Stamford Bridge and Garscube Sports Complex probably don’t share too many similarities, but last week they both provided the settings for games that saw plenty of goals, defensive errors and a hat-trick for the winning team’s striker. Impersonating Arsenal’s recent mauling of Chelsea a Glasgow University went one better than the Gunners and stormed to a 6-3 victory over Stirling which moved them to the top of the group in the BUCS Scottish Conference Cup.
Like the London derby, it wasn’t long before the goals started flowing in. The game was only eight minutes old when, following a botched clearance from the Stirling defence, the ball dropped to Glasgow striker Gordon Allen, who rounded the goalkeeper for the simplest of finishes. Though the goalkeeper had been made to look silly for the goal, the rest of his team were thanking him ten minutes later after an excellent close-range save from Gordon McLaren’s header kept his side in the game. However, any notion that his save would rejuvenate the unsettled Stirling side was short-lived as Glasgow immediately scored from the resulting corner. An Andrew Wainwright corner was met by the head of towering captain Marc Hunter, who rose to double Glasgow’s lead. Though barely a quarter of an hour had been played, Stirling’s defence was so sloppy that Glasgow’s lead already looked unassailable.
Stirling’s attackers, on the other hand, demonstrated a composure that was lacking in other areas of their team. They gave an indication of what they were capable of when a Stirling winger forced goalkeeper Calum Blair into a fine save, though there was a suspicion the winger had brought the ball down by using his hand, his team demonstrated that they didn’t need to rely on cheating a few minutes later when a they took advantage of Glasgow’s high defensive line and ran half the length of the pitch to score by shooting into Blair’s bottom left-hand corner.
With Stirling scoring with only their second shot on goal, Glasgow coach Chris O’Neill instructed his team to stretch the game and spread the ball to winger James Hymers. A constant thorn in the side of Stirling, Hymers was excellent in both retaining possession and setting up goal scoring opportunities, great vision saw him play through McLaren but the striker squandered a one-on-one with the goalkeeper. Though he really should have scored, McLaren was clipped from behind by a defender and was too honest in staying on his feet when he could have fallen and forced the referee into making a difficult decision. With the last move of the first half he put the miss behind him, playing in Allen who scored to snuff out Stirling’s revival and give O’Neill the easier of the two coaches’ half time team talks.
Whatever the Stirling coach said at half time it had an instant effect. One minute into the half they pulled it back to 3-2 after a looping cross from the right which sailed over the Glasgow defence was headed in after ricocheting off the post. Stirling nearly equalised a minute later, with only a resolute block tackle from Hunter the difference between an unlikely score line. Only moments later, however, Glasgow pulled further clear of Stirling with the most unlikely of players claiming an assist. Blair launched a long goal kick which went over everyone’s heads before it was latched on to by the grateful Allen, who lobbed the goalkeeper for his hat-trick.
In an effort to instantly turn defence into attack, Glasgow played a higher defending line so that Hunter’s headers were being met by Glasgow’s attackers rather than their midfielders. Steven Learmont also came on for McLaren, which helped tighten the midfield and allow Glasgow to keep their shape. Though they had one less striker on the pitch, they still pressed forward in numbers. They won a corner after an hour and though Stirling cleared it to as far as the edge of the penalty box, it was met by Wainwright, who scored the goal of the match - no mean feat when there was nine in total - a sweet connection with the ball which appeared to, finally, secure Glasgow the victory. Though the game was in its last minute there was just about time for two more goals. The Stirling striker bagged his own hat-trick when he turned the Glasgow defence and fired a hopeful shot at goal that found the back of the net after it slipped through Blair’s hands.
Glasgow’s final goal was an excellent piece of team work. A diagonal pass across the midfield from Hymers met Turnbull, who lobbed the Stirling defence to give it to Allen. With only the goalkeeper to beat, Allen selflessly squared the ball to Learmont, and just like in the first 45 minutes, a Glasgow goal ended the half.
Looking ahead to the rest of the games in the group, he said he hoped ‘the team’s good performances carry on to the games against Robert Gordon and Edinburgh University.’ Nine goals, two hat-tricks, attacking football and even an assist from a goalkeeper. Who really needs the Premier League?