Bathgate took all three points away to Arniston Rangers with a last minute winner and in the process did the double in the Premier League over their East Lothian opponents.
The heavy rain of the previous 48 hours had placed this game in some doubt but the pitch was passed playable on the morning of the match. Indeed, the playing conditions were far better than anticipated come kick off. Andrew Colley was forced into a change from the side that had drawn away to Downfield in their previous game. David Taylor was missing but the return of Captain Stuart McLeod to the starting line-up was a major boost. James Penman continued in goals with Jamie Clark, Hassan Nyang, George Bonnar and Iain Griffin completing the defence. McLeod and Reece Boyle sat in midfield with Darren Dalrymple, John-James Henderson and Gordon Harris supporting Robbie Feeney in attack.
The Jags started well and had plenty of possession in the early stages of the game without really threatening the Arniston goal. Some heavy tackles from both sides saw both benches become animated but the game settled down. Lumbert Katezela was the main attacking threat for the home side but The Jags defence was handling him well. The experienced Griffin, who has looked rejuvenated in his new right back berth, was finding room to spread the play from defence to attack and managing to find Dalrymple more often than not. His trademark attacking play down the wing seemed to be the most likely avenue to goal but the Arniston defence, including ex-Jag Declan Brady, was also performing well.
In fairness, both sides were struggling to create chances but Bathgate almost took the lead on half-time when Stuart McLeod came close. Picking the ball up on the right hand side of the box he jinked inside and curled a terrific shot towards goal. It looked in all the way but a terrific save by the Rangers goalkeeper saw the ball being tipped onto the bar and eventually cleared to safety. HT 0-0
The second half saw both sides trying to assert some measure of control over their opponents but the heavy pitch meant that the ball was spending lots of time in the air. Arniston came close to opening the scoring from a header just outside the 6 yard box. A wicked cross into the box after a failed clearance was met by an Arniston head but with no defender close he glanced the effort wide of the post.
Bathgate’s top scorer, Robbie Feeney, came close to putting The Jags in front when he latched onto a all over the top of the home defence. He managed to touch the ball past the outrushing goalkeeper but he was forced wider than he would have liked and when he tried to turn the ball towards goal a horrendous bobble meant the chance had gone. Gordon Harris was next to come close. A terrific cross field ball from Dalrymple evaded the full back and when Harris found himself in on goal his first time effort was something in between a shot and a pass and ended up wide of the far post.
The game seemed to heading towards a goalless draw when it suddenly exploded into life in the last 5 minutes. Arniston, who had failed to test Penman in the Bathgate goal won a corner and after some head tennis in and around the Bathgate box the ball ended up in the net. However, the referee had already blown for offside before the final touch and the ‘goal’ was ruled out. Opinions differred between the players in and around the incident but it did appear harsh.
Seemingly buoyed by this escape Bathgate went up the other end and won it. A corner was cleared to the edge of the box where Harris was on hand to smash the ball back towards goal and although the keeper managed to get a hand to it he could not prevent it rising into the top corner of the net. It was a euphoric end to the match for a Bathgate side who have lost so many late goals during the season. There was time for one final hopeful ball into the away sides box but the defence cleared, the referee blew the whistle and The Jags celebrated a marvelous outcome to the game. FT 0-1
|Stuart McLeod (c)|