possession and territorial advantage but goal mouth action was rare and with 15 minutes remaining McCrae saw his cross come off the face of McInnes’s left post.
In the 76th minute the visitors were reduced to ten men when Hurlford loanee  Euan Blair was shown a straight red card after a lunging challenge and within three minutes Ardrossan took full advantage of the extra space as McCrae set up Caddis who fired past the helpless McInnes. In his goalmouth celebration the former Ayr striker jumped over the pitch surround but referee McElhinney chose not to show the player a second yellow card.
The only question now was whether Winton could add to their tally. Ian Cashmore’s snapshot from 25 yards went close while Grant Turner, on loan from Troon, should have scored when put in the clear but fired wide before a spectacular effort from Ben Carson was turned behind by McInnes.
Not a match of the standard normally produced when these two clubs meet but certainly an afternoon that Whitletts will want to forget.
Ardrossan Winton Rovers
1. Wardrope 2. Breen 3. Bennett 4. Gilmour (Miller 90) 5. Cochrane 6. Carson 7. Browning 8. Johnstone 9. Willett (Cashmore 66)10. Caddis (Turner 79) 11. McCrae
Subs (not used) 16. Webb GK. Pollock
Whitletts Victoria
1. McInnes 2. Longair 3. Simpson 4. Buchanan 5. Blair 6. Holland 7. Kerr 8. Russell (Love 67) 9. Wilson (Wallace 77) 10. Balfour (Ewart 83) 11. O’Connor
Referee: Kevin McElhinney