Ashfield let the good Times roll as Shotts clinch Emirates Cup

What a remarkable and memorable year 2012 proved to be in the annals of Junior football.

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Ashfield were Evening Times Cup winners in June
Ashfield were Evening Times Cup winners in June

No team epitomised the highs and lows of the game more than mighty Irvine Meadow who masterfully retained their Super Premier Division crown and won two other silverware prizes, yet finished the year hovering above the relegation drop-zone.

And what a turnaround in fortunes at Pollok who avoided relegation via the play-off and lifted the Euroscot Eng Sectional League Cup just three months later.

Another Glasgow-based club, Ashfield, took the Evening Times Cup back to Possil for the first time in over 50 years, however pride of place surely belongs to Super First Division outfit Shotts Bon Accord who were crowned Emirates Scottish Junior Cup winners for only the second time in their history.

But our heart goes out to another famous old Lanarkshire club, Stonehouse Violet, after they folded for a third and maybe last time.

So here goes with the first six months of goings-on with the latter half of the year covered next week.

JANUARY

The eyes of the Junior world fall upon Auchinleck Talbot as they take on Hearts at Tynecastle in a Scottish Cup fourth round tie and put up a marvellous showing only to controversially lose out 1-0.

Pollok are one of the big players on the transfer front with boss John Richardson signing centre-backs Stevie McGregor and Craig Gupwell as well as Scotland Juniors goalkeeper JC Hutchison.

Auchinleck's Bryan Young is transfer-listed at Auchinleck amid whispers of a bonus row surrounding the Hearts game

New Hurlford United gaffer Ross Findlay makes a triple swoop on Beith for Derek McCulloch, John Spence and John Craig while Neilston fix up Stuart 'Arnie' Davidson.

Clydebank snap up full-back Chris Wilson from Bathgate Thistle but also welcome back stopper Martin McInness who makes his long-awaited return from cruciate ligament surgery in a 3-1 defeat of Pollok.

Managers are on the move as Talbot No.2 Derek Anderson takes up a position at St Mirren and word breaks of John Darroch being installed as the new manager of Ardrossan Winton Rovers, taking over from Freddy Frye who accepts an offer to become co-boss at Rob Roy.

Petershill hold a 13-point lead atop the Super Premier pile and there's sad news as Stonehouse Violet fold for a third time.

FEBRUARY

Pollok sign Carlo Monti and Billy Davies but the eyebrow-raising capture is that of Kilsyth Rangers snapping up Junior international Graeme McLaren of Bo'ness United.

Ashfield winger Gary McCann makes his return from a broken ankle, Troon fix up Dean Keenan from Rob Roy and Irvine Meadow reinstate big stopper Mark Campbell from Queen of the South.

St Roch's land a trip to holders Auchinleck Talbot in the Emirates last 16 and are beaten 5-0 while Ashfield exit against a Bonnyrigg Rose side that scores twice in Saracen Park injury time to win 3-2.

Medda get the better of Lochee United, Arthurlie crash out in a replay to Bo'ness but Shotts Bon Accord fly the Super First Division flag in overcoming Kinnoul.

Former Shotts midfielder Tam Hanlon quits cash-strapped Pollok, who also sell Iain Diack to Rob Roy as well as granting a free transfer to Stevie Aitchison after 11 years at Newlandsfield. He trains with Arthurlie and features as a Renfrew trialist but signs for Rutherglen Glencairn and is red-carded on his debut against Glasgow Perthshire.

Petershill, Kilsyth Rangers and the Shire top their respective leagues.

MARCH

It's open season on bosses as Arthurlie sack Sandy MacLean, Tommy Bryce resigns his post at struggling Kilbirnie Ladeside while Pollok are rocked as Bathgate Thistle announce they want Lok No.2 Stevie Docherty as their new manager.

One-time Rangers full-back Hugh Burns is linked with the Kilbirnie job but there's no time wasted in making an appointment in Barrhead where Mark Cameron returns to the Lie helm along with Jimmy McQuade and Gavin Duncan.

Shotts, Largs, Auchinleck and Bonnyrigg win their way through to the Emirates Scottish Cup semi-finals while the Super Premier title race continues to be headed up by Petershill with Clydebank up into second place.

Larger than life Thorniewood United goalkeeper Jon Connolly is red-carded three times in a game against Kilsyth Rangers, Lok striker Alain Kinney nets four goals in a central League Cup win over Blantyre Vics and Renfrew marksman Willie Sawyers attracts interest after making it 30 goals in 23 outings for the Frew.

A fire ravages the derelict Benburb Social Club but is prevented from damaging the clubhouse and it's rumoured that homeless Bellshill Athletic are on the brink of closure.

APRIL

The legendary April Fool ruses of St Anthony's boss James McKenna catches out even the Evening Times as we report that Craig Levein and Billy Stark are inviting Junior coaches to watch them training the Scotland Under-21 side at McKenna Park.

Tom Nolan returns from a 19-month injury absence and Carlo Monti bags a hat-trick as Pollok crucially beat fellow relegation battlers Kilbirnie Ladeside, who officially take the drop after losing 4-0 against Cumnock.

Petershill's final league game of the season ends in a 1-1 draw with Ashfield, meaning the Peasy have dropped an unlucky 13 points over their final 10 league matches.

That opens the door for chasing Irvine Meadow who set about making up their 15-point deficit with victories over Beith, Rob Roy, Pollok and Kilbirnie.

Shotts and Auchinleck come good in semi-final penalty shoot-outs to make it into the Emirates Junior Cup final while Glasgow Perthshire duo Paul Frise and Paul O'Donnell are the hitmen in a 2-0 triumph over Cambuslang Rangers that has the Billy Adams-steered Shire crowned Central First Division champions.

Sibling rivalry surfaces as brothers Anthony and Paul Mangan line up for St Roch's and Ashfield in a New Coin Cup last eight clash won 2-1 by Ashfield, who join the Ayrshire trio of Glenafton, Auchinleck and Irvine Meadow in the semi-finals.

Dunipace, Thorniewood United and Cumnock supporters are united in lamenting the sad passing of former manager Tam Spence.

MAY

Greenock require nine points from their final three league outings to secure promotion but can only draw 1-1 with Larkhall Thistle, allowing Yoker to pip them to second-top spot with a win against Port Glasgow.

Maybole take the Ayrshire District title and the Colin Slater-steered Carluke Rovers come with a late run to be crowned Central Second Division champions.

Ashfield make it into the New Coin Cup finale only to gallantly lose 1-0 against Irvine Meadow, for whom goalkeeper Michael Wardrope excels and picks up the man of the match award.

A momentous month for Shotts sees Tony McInally's men play eight games in 17 days and have to settle for the Central League Cup runners-up prize when beaten by Clydebank.

All is forgiven however as the Hannah Park outfit upset the form book to overcome Auchinleck 2-1 in the Emirates final thanks to Stefan McLuskey and John Boyack scores.

Largs Thistle are officially relegated by a 1-0 defeat from Auchinleck, who also land Pollok in the play-off game through inflicting a 5-3 defeat.

Macca and his players set their sights on the Super First Division title which requires them to pick up 17 points from their final seven matches but they come up agonisingly short and Glenafton are the kingpins.

The Evening Times Cup gets under way. Petershill hammer Carluke 6-0 but scratch from the competition after discovering they fielded two ineligible players in Knightswood Juvenile pair Ryan Craig and goalkeeper Steven Hall.

Skipper Bryan Slavin announces he has played his last game for Auchinleck while a number of Senior clubs are in pursuit of two of Junior football's outstanding talents – Darian McKinnon (Clydebank) and Gary Fleming (Irvine Meadow).

Dalry install Paul McDougall as boss and Jimmy Kerr resigns at relegated East Kilbride.

JUNE

Pollok's survival in the Super Premier is clinched by overcoming Renfrew in the two- leg play -off game.

Ashfield gain revenge over Irvine Meadow as a Mark Thomson penalty kick conversion proves to be the only goal of the game in the Evening Times Cup Final played at Newlandsfield.

A stunning transfer swoop sees St Anthony's snap up striker Chris Mackie from Rob Roy, while Irvine Meadow sign outstanding Ashfield full-back Robert Halliday.

Clydebank's star front man McKinnon initially pledges his future to the Bankies prior to Hamilton signing him over Carlo Monti, who opts to remain at Pollok.

Jim Geddes quits Whitletts Vics to replace John Darroch at Winton Rovers and Vics officials install ex-Celtic development officer Brian Delaney to their vacant hotseat.

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