The much-heralded magic of the cup was not evident at Garscube, yet the drama was very much intensified by Glasgow’s inability to finish off the visitors. At times it seemed like Glasgow were contriving to lose; or at least eager to send the home crowd into cardiac arrest. Chance after chance went begging, and whilst they dominated a beleaguered Manchester the scoreline always seemed precarious.
Glasgow dictated the opening exchanges, playing at a furious pace which their dazed opposition struggled to handle. Manchester seemed almost punchdrunk — perhaps nerves caused by the grandeur of the occasion — and they were unable to generate any sort of rhythm. Glasgow were playing with the vibrancy of a team brimming with confidence. Neat interchanges and incisive through balls consistently split the Manchester defence on a day when only their finishing was culpable. Chris O’Day was guilty of squandering a good opening as he tamely lashed wide after bursting through from midfield, and Jamie Kerr fired over from an acute angle after being audaciously played in by strike partner Andrew Knight.
Jamie Kerr was a constant source of irritation to the Manchester defence. He incessantly hassled and harangued the centre backs — largely the dog’s work of the unsung hero, but he was unlucky not to see it pay off. The opposition centre half looked to be harmlessly shepherding the ball out of play and Kerr nipped in behind him, but his square ball was criminally smashed over by Micheal Mckay.
Chris O’Day, the Glasgow captain, was immense at the heart of midfield. He seemed to be everywhere, and his intuition was such that at times it felt as if he had scripted the whole affair. Manchester struggled to contain his vision and pace of thought, as they showed too much respect and allowed him to orchestrate the proceedings.
As is so often the way of football, the first clear-cut chance of the game came against the run of play. A misunderstanding at the heart of the Glasgow defence allowed Kurt Ayton to race through. He seemed suprised at the space left to him, and with just keeper Ashley Brown to beat, his scuffed effort rattled harmlessly off the post.
It was the wake-up call that the Mancunian outfit needed. Lackadaisical sloppiness was eradicated and replaced with ruthless efficiency. It made for a fine counterbalance; the flare and flamboyance of Glasgow versus the gritty determination of Manchester — football versus anti-football.
Manchester surged forward again, and seemed to be developing an ominous stranglehold on the game. Ayton was given too much space to turn and Brown did well to beat away the looping attempt that seemed to be creeping into the bottom corner. The resulting corner saw Brown produce an outstanding reaction save. The Glasgow defence temporarily switched off leaving Danny Brennan, who had crept up from the back, unmarked inside the six-yard box. He looked for the world like he was set to open the scoring but his bullet header was remarkably kept out by a spread-eagled Brown.
Brown has developed a reputation as somewhat of a Jekyll and Hyde goalkeeper. His shot-stopping was again sublime, yet questions will constantly be raised about his ability in the air. On several occasions he left hearts in mouths by flapping erratically at crosses.
The woodwork was again to be Glasgow’s salvation when a hopeful cross was launched into the box but took a wicked deflection off Paul Ruddy and arced agonisingly towards the Glasgow goal. Brown was utterly wrong-footed, but again the ball cannoned off the foot of the post, and a relieved Brown was on hand to smother gratefully.
They say lightning doesn’t strike twice, but Glasgow were again on the receiving end of divine intervention. Brown was the sole reason the homeside were on parity but he could only watch and admire as Kurt Ayton’s shot sailed past him, but ricocheted
off the post and was eventually scrambled away by a panicking Glasgow defence.
If ever a goal was to change a match then this was it. A well-worked corner saw Andrew Knight soar above the Manchester defence and power home a header past the despairing keeper. It gave the team confidence to push on, and as they grew in stature the Mancunians seemed to shy away from the fight. Chris O’Day swiftly reasserted control.
The general at the heart of midfield marshalled his players with a series of pinpoint passes. At his most brilliant, a chipped through ball found Jamie Kerr and his acrobatic effort was smartly gathered in by the goalkeeper.
Glasgow by this stage were rampant, with a lack of further goals being the only detriment in a performance that was almost complete. Jamie Kerr burst through and saw his effort smartly parried to Mikey Mckay whose follow-up snap shot was incredibly saved by a combination of goalkeeper and defender and, with the goal at his mercy, Andrew Knight squandered the chance to double his tally by smashing over.
The arrival of Aaron Scouller gave Glasgow an added dimension. The energetic winger constantly terrorised the Manchester defence by running at them and a clever ball to Kerr allowed the striker to dance through a couple of tackles before a heavy touch let him down at the crucial moment.
It was a day in which one thought for the world Glasgow would come to rue the catalogue of missed chances. A last minute corner saw a reverential hush descend on Garscube as the 300-strong contingent of Glasgow fans fell silent.
The deep corner caused chaos at the centre of the Glasgow defence, resulting in a mad scramble and from the ensuing pinball the ball ricocheted to the feet of Danny Brennan, but he agonisingly fired over from five yards.
The final whistle sparked raucous celebrations from a jubilant home support, but ultimately it was a game in which fingernails were unnecessarily gnawed to the quick in an excruiating finale. There will surely be mixed emotions for the Glasgow players — who will undoubtedly be frustrated at their failure to kill off a game, yet relieved at getting the job done, and thankful for the apparent twelfth man that is the goalpost.