The New Year brought a return to action for Bathgate Thistle in the Miller Cup second round against Lauriston Thistle. Lauriston currently sitting 4th in the Lothian West division, 1 point from the summit, were always likely to be a difficult test and even more so after 4 weeks from the last match. The game began in frantic fashion on pitch that was in very good condition considering the weather over recent weeks and it was Bathgate who were taking control of the match winning the ball consistently in the Lauriston half of the field during the opening exchanges.
The first chance did not take long to arrive, Euan McCraw drilling a shot that was deflected out to the left hand side, some neat play by Nisbet and Davey saw a cut back into the box fall kindly for Smith, as he shot though he lost his footing, the ball with less power than intended drifted towards the corner, with the keeper wrong footed the ball trundled towards the corner only for a covering defender to slide in as the ball hit the post, it looked to everyone that the ball had crossed line with the help of the sliding defender, he then spun round and flicked the ball back out of the goal but the whistle didn’t sound and play continued much to everyone in blue’s surprise.
Bathgate spurred on by this continued to pressure Lauriston, Pettigrew shooting wide and McKie heading over before finally finding a way to goal, Mahon on his debut made a sliding tackle 10 yards inside his own half with the ball going to straight to McCraw who turned and headed for goal, Euan reached the edge of the box and drilled his shot from the right hand side low across the keeper and into the net. Strangely a similar tackle on the half way line but on the left by Smith again sent McCraw clear, this time he curled his finish low into the opposite corner from the left hand side of the box, leaving the keeper stranded.
To this point Lauriston had had a couple of shots wide of the mark but a free kick on the edge of the box offered a sight of goal, the low shot curled round the wall and was heading for the bottom corner when Clark made an excellent diving save to touch the ball around the post for a corner. The resultant corner was headed clear by Bathgate and a quick break saw McCraw feed Davey who in turn found the over lapping McMahon, Glen took a touch to get the ball out his feet then sent a low left footed shot past the keeper at his near post to put Bathgate 3-0 up inside 28 minutes. The scoring for the half wasn’t done however when Davey and McCraw drew the keeper out of his box it looked certain to be a goal but the extra touch Davey took allowed the keeper to back track enough and get his hand to the shot inside his box at the expense of a corner. The corner was taken by McMahon, Pettigrew dragged two defenders under the ball leaving Mahon to control and blast high into the net from 10 yards for his first for the club for a 4-0 lead at half time.
The team talk at half time focused on maintaining the pressure but as in a lot of cases with a winning margin the intensity dropped and Lauriston came back at Bathgate in the opening 20 minutes of the second half. This produced a couple of good openings, Clark again making a superb save at the expense of a corner. Lauriston though brought themselves back into the match on the back of two controversial penalty decisions. Both penalties were awarded for handball, both definitely hit the hand of the Bathgate players but neither was intentional, the first when two players were stretching for a rebound following a wonderful volley off the bar from 20 yards, the Lauriston player got to it first on the 6 yard line but kicked it straight up, hitting the Bathgate player on the hand as he too stretched for the ball. If this was harsh the second when three players challenged in the air for a corner, the first player in the line flicking the ball on and changing its direction right onto the arm of the Bathgate player jumping behind him as the ball was heading out of the box but again the penalty was awarded and like the first scored to make it 4-2.
This seemed to jolt Bathgate who made 3 substitutions and began to retake control again, Davey crashing a cross come shot off the inside of the post and unbelievably out and not into the goal from an incredible angle before Lewis had a couple of efforts having been set up by McMillan and Love before he finally found the net, controlling the ball 15 yards out after a good block in the 6 yard line on Davey, Lewis curled his effort into the corner past the keeper to make it 5-2 and finish the first match of the new year.
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