In front of the television cameras and the world’s oldest football trophy, Glasgow University were unceremoniously knocked out of the first round of the Scottish Cup against Borders side Selkirk. Two goals either side of the half and a sending off condemned the team to an early exit and denied them the possibility of a glamorous Glasgow derby against Rangers when the draw is made next week.
The boisterous crowd that arrived at Garscube could be forgiven for thinking that the game was going to be played in conditions more associated with El Clasico than the first round of the Scottish Cup.
As the players warmed up there were a few jealous spectators green with envy at the players getting the chance to play in Scottish football’s premier knockout tournament in such glorious weather. As the players made their way out onto the pitch to start the game, however, they were greeted with ominous clouds, black skies and torrential rain.
Selkirk’s first goal arrived as quickly as the rain. Selkirk winger Lee Pyrkosz found Jason Inglis, who laid the ball off at the edge of the box for David Battle to calmly slot it into the bottom right-hand corner of the goal. Three minutes in, Glasgow were already battling against the elements and an unfortunate early goal.
Glasgow’s Paul Gallacher nearly made the best possible response when he rounded the Selkirk goalkeeper. With the angle too tight to have a shot, he was forced to pass the ball into the box. Unfortunately for Glasgow there was no one there to take advantage of the open goal.
Glasgow were nearly made to pay for their missed opportunity when Selkirk came close to doubling their lead after twenty four minutes. Aaron Butters caught the ball sweetly with a half volley that was heading straight to the top left-hand corner of the net, and only a fantastic save from Glasgow goalkeeper Malcolm Blair kept the score at one-nil. Selkirk’s prolonged assault on the Glasgow goal with a series of corners and free kicks was only halted with a handball at the edge of the box.
There was plenty of evidence to suggest that Glasgow were struggling with Selkirk’s unsubtle tactic of playing the ball forward to their menacing centre forward Gibson. He was a constant thorn in the sides of the Glasgow defenders with his powerful runs and strong presence. He was proving hard to handle, and Glasgow number 8 Aaron Scoular was cautioned at the end of the half for a rash tackle in his attempts at gaining some much-needed possession for Glasgow.
Gibson demonstrated just how much of a nuisance he was to the Glasgow defence just minutes after the restart. After receiving the ball on the wing, he cut a low, hard cross into the box that was finished by Butters in a shot that left the Glasgow goalkeeper motionless. Given that during the halftime team talk manager Danny Bisland would have placed a premium on starting the game positively and keeping things tight at the back, it was unfortunate that Glasgow started the second half in the same way they did the first.
Glasgow reacted to the goal by moving three players upfront and bringing on strikers Gordon Allan and Andrew Russell. A fine run by Gallacher moments later resulted in the defender being hauled down, with Liam Middleton unable to take advantage of the subsequent free kick. It appeared it was just not going to be Glasgow’s day.
Glasgow’s misery was confounded after 70 minutes when Scoular received his second yellow card after a rash tackle on a Selkirk midfielder. Though another booking was probably harsh, it was hard to disagree with the view espoused by Selkirk manager Michael McKinnon that a red for Scoular was inevitable. The sending off resulted in a skirmish between the two managers who colourfully debated whether it should have been a red card. Arguments aside, the only thing both managers could agree upon was that Glasgow’s uphill battle had just been made all the more challenging.
It appeared that there was some hope for Glasgow when their man-of-the-match Middleton played through the substitute Anthony Sweeney in a move that had Selkirk goalkeeper John Dodds racing from his box to clear the ball to safety. It was the closest Glasgow came to scoring, as their corners and shots came to nothing and their Scottish Cup dream ended in weather as miserable as the Glasgow players must have been feeling.
Afterwards I caught up with club captain Christopher O’Neill for his thoughts on the game. He agreed that the weather conditions played a significant part in how the game went: ‘it was a bit scrappy on that surface and early doors we struggled. We conceded some daft goals that we might not have done had the weather been a bit better.
‘Because it’s a university team the side is constantly changing and we’ve now got a new group of players. We’ve got a whole season together to get things right. Hopefully we can build on today’s game as it’s now back to the bread and butter of the Saturday and university leagues and it’s always been our objective to win these competitions.’
Glasgow’s Scottish Cup dream may be over but there are still plenty of chances this year to cheer on the team. Just make sure you consult the weather forecast before you make your way to Garscube.