Ashfield headed down to East Ayrshire knowing what they had to do in the next six games and that it was in their hands and with the exception of Ciaran Friel and Patrick Cullen, `Maxi` had a full team to pick from. The home side have had a very good season so far and were looking to leave where they left off against Johnstone Burgh in their last home game (6-0) so a cracking match was in prospect and that is what we got. Again, similar to the last game, both teams deserve enormous credit for their efforts and it was slightly disappointing that there were so many bookings in what was a physical game but not a dirty one.
It was the home side, backed by a strong wind, that started on the front foot with a succession of long throw-ins into the box which were well defended by the `field. Ashfield were trying to find their passing game but were being hemmed in and on the 11th minute succumbed to the opening goal. A long throw into the Ashfield half found the Kirk No 7 and after taking one touch he lashed the ball from fully 22 yards into the top corner of Cammy Farquhar`s net to the delight of the home fans. Muirkirk 1 Ashfield 0. This goal gave Ashfield a jolt and they set about trying to claw back the deficit. A lovely through ball from Michael Giblin saw Billy Stevenson break clear of his marker however the Ashfield Striker elected to shoot instead of going round the Keeper and his effort was well saved . Another chance fell to the same Ashfield player from a corner with Stevenson getting ahead of his marker only to see his header miss the far post by inches.
Muirkirk were still foraging forward at every opportunity and the `field had to deal with a number of corners however as the half wore on the Glasgow Team took control of Midfield and on the 20th minute were level. Graeme Hearton weaved around the `kirk defence however as he tried to break through was tripped with the Referee pointing to the spot. It was good to see Keigan Parker back from injury and the Ex-St Johnstone man finished with aplomb. Muirkirk 1 Ashfield 1. Although it was competitive, the number of bookings dished out was beginning to annoy both sides as the game stop-started on a regular basis and just on half time Ashfield had a number of corners to try and go in with a Half time lead however the home side had other ideas and on the 45th Minute were awarded a free-kick just inside the Ashfield half. The ball was delivered into the box and was met first by the tall Midfielder of Muirkirk, Rodgers, who glanced his header into the corner of the net to put the home side ahead at the interval. Muirkirk 2 Ashfield 1.
HT:- MUIRKIRK 2 ASHFIELD 1
It is never a good time to lose a goal just before Half time however it did not affect the `field who lay siege on Muirkirk`s goal for the first 20 minutes of the half and will be wondering how they did not score. Backed by a swirling wind, Billy Stevenson and Keigan Parker went close initially with efforts being blocked and saved by the Keeper. Next up it was Paul McQuilken`s turn as he drove the ball into a crowded penalty box only to see it diverted away. Graeme Hearton managed to get through the packed defence on the hour mark and his net bound effort was blocked by the feet of the `kirk Keeper who was having an excellent match. Parker was replaced by Lee Cochrane and the Ex-Renfrew player managed a shot within 2 minutes which was parried to safely. As in the first half the Referee continued the dish out Yellow Cards. Ashfield were beginning to get frustrated as the rain lashed down at Burnside Park and this turned to anguish with 18 minutes left on the clock. A long ball was played into the Ashfield box and was gathered by Keenan who managed to weave his way past two tackles before drilling the ball into the far corner to the delight of the home support. Muirkirk 3 Ashfield 1. A well taken goal however a disaster for Ashfield, who after this went on full offensive bringing on Player/Manager Paul Maxwell in a bid to salvage the result. Despite a couple of close calls when Billy Stevenson`s net bound effort was diverted wide of the post, the home defence stood resolute until 3 minutes to go when the `field were awarded a free-kick 22 yards out. Billy Stevenson stepped up and curled a terrific effort into the far corner of the net and it was game on. Muirkirk 3 Ashfield 2. Despite the visitors pressure they were unable to break down the home side and this was not helped when Michael Giblin was sent off for speaking out of turn to the Referee which was down to sheer frustration. As the Referee brought proceedings to a close, the home side celebrated and the Glasgow outfit knew that this was a real dent in their promotion plans however there are still 5 games to be played and what it does mean is that the `field cannot afford to drop any more points.
FT:- MUIRKIRK 3 ASHFIELD 2
Ashfield`s Team:- Farquhar, C Leverage, D Leverage, Amos, Gaynor, McManus, McQuilken, Giblin, Hearton, Stevenson and Parker. Subs:- Lynch, Cochrane, Hadden, Passmore and Maxwell.