A MOMENT of indiscipline cost Rhu Amateurs’ Greater Glasgow squad dear as Westerlands fought back from 3-0 down to snatch a last-gasp draw in the team’s penultimate match of the year.

In a performance that belied their league placing, Rhu put themselves in a commanding position after Ross Jeffrey’s excellent first-half hat-trick – but a red card for Hamilton with more than half an hour left turned the game in the hosts’ favour.

With McKee, McKell and Meader all missing from the squad through injury and Jones unavailable, Toms, Sibley, McConnell and Hamilton came in to replace them, with Dods and Cameron playing out of position at centre-half and left-back respectively in a 4-4-2 formation at Glasgow University’s Garscube sports complex.

The change of personnel may have been the reason for a relatively slow start as Rhu conceded early possession and territory – but it wasn’t long before Toms and Paterson were able to exert their authority in the centre of midfield and Rhu started to get a grip of the game.

Just before the ten minute mark the visitors took the lead with a beautifully worked goal; Dods and McConnell comfortably broke up a Westerlands attack, with the latter feeding Paterson in the centre circle just inside his own half, and a neat touch instantly took him away from his marker, giving him space to thread a fine pass inside the left back into the path of Sibley.

He took one touch before looking up and playing a precise low cross to Jeffrey, who supplied a clinical first time finish to the keeper’s left.

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The goal invigorated the Rhu team and they deservedly doubled their lead shortly afterwards, when Toms won possession and played in Caldwell on the left side of the area; his angled drive was well parried by the Westerlands keeper, but the rebound fell to Jeffrey who finished with ease.

Rhu were now controlling the game, with the defence coping comfortably with Westerlands’ occasional attacking forays, the midfield dictating the tempo and the strikers providing a constant threat.

And with half-time approaching the visitors extended their lead when Jeffrey’s tenacity saw him make a yard of space to get a shot away, and though his first effort was blocked he stayed alert to slot home the loose ball and complete a superb hat-trick.

Rhu started the second half well, with Toms working the Westerlands keeper with a couple of long-range attempts – but the game’s momentum shifted when Hamilton picked up two yellow cards within five minutes.

His initial caution was slightly unfortunate as his name was taken after marginally mistiming an aerial challenge, but the second was a moment he’ll want to forget: during a stoppage in play, and despite a clear warning from the referee to stop talking back, he pushed the official’s patience too far and received his marching orders.

Down to 10 men, Rhu moved to a 4-4-1 formation with Jeffrey as the lone striker – and though there was plenty of time for Westerlands to get back into the game, it initially looked as if Rhu’s dogged defending would see them hold on.

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However, the hosts grabbed a lifeline midway through the half when a clearance from a free kick fell kindly to one of the home players, who gave keeper Craig Gemmell no chance with a fine finish.

With the extra man, Westerlands now had the bulk of possession – and though Jeffrey came within inches of grabbing a fourth when the home keeper got the slightest of touches on his shot, allowing a retreating defender to clear off the line, the hosts reduced the deficit further with 15 minutes left when Rhu were again unable to clear and the grateful Westerlands striker fired home.

To the visitors’ credit they were able to mostly restrict Westerlands to speculative shots and crosses, though Gemmell was called into action to pull off a couple of smart stops in quick succession.

As the clock approached 90 minutes, the tireless Jeffrey chased down a long clearance, bravely going in for a 50-50 challenge with the keeper at the edge of the area. It looked like he got the first touch on the ball before taking a nasty knock to the head as they collided.

Despite Rhu’s appeals for a foul the referee adjudged it an accidental collision, and after Jeffrey received treatment the game was restarted with an uncontested drop ball to Westerlands.

And the stoppage and referee’s decision proved crucial as Westerlands pushed all their outfield players forward – and from a low cross their substitute right back connected with an outstretched boot and squeezed the ball just inside the back post for the equaliser.

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It was heartbreaking for Rhu, but the drama wasn’t quite finished: with the final whistle imminent, Toms shot straight from kick off, and with the ball dipping just under the crossbar the keeper took no chances and tipped the ball over for a corner.

From the set-piece, Johns looped in a header, but the ball hit the top of the bar before coming back down and hitting the bar a second time.

The final whistle sounded as the ball was cleared, leaving Rhu wondering what might have been.

Captain Daniel Johns said: “It was a result that was really tough to take but we need to take the positives from the way we dominated the game when we had 11 men and hopefully learn our lesson that talking back to officials really doesn’t pay.”

Squad: Gemmell, McConnell, Sibley, Cameron, Dods, Caldwell, Paterson, Jeffrey, Toms, Hamilton, Johns, Shaw, Maule.

Elsewhere on Saturday, Rhu’s Caledonian League squad were beaten 5-2 at home by promotion-chasing Cambusbarron Rovers.

This Saturday, December 18, Rhu’s Greater Glasgow squad play their final match of 2021 – a league fixture at home to Eastwood Parkmount A. Kick-off is at 2pm.

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