Match report and highlights by Robert Allen
Bathgate welcomed Stoneyburn Juniors to The Creamery on Saturday in a friendly match.
Bathgate had to come from two goals down to earn a draw against their South League opponents on Saturday in a keenly contested friendly encounter. Home manager Andrew Colley took the opportunity to rotate his squad and give a run-out to some players who have missed out recently. In goal there was a start for Alex McMahon. Regular centre-half Hassan Nyang was missing after a severe bout of toothache so the skipper, Graham Baird, went back into defence alongside Darren MacIsaac. U19s player Jack James McGurk came in at left back with Grant McDonald on the opposite side. In midfield there was an unfamiliar look to things with Minnock and Kennedy in the centre of the pitch. They were flanked by Hutton and Kelly whilst up top prolific goalscorer Robbie Feeney was partenered with Jordan Thomson making his long awaited return after injury.
The game had a low-key feel at the outset and in truth Bathgate were sluggish to begin with. It was ‘The Fulshie’ boss Allan Browns much changed Stoneyburn side who were making most of the early running. His side were full of energy and really up for the challenge of testing themselves against The Jags. It was no surprise when they took the lead in the first half. A ball from midfield was played in behind the Bathgate defence and a lack of communication between the goalkeeper and Baird allowed the Stoneyburn striker to nip in between them, touch the ball past the goalkeeper and score a very tidy finish from a tight angle. Bathgate struggled to create any clear-cut chances and the visitors went in ahead at the interval and deservedly so.
The second half saw a raft of changes for the home side as McLeod, Harris, Easton and McIntosh entered the fray to give a much more familiar look to the team. The changes did not have an immediate impact however as again Stoneyburn started the half well. They added to their tally as a good old fashioned stramash in the 6 yard box saw them force the ball over the line to double their advantage. This seemed to finally kick-start the Bathgate team into action and they began to take control of the game as their more established players saw more and more of the ball, particularly down the left hand side.
2 nil became 2-1 when Bathgate pulled a goal back after Robbie Feeney tapped in from close range. It had been coming. A succession of corners eventually led to Baird controlling a ball out of the air with terrific skill on the far right hand side. His cross was touched on by a Bathgate player at the near post and Feeney was lurking on the 6 yard line to prod home. The Stoneyburn defence had left him all alone and as he has done so often lately the Jags hitman made his presence count.
Very quickly Bathgate were on level terms and it was a goal of outstanding quality. Keeper McMahon in possession threw ball out wide to a team-mate who played a good early ball into Feeney on half way. He drove forward and played a one two with McLeod in the box. As he collected the ball back, he took one touch to pass the challenge of a defender and then curled a screamer over the keeper and into the back of the net from 18 yards.
On reflection it was a touch cruel on the away team as they had played really well and no-one inside The Creamery would have grudged them the win but Bathgate as they have done so often this season showed terrific character to take something from the game. After the match Jack Kelly offered his thoughts on being handed a rare start for the first team – ‘It was a hard start to the game and I struggled to get into it. It’s a big step up from the U19s and it can be difficult to get involved but after that I thought I played better. I hope that next season I can be more involved and show the manager what I can do. It was good to get a start today and that’s what I want to be doing every week but I know I have to work hard for that.’
Stoneyburn’s season has come to a close but Bathgate still have two matches to play in the league beginning at home to Thornton Hibs on Saturday 21st of May. Please come along and support the boys if you can.
Kick off is at 2.30pm. £5/£2