Petershill leave it late to clinch West of Scotland Conference C title as Ross McCabe’s penalty secure promotion
Martin Lauchlan’s side will be playing in the Premier Division next season after edging out Drumchapel United on goal difference
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The task was simple.
Beat Glasgow Perthshire by two clear goals to finish top of the West of Scotland League Conference C and earn the promotion party their hard work deserved.
That was the message Martin Lauchlan delivered to his Petershil squad pre-match as supporters flocked to Springburn in anticipation of seeing a sleeping giant of Junior football re-claim their spot in the Premier Division for the start of next season.
Drumchapel United had set the benchmark, rounding off their domestic campaign a week earlier with a 6-0 rout of Adrossan Winton Rovers to finish on 70 points and heap added pressure on Peasy.
“There was no nerves coming into it,” skipper Ross McCabe revealed. “There has been a good vibe in the dressing room for a long time now.”
The feel-good factor McCabe eluded to had stemmed from a new club record of 17 consecutive league wins as the current crop of Petershill stars smashed the club’s previous best tally of 12 set in season 1963/64.
This, however, was an occasion few of Lauchlan’s youthful team will have experienced before in their fledgling careers.
It was an afternoon that called for calm heads but when a lapse in concentration allowed Ryan Gemmell to play in Baboucar Mussa to steer home the opener for the visitors after just three minutes, you could feel the repressed tension inside a packed New Petershill Park crank up a notch.
A setback? Yes. However, Martin Lauchlan is not one to ever down tools. You just have to look at his impressive managerial record in the lower leagues to tell you that.
The 41-year-old had previouly lifted silverware at Rossvale and remains East Kilbride’s most successful manager having won FOUR trophies during his 14-month spell in charge of the South Lanarkshire club.
A fresh challenge lay in wait in August 2019, taking over a club that had just suffered relegation from the old West Region Premiership after winning a mere five of their 30 league games.
Since his appointment as Petershill boss, Lauchlan and his trusted assistant Carlo Girasoli have taken the patient approach towards success, building a new, vibrant side that have proved capable of mixing it with the best teams in the West of Scotland this season.
However, after a shaky start to their league campaign many people had already wrote the five-time Scottish Junior Cup champions off as title challengers.
“It was disrespectful,” especially given the management team’s record in terms of winning championships at every club we’ve been at,” Lauchlan admitted.
“For other teams not to even mention us was disrespectful. I was told back in September the league was done and dusted and that one team’s Christmas night out was their title party!
“I think this shows we’ll fight to the very end.”
Indeed they had, taking the battle right down to the final day of the season. But could they overcome one final hurdle?
Their response to falling behind was emphatic. Within three minutes, Petershill were back on level terms as David Aubrey’s corner was cushioned into the path of Jonathan Branks who side-footed home from close range. Game on.
That equaliser seemed to settle the hosts down and they quickly began to assert their dominance as the first-half wore on.
Jordan Scott’s swerving free-kick crashed off the bar before the game was turned on its head after 33 minutes. A delayed clearance from visiting keeper Andrew Banks was charged down by Stephen Docherty, who turned the ball into an empty net. 2-1.
One further goal was required as the shreak of the referee’s whistle indicated half-time.
If their hadn’t been any nerves in the Petershill camp before kick-off, you could bet there certainly was as Lauchlan delivered his final team talk before the players emerged for the start of the second half.
As it turned out, this all came down to precision and timing.
Chance after chance passed Petershill by, with the woodwork again coming to Glasgow Perthshire’s rescue as Partick Thistle loanee Zander Mackenzie struck the post.
With every passing minute, the destination of the Conference C title appeared increasingly likely to be heading for Drumchapel.
That was until the 84th minute when Peasy were awarded a dramatic spot-kick after substitute Evan Galasso went down in the box. TYou could feel the excitement levels increase, standing behind the Petershill dugout.
Step forward Lauchlan’s leader. A talismanic figure in a largely youth orientatated squad.
Veteran centre-back Ross McCabe, a terrific servant to the club over many years, was tasked with the difficult job of converting the penalty.
The 34-year-old drove the ball high into the top left-hand corner and for a brief second it seemed as though Banks would pull off a spectacular save but he was unable to keep it out. Cue wild scenes of celebration.
McCabe, with a wry smile etched across his face stated: “I was aware of the pressure on my shoulder but I was confident in my ability to step up and take it.
“Even I was starting to get crabbit towards the end of the game but thankfull I’ve managed to tuck it away.
“I was just thinking to myself ‘make sure you hit the target’. I knew all along I was going that side. It was my birthday yesterday as well so that was a very nice present!”
The Petershill management team raced on to the pitch to celebrate a priceless moment. They were top of the league for the first time this season. Talk about timing!
“We like to leave it late, don’t we?” joked a relieved Lauchlan at full-time after watching his side bag another late goal.
“We’ve worked so hard for it and I’ve always said you’ve got to enjoy these big moments.
“The boys are all part-time, they have trained unbelievably hard all season and have got their just rewards now. I’m delighted for them.
“The start to the game was quite frantic and when they score an early goal it just changes everything you spoke about in the dressing room pre-match.
“But it shows the strength of character and belief in this group of boys, knowing that we can come back and not let it phase us.
“Ross has been oustanding for us all season but to score the winning penalty under that amount of pressure was brilliant. The experienced boys have been vital in the last few weeks.”
A thrilled McCabe, soaked from head to toe in champagne, stated: “I’m just absolutely buzzing, it’s brilliant to win any game like that let alone a title decider!
“The performance didn’t matter, it was just about getting over the line and making sure our name was on that trophy.”
One of the great names of Junior football are back in the big time!
Petershill: Law, Bates, Scott, McCabe, McGregor, Callander, Aubrey (McLaughlin; 56), Brodie (Galasso; 82), Branks (Sweeney; 72), Mackenzie, Docherty
Unused: McNeill (GK), Stevenson, Quinn, Laird
Glasgow Perthshire: Banks, Murray, Anderson, McIntyre, Currie-McLean, McGlynn (Fraser; 56), Munro (Logan; 69), Kelly, Mussa, Gemmell, Lindsay
Unused: Hipson, Patterson, McRobbie
Referee: Kieran O’Reilly