Round 1 of the Fraternity Cup saw District League ever-presents Thirroul and Balgownie face off at Crehan Park. Who would've guessed it - Matthew Kellond lead the line for Thirroul and lead them to victory once more. It may be the way teams predict Thirroul to play, but it is continuing to work this season with a straight-forward win over Balgownie.
Proceedings were very in favour of Thirroul from the outset, seeing a cross from Marcus Rusbourne find the head of Kellond on 6 yards to grab the opener after only 5 minutes.
Minutes later, Rusbourne took his chance at glory with an acrobatic volley from the left of the box directing a deep cross onto the crossbar, only to fly out for a goal kick.
Balgownie could have easily shot back into the game as Matthew Bubb read a backpass and nabbed possession, but Joshua Williams rushed out of his box to effect a crunching tackle and win back possession.
Thirroul were not letting off, and the quarter-hour mark had them up 2-0. A free kick from the Rangers was defended easily, Kellond picking up the ball on halfway and mazing past two defenders. The Thunder talisman cut back past a third in the box and fired a wonderful curling shot into the left side-netting from the edge of the area to double the lead.
Finally, after 24 minutes, Balgownie registered their first meaningful shot on target, albeit a tame effort from range. They were failing to win the midfield battles and resorting to the predictable long ball tactics.
It was from set pieces and counter-attacks which the Rangers were threatening - Nicholas Morgan slapping an awkward ball barely over the bar from a corner, and Kieran Duggan mazing through 3 defenders down the left wing only to have his shot blocked off the boot at close range from Williams.
The second period begun rather promisingly for Balgownie, who would've felt harshly done by to not grab a goal back. An inviting cross to the back post to Anthony Vardareff saw Williams pull off a miraculous triple save in quick succession, even deflecting off the upright once.
However Balgownie had their share of good luck just after, with both Nathan Mucci and James Townson intercepting passes between centre-halves and having a free run to goal, only to have poor shots thwarted on both occasions.
Aaron Tambakis kept the Rangers in with a sniff with a free kick to Thirroul 20 yards out. Corey Haines-Grose dipped a lovely dead ball over the wall only for the outstretched hand of Tambakis to parry the shot out of the top-corner and preventing a third goal.
Shortly after, Kellond blew an easy hat-trick, with Mucci running down the right and squaring for the striker, with an open goal from 10 yards, only to slice the shot wide of the far upright and out.
Balgownie grabbed a late equaliser through Vardareff, who neatly put a loose ball away from 20 yards after a scramble for possession, finding the near post open and side-footing in nicely.
This saw a late push from Balgownie, however a resilient Thirroul defence held tight for the remaining 5 minutes to see out the 2-1 win.
Thirroul Thunder 2 - Kellond 5', 15'
Balgownie Rangers 1 - Vandareff 66'
Friday 17th February - Crehan Park
Referee - J. Ruscica
Assistants - D. Jordan, D. Dennelly
Thirroul Thunder - J. Williams, D. Bond, C. Haines-Grose, J. Hutton, S. Mulholland, D. Arthur, A. Ward, T. Davidson, M. Kellond, N. Mucci, M. Rusbourne
Subs - J. Bond, T. Snelgrove, J. Townson, D. De Lyall
Balgownie Rangers - A. Tambakis, M. McCoy, A. Caruso, L. Verey, A. Stefanelli, N. Morgan, M. Bubb, K. Dorahy, K. Duggan, J. Dummett, A. Vardareff
Subs - S. Dallas, K. Ingram, A. Stratilas, J. McCreay
Note: Unlimited interchanges in pre-season games.
Report by David Atherton - @daveatho5
Photo: Pedro Garcia (Library achive)