Bathgate Thistle went into their third match in seven days against Mayfield & Easthouses (M&E) looking for their third win. After two good opening wins against local teams this was the first match against our East coast league opponents and after the season M&E had last season no one was in any doubt that this would be a stern test. It was Bathgate who started the brightest, forcing a free=kick on the left that M&E struggled to clear before managing to get out and concede a corner, Bathgate won the first header but their wasn’t enough power on it to trouble the M&E keeper.
The game for the first 15 minutes was fairly even although it was Bathgate who were looking for the most likely with Mark Neil winning a number of headers and challenges that were leading to openings. And it was from a Mark Neil flick on that sent his strike partner through on goal, Euan McCraw had a lot to do but in a challenge with the keeper he was stronger and kept the ball before stroking it into the empty net from 15 yards. From the goal Bathgate took control and continued to threaten as they looked for the second goal, first Euan McCraw on the right of the box hit a low shot that evaded everyone before hitting the inside of the opposite post and re-bounding across the line and out the Neil Davy had a shot on the turn in the box flash just wide of the post before the two best chances from the goal were created by Mark Neil winning a 50/50 ball and showed the defence a clean pair of heels, unfortunately Mark’s low shot was saved by the advancing keeper with his feet and minutes later Neil Davey was on the end of a fine through ball, at the same angle as Mark coming in from the left and the keeper advancing, Neil lifted his shot high and over the bar when a goal looked certain.
At half time Bathgate were disappointed to only be one up as the closest M&E had come to an equaliser was a shot from the edge of the box that flew wide of the post. The second half was to be a different story though as M&E chased an equaliser, starting the half with a changed formation of 3-5-2 which helped close the spaces between their defenders, they also committed their wide men higher up the pitch and began to bombard the Bathgate defence with high ball, corners and long throw in’s. This resulted in the Bathgate defence dropping deeper than they wanted to but this wasn’t causing to many issues as it was almost always a Bathgate head getting to the balls up the pitch and into the box.
A couple of breakaways could have resulted in a Bathgate goal, first Blair Welsh got on the end of a Euan McCraw cut back when it looked to be running kinder for the incoming Mark Neil, Blair was eventually crowded out before he could get his shot away then Barrie Lewis was played in down the left but his shot across the keeper didn’t have the correct angle and the keeper gathered comfortably. It wasn’t until the final 10 minutes that M&E got their first shots on target, first from a free kick that Gordon Clark held well then two speculative 25 and 30 yard drives that Gordon plucked out of the air with ease. With Bathgate’s defence holding firm, marshalled superbly by Glenn McMahon and bookended by the impressive fullbacks Scott Nisbet and Craig Lindsay the protection offered through the middle by Stewart Jack and Stuart McKie the final few minutes were run down well by Kenny Park and Barrie Lewis to see the game through for a one nil win and the third win of the season to maintain the perfect start to the campaign.
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