Manager Mark Whelan took his new side to Albyn Park Broxburn for the 35’s historic first match. Broxburn had played in last season inaugural 35’s season so it would be an interesting test for the Bathgate boys. Muks had around 18 players/bodies to choose from which put him in a bit of sweat. The Bear had had a bad week sporting wise as he’d managed a 10 at the 3rd hole in the Sunday medal so he was looking for a boost from his boys.
Captain Alan Bishop rocked the Broxburn 35’s before a ball was kicked. The home team had camped themselves in the half facing away from the sun for at least 45 minutes seeming to forget it comes down to the toss of a coin whether or not they stay there.
Broxburn’s early attempt to get down the left wing was spied by ex Falkirk ace Ged O’Hara who gathered the ball with his new white Nikes and drove forward. With some remarkable ball control using his three knees, both ankles and a foot Ged broke through the Broxburn defenders with a decision to make; continue running the 50 yards to goal or hit the shot. The 50 yard shot. He opted for neither and kindly scooped the ball tamely to their keeper before laughing his way back to defence.
Fast forward about 10 minutes and Bathgate Thistles 1st goal was scored. Somehow Barry Knight saw through the sun and collected the ball while turning into a packed defence. He skipped by a Broxburn defender, looked up, saw Wardy in space ready to stick it wide, thought it better to go alone, dodged two other Broxburn lunges and smashed the ball into the net. 0 – 1.
The home side tried to fight back with some neat passing, creating a handful of clear chances but young Tuggy (The Cat) put in a great shift ensuring our lead was protected. Goal number 2 came from some pressure from the forwards forcing Broxburn to concede possession, before a ball over the defence was met by Graham who lobbed the keeper with ease. 0 – 2.
Goal 3 was a classic counter attack. Barry found space on the right, scampering passed one defender and flighting in an inch perfect cross for man of the match Scott Mitchell who powered a diving header high into the net. 1 – 3.
Bathgate’s final goal of the night was a textbook free kick. As Broxburn’s players became frustrated Bathgate picked up more free kicks and finally the whistle was blown 25 yards from goal. David Bell ignored the toys he’d thrown from his pram throughout the game and stepped up to curl an unstoppable shot into the top corner. For comedy reasons he was immediately substituted. 1 – 4
Broxburn pulled back scoring 1 then another boring and most likely offside goal from close range creating a respectable 3 – 4 full time score. However, their pride was clearly dented as some of the challenges in the latter stages were somewhat unsavoury. Darran Meikle nearly had an expensive tattoo smudged as a big lad stamped on his back.
Special mentions to Alex Nicholson in defence who’s positioning and coolness on the ball was at times essential, Mr William Bookless, who outpaced the defence and met Derek McMillans perfect pass to agonisingly curl the ball wide. And finally, Stuart Cook who won the 50/50 ball of the night going straight through Broxburns Pat Nevin lookalike taking ball and man, using only his head.
Great result Bathgate in their first ever match.
Paul ‘Edgar’ Ward