It was back to league action for Bathgate Thistle in this match and a chance to avenge a 4-0 defeat suffered at the hands of Edinburgh United Alba only a month or so before. However, after less than a minute it looked like it was going to be another long day for Thistle when they conceded a goal. A high ball was miscontrolled by Dean Byle right into the path of an Alba player who latched onto this and drove in to fire past Gordon Clark and give the away side an early 1-0 lead.
The loss of this goal certainly unsettled Thistle and it took the players a while to clear their heads and try and get back into the match. The early signs were not looking good as the team struggled to find any rhythm. This was not helped by a soft, bobbly pitch and a fussy referee who stopped play frequently throughout the match. It was 15 minutes before the first signs of a recovery appeared when a ball in from David Bell was flicked on by Gary Pollock, resulting in a shot for Johnny McLeod to take a shot which screwed wide. McLeod came close again a few minutes later when a long range shot went narrowly over the bar. Alba continued to create chances too and a free-kick forced Clark into another save and again when he parried the shot from his original save.
The stroke of luck that Bathgate needed to mount a comeback arrived in 25 minutes when Glen McMahon moved forward with the ball and his low shot, which was heading wide, was re-diverted by Mark Neil. McMahon’s shot had plenty of power so the touch from Neil on the 18-yard line meant the keeper was completely deceived and could not adjust himself in time to prevent the goal.
The only other real chance of note in the first half fell to Alba from another free-kick. A good strike again called Clark into action who managed to tip the ball over the bar with a fine save. Overall, both defences were coping well with anything that either team could muster and the back four of Bell, Love, Anderson and Nisbet did well to recover from losing that early first-half goal.
The first chance of the 2nd half for Bathgate fell to Mark Neil when the ball broke to him in the box but could only shoot over the bar. It got better 14 minutes in though when after a bit of pressure from a couple of corners in a row, Bell found himself with room on the left channel to knock the ball to Pettigrew. From here, Pettigrew moved the ball out of his feet around 20 yards out and fired in a shot which flew into the net and past the dive of the keeper who was never getting there.
Alba were still very much in the game at 2-1 and managed to create half-chances but there appeared to be a nervousness which crept into their play once Thistle had taken the lead. Alba were also dealt a blow when their left back went in late and recklessly on McMillan, who thankfully saw the tackle coming to avoid any great damage. The tackle left the referee with no option but to produce a red card and reduce them to 10 men. Credit must go to the Edinburgh team following this as they certainly performed well enough to keep the Bathgate team on its toes.
McCraw, on as substitute for Pollock, did his best to get himself on the scoresheet and almost created a chance for himself following good play from the team on the left but fired his shot over the bar. A couple of late chances fell to Bathgate as the game became more stretched. Pettigrew combined with McTaggart to home in on goal and as defenders and keepers closed in on him it looked like McTaggart’s ankle was held by the keeper and should have resulted in a penalty. Another chance came soon after that McTaggart but he could only shoot wide from just outside the box. One last chance appeared when McMillan, Mccraw, Neil and Nisbet all combined in a good move but the keeper was able to tip Neil’s shot past the post.
All in all it was a good 3 points for Bathgate and brings them to within 4 points of their opponents who started the day in 2nd place and having played two games more.
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