WEST LOTHIAN YOUTH LEAGUE: Sunday 18 December, 2016, Gairdoch Park
Thistle dominated the match and could have scored a shedload of goals in the second half but found the Gairdoch goalkeeper in irresistible form.
Their perseverance paid off with a deserved 3-1 win against tough and uncompromising opponents – backed by a vociferous and volatile touchline.
Gairdoch would have leapfrogged Bathgate and gone top of the league with victory, and they entered the match with that motivation uppermost in their minds. They took the lead with a fine flowing passing move and an impressive finish after just ten minutes.
Bathgate responded and began seizing control. However, despite three glaring opportunities and two strong penalty claims, they couldn’t score. They reached the interval 1-0 down and harbouring a good deal of frustration.
The visitors increased the tempo in the second half and United found themselves hemmed inside their own penalty area. Gregor, Bailey, Billy, Dylan and David all had attempts at goal which were repelled by the excellent Gairdoch keeper.
Eventually the breakthrough arrived when Dylan took matters into his own hands. Driving into the penalty area, he skilfully evaded three opponents before being brought down by a fourth. The referee pointed instantly to the penalty spot and, under enormous pressure, David produced an accomplished penalty-kick conversion into the bottom corner.
Thistle now sensed blood and went in pursuit of a winning goal. It arrived five minutes later when Gregor cut inside his marker and drove a powerful right-footed finish into the bottom corner from 12 yards.
To eliminate doubt, Bailey added a third in the final minute with a brave header at the back post following Elliot’s corner.
The boys in blue were delirious with the result knowing their refusal to give up had brought them just reward. Everyone involved – John, Kieran C, Ross, James, Sean, Darren, Matty, Leon, Dylan, Kieran O, David, Craig, Elliot, Bailey, Gregor and Billy – performed at their peak on the day.