Forth Wanderers 4 Lanark United 1
Forth ensured they went up as Champions with Wullie McLaren’s four goal haul giving them a 4-1 victory over local rivals Lanark United.
Another good crowd packed into Kingshill for a match with much at stake for both sides, the Wanderers looking to seal the title and the Yowes aiming to keep their promotion hopes alive. It was the visitors who created the first chance, Kieran McGurk crossing from the left on 3 minutes and Paul Hewitt evading his marker with a near post run, only to fire the ball wide. A minute later and it was the Wanderers who were ahead. Wullie McLaren sent in a teasing free kick from around 25 yards and with John Rennie and Craig Gupwell in attendance, Lanark keeper Ryan Cherrie seemed rooted to the spot as the ball travelled into the net.
A perfect start for the Wanderers but Lanark replied by forcing a couple of corners which the Forth defence dealt with. McLaren then tried his luck with an audacious 30 yard lob, after seeing the Lanark keeper off his line, but the ball flew wide. After 16 minutes a cross from ex-Forth man Kris Jarvie saw McGurk head wide at the back post under pressure before McLaren again came close with a free kick.
Lanark were having difficulty dealing with the Forth equivalent of an MMR jab, as McLaren, McGeechan and Rennie began to work their magic with some fine interplay, although the visitors won a free kick in a good position just outside the box after 36 minutes. David Dunn struck his shot sweetly enough but without much power and David Cherrie in the Forth goal got down comfortably to save.
McGeechan then came close for Forth, meeting a driven McLaren cross with his head, only to see it spin agonisingly wide. Lanark replied with a Stuart Mitchell shot which was deflected for a corner as the game flowed from end to end. With barely 2 minutes to half-time, the Wanderers were awarded a free kick on the edge of the box. It looked a difficult proposition with the Lanark wall 6 yards away at most but McLaren drilled the ball low and hard into the net past Cherrie to give Forth a 2-0 interval advantage.
Lanark began the second half strongly and McGurk tried his luck from distance but his powerful drive was beaten away by the Wanderers custodian. Undaunted, Lanark continued to press and forced a couple of corners and from the second one managed to reduce the deficit. The ball found Gordon Murphy at the back post and his cut-back was bundled home by Cameron Lawson. The visitors could sense a nervousness creeping into the Wanderers play and pressed for an equaliser with the impressive Alan McCrum prominent and they had strong penalty claims for handball waved away after the ball appeared to strike the arm of Gupwell.
The visitors cause was dealt a blow on 74 minutes when Gordon Murphy was booked for a deliberate handball in the Forth box. Added to his first-half yellow card, this meant an early bath for the former Forth favourite. The Wanderers soon made the most of the numerical advantage as they looked for a further goal to tie up the match and with it the Championship. It arrived with 4 minutes to go when McGeechan in a good position unselfishly fed McLaren to volley home and complete his hat-trick. And McLaren made it four at the start of injury time when, after good work from Warren Grenfell set him away, he rolled the ball around the final defender and ran clear before picking his spot and netting.
A great end to a momentous season winning the Championship against our local rivals and qualifying for the Evening Times Cup as a result. With 11 wins from the last 12 surely no-one can call it undeserved.
Forth team : Cherrie,L.Tait,S.Tait,McMullen,Gupwell,Rennie(Harty),Corbett (Hannaway),