Match report and highlights by Robert Allen
Bathgate travelled to Dalkeith’s Kings Park in their last away fixture of the 2015/16 McBookie.com East Premier League season. A late strike by Robbie Feeney gave them three points and the double over our opponents for this season.
Andy Colley and his side travelled to Dalkeith on Saturday still on a high after their dramatic late win over Armadale in their previous fixture. Dalkeith themselves were full of confidence after their stunning win in the East of Scotland Cup over Superleague rivals Broxburn Athletic though they had lost their previous three league fixtures putting an end to their faint promotion hopes.
Bathgate were forced to name a side without the in-form Stephen Easton who had a prior commitment. Jags boss Colley drafted in young midfielder Rhys Minnock in his place though the rest of his side was unchanged.
Dalkeith got the match underway under the bright Midlothian sky and the early stages were very even as both sides were giving little ground. Bathgate managed to threaten early when Bryan Jaconelli chased a long ball down the channel. His first time cross was cut out by the home keeper David Hay denying Robbie Feeney who was waiting to pounce, Goalie Hay would go on to have an inspired match in his teams goal.
Dalkeith replied quickly to this half-chance as they managed to fashion two chances on the Bathgate goal. The first came when Gowan found some space on the right wing and his cross, via a touch by MacIssac, fell at the feet of Lally but his connection was poor and the shot went harmlessly wide.
They quickly followed this up with another chance when they managed to get the ball into the Bathgate box again. The ball pinged back and forth between a couple of players and Hunter this time got a shot away. It was closer but still fell the wrong side of the left hand post.
Bathgate then produced a chance of their own. Jaconelli collected the ball on his chest just inside his own half and his next touch saw the ball played out wide to Stuart McLeod. He played an excellent ball forward which Feeney raced onto inside the box on the right hand side. He got a solid shot off but Hay was quickly off his line to close down the angle and make a smart save.
Gordon Harris next went close. Minnock played a brilliant diagonal ball over the home defence from the right side of midfield. Harris met the pass with a solid strike from 12 yards but Hay, as he would go on to do many times i this match produced a terrific save to prevent Bathgate taking the lead. Indeed, he denied Harris again from a similar position just a few moments later but in truth this save was more routine.
Dalkeith should have taken the lead on the half hour mark and Tansey will be wondering how he didn’t manage to break the deadlock. Hunter played a long ball over the top of the away defence which split the centre back pairing of Hassan Nyang and Darren MacIssac. Tansey darted between them and played the ball past the outrushing Michael Watson in goals. He then had the easy task of putting the ball into the empty net but MacIssac appeared from nowhere to make a brilliant last-gasp interception to keep the ball from crossing the line. It would prove to be absolutely vital as the game wore on.
Both teams were evenly matched for the remainder of the half. A brief interval came when one of the home nets needed repairing after some damage was identified but there was little other goalmouth action until just before the break when Stuart McLeod should have scored for the Bathgate Jags. An excellent ball was played into the box by Darren McIntosh and was laid off beautifully by Feeney into McLeod’s path. He found himself 12 yards from goal with just the keeper to beat but the ball seemed to take ages to fall in front of him and with defenders racing to challenge him his shot was blazed over the bar. A real let-off for the home team and both teams went off at the end of the half on level terms. HT 0-0
Bathgate emerged for the second half and it was immediately clear that they were determined not to leave without the three points. Kyle Nicoll lifted a ball high over the Dalkeith backline and Jaconelli made a terrific run to get on to it. His touch inside set him up for a shot which looked in all the way until a terrific save by the ever impressive Hay to his left denied the away side the lead. Jaconelli’s ability to make space and set himself was reminiscent of last weeks winning goal against Armadale.
Very quickly afterwards the keeper produced another excellent stop from Harris who received the ball in the centre of the opposing half after some excellent work on the right wing by Graham Baird. He won the ball from the opposition, as he had done so many times already in the game, before laying the ball off inside to his fellow midfielder. Harris took a touch to tee himself up and unleashed a thunderbolt of a strike from all of 30 yards out. It seemed destined to nestle in the back of the net but Hay flung himself full stretch to his left and pushed the ball behind for a corner. He was by far the man of the match and without his interventions Bathgate could easily have found themselves running out as comfortable winners in this game.
Bathgate were dominating the play. The defence was rarely troubled and if there was any advancement by the Dalkeith lads then the towering presences of Nyang and MacIssac at the back were dealing with any threats. Both full backs, McIntosh and Nicoll, were also comfortable. Young Minnock was playing with confidence in midfield and was able to do so as Baird, McLeod and Harris were giving him good protection. Up front Feeney and Jaconelli were really complementing each other and continuing the excellent recent form both have showed.
When Harris burst into the box on the hour mark it seemed as though he was fouled by the Dalkeith defender who was following him but although the referee had an excellent view of what seemed like a stonewall penalty kick he waved the play on. He was denied another penalty later in the match when he used his pace to beat the defence on the opposite side of play but again the referee was not interested.
The three points were secured and taken back to The Creamery though when Robbie Feeney scored an excellent goal 10 minutes from time. McLeod collected the ball just inside the halfway line and looked up to see Feeney in an excellent position. His pinpoint pass beat the flat footed home defence and the striker showed real composure to send a first time right footed shot low into the bottom corner. The keeper this time had no chance and Bathgate had the goal that their play had most definitely merited in the second period. One nil.
Dalkeith to their credit did not give up and tried to get back on terms. They launched an assault on the away goal and Michael Watson was alert to deny the Dalkeith attackers as they tried to get a leveller. In truth it looked as though the home forward had strayed well offside but the play was allowed to continue. A tale of two keepers certainly as whilst the home number one had been very much involved through the course of the match the Bathgate keeper was a spectator for the vast majority of it. When called upon though he came to his sides rescue; taking a heavy knock to his thigh in the process.
The full-time whistle arrived and Andy Colley’s players celebrated a vital win that ensured that the double over Dalkeith was achieved in the league for the first time in many years. Bathgate now look forward to closing out the season with two home games back at The Creamery whilst Dalkeith will have a semi-final to look forward to in the EoS cup. We wish them the best of luck in that. FT 0-1
After the match Andy Colley was very pleased with his sides performance – ‘To take 6 points from Dalkeith was a good achievement for the lads. You know that’s the sort of benchmark we are aiming for because Dalkeith are a well established side. We came here, and I think it could have been four or five, because their keeper had some tremendous saves and our keeper only really had one. It was a great finish by Robbie again. We pressed them and harried them and we made them make mistakes. We done well.’ On breaking through the 40 point barrier he commented – ‘That’s a really good achievement considering where the whole club was in pre-season. There was nothing really in place in terms of structure. But we got our team together and hats off to the guys they have worked really hard. There’s a really good momentum at the moment and I said to the guys it’s sad we’re coming to the end of the season because we seem to be finding some good form and they’re playing how I want them to play.’
Bathgate: Watson; McIntosh, Nicoll, MacIssac, Nyang; Baird, McLeod, Harris, Minnock; Feeny, Jaconelli Subs: Young, Hutton, McDonald, McGurk
Bathgate have two home fixtures remaining. Details will be posted on the website and social media channels as soon as they become available. We’d love to have your support at The Creamery for these matches.