The Ants unbeaten run was ended by Vale of Clyde as debutant Darren Miller grabbed a hat-trick to bring the three match winning streak to a halt at a rainy Fullerton Park. The Ants made a few changes from the side that beat Dunipace, with Adam Dougan coming in for Ross McDougall, debutant loanee Anthony Dempsey replaced Andy Scanlan, Graeme Crawford was preferred to Dean McKay on the right and Chris Gordon replaced Wullie Duncan as he struggled to shake off a knock and was deemed only fit enough to start from the bench.
The game flowed from end to end almost as soon as Mr Craig got the match underway with Gordon firing over from the 15 yards with only three minutes on the clock, then two minutes later Miller fired in a dangerous free kick from the right but Chisholm was inches away from getting on the edge of it. Despite the wet weather both teams were trying to knock the ball about and a great through ball by Clark saw Turner spin the ball away from Gamba who then tried to block the front man’s cross only to catch the Vale striker before the ball and Mr Craig pointed to the spot with 8 minutes on the clock. DARREN MILLER stepped up and dispatched the penalty past Patrick to put the Tin Pail 1-0 up. Ten minutes later and the Vale doubled their lead when LEWIS MAITLAND sent a looping header over Patrick, the ball looked to be going well over but dipped at the last minute and into the net for 2-0.
Credit to the Ants they didn’t let the heads go down and kept trying to find a way back into the match and McLaughlin was unlucky when he robbed Turner in the middle of the park, and ran towards goal, unleashing a 25 yard strike but the ball struck a Vale defender, despite protests from the Ants man who claimed a handball, and went past the post for a corner which came to nothing. Patrick had to be quick off his line when a McCue long ball sent Maitland through on goal but the Ants keeper won the race and put the ball out for a throw in. Vale of Clyde looked dangerous on the break and almost added a third two minutes later when Miller unselfishly squared the ball for Maitland but a fantastic tackle by Gamba prevented the number 9 from his second of the match. Milarvie then went close as a McLean free kick found the winger at the back post but the Ants man failed to hit the target and the chance was gone.
With ten minutes on the clock till half time the Ants had a great chance to pull a goal back. Crawford headed the ball clear to McLaughlin and the Ants midfielder threaded a great ball through to Gordon who sprinted up the wing and into the box, he squared it to Heron who looked certain to score but the striker looked on in horror as the ball rebounded off his standing foot and the Ants remained goal-less. This was the Ants best spell of the half and McLaughlin then his midfield companion McLean both saw efforts from the edge of the box go just wide and the ref called time on the half with no further scoring.
HALF TIME VALE OF CLYDE 2 (Miller 8 (pen) Maitland 18) v 0 ANTS)
The Ants had the first chance of the second half when McLaughlin’s free kick was flicked towards goal by Gordon but the Ants striker’s effort went inches over the bar with the half only two minutes old then Maitland swung a ball towards McCue at the back post but the Vale winger was stretching and didn’t connect properly with the ball and it went wide. Miller in the middle of the park for Vale of Clyde was now starting to dictate the play and he sent McCue through on goal but the winger didn’t get his shot on target from a wide angle much to the relief of the soggy travelling Ants support. Their hearts were in their mouths again, this time when Clark was on his toes at a quick corner flighted in but he couldn’t direct his shot goalwards then a slack passback sent Maitland through on goal but Patrick did well to put the striker off and he over-ran the ball out for a goal kick. With 59 minutes on the clock a fine move between Miller and Turner saw the former force Patrick into a fine save low to his left.
The Ants were unlucky not to pull a goal back in the 68th minute when Crawford sent Gordon racing through on goal, but as he went to turn Chisholm the defender got a good tackle in to nick the ball away. Gamba then linked up well with Heron but his turn and shot was held by Scott. With 18 minutes on the clock the Ref awarded Vale of Clyde a free kick much to the surprise of pretty much everyone in the ground when McLaughlin appeared to be the meat in a tin pail sandwich but somehow the ref deemed he had committed the foul and the decision almost cost the Ants dearly with only a great one handed save by Patrick thwarting Miller from 22 yards. The Ants were still trying to pull a goal back and almost got lucky with 15 minutes remaining. Gordon’s long diagonal found Heron who almost caught Scott out with a cross-cum-shot from a tight angle but the keeper managed to get a hand to it to push it over the bar. The keeper got lucky again from the resultant corner when he appeared to fumble under pressure from Heron and the ball fell to Conway but there was a blue wall of defenders infront of him preventing him from getting any kind of decent shot away and the ball was cleared.
Still played raged from end to end, Hogan firing wide for the home side, then McLaughlin inches away from reducing the deficit for the Ants when Duncan found him inside the box but his shot went just wide of the post with Scott routed to the spot. Miller then fired a free kick just past Patrick’s post and it remained 2-0. In the 84th minute that all changed, Miller beat Dougan to the ball down the right and cut inside the Ants defender, who got back across to cover as Miller played a 1-2 with Ndlovu, Dougan made a great sliding tackle to disposses the Vale number 8 only for the ball to fall to Turner, Already on the deck Dougan threw himself infront of the ball to block the shot and the ball hit his arm. Referee Craig pointed straight to the spot and to rub salt into the wounds then showed Dougan a straight red card for denying a goalscoring opportunity which seemed a little harsh. DARREN MILLER stepped up and although Patrick went the right way this time he couldn’t keep the spot kick out and it 3-0. A minute into injury time the Vale put the cherry on the cake when Turner dispossessed Conway at the edge of his own box, and slipped the ball to DARREN MILLER as Patrick advanced, who tapped the ball into the empty net to make it 4-0.
FULL TIME VALE OF CLYDE 4 (Miller 8 (Pen), 84 (Pen), 91, Maitland 18) v 0 ANTS
Ants Website Man of the Match – Chris McLaughlin. The midfielder was involved in most of the Ants attacking moves, which just gets him the nod.
A scoreline that didnt really reflect the match although the Vale were well worthy of their win. The Ants will be looking for a better showing on the 23rd as Lanark visit McKenna Park fresh from a fine 2-1 home win v Carluke so here’s hoping we can bounce back.