By Jonathon Reilly
A first-half brace from Bryan Jaconelli helped Bathgate Thistle earn a point on the road as they drew 2-2 against Forfar West End at Strathmore Park.
The result puts the Jags in seventh position and just a point behind Falkirk Juniors in sixth, who have played one game more, as Bathgate prepare to take on second-placed Jeanfield Swifts at the Creamery Park this coming Saturday.
Bathgate got off to the perfect start when they took the lead inside just the second minute as Jaconelli was upended in the box by home defender David Rae after an intelligent flick by Martin Jack had sent the striker through on goal.
It was Jaconelli himself who took the spot kick and he left Fraser Reid with no chance, blasting the ball high into the net to put his side one goal ahead.
Forfar did not take long to reply to the early setback as Graeme Hart glanced Matthew Ramsay’s free-kick narrowly wide just four minutes later.
The hosts were back on level terms in the thirteenth minute courtesy of Ramsay’s finely struck effort from the edge of the box that flew in just inches away from the post and beyond the fingertips of deputy keeper Michael Tugman.
Chances were then at a premium as both sides became wary of conceding another goal but Bathgate managed to take the lead for the second time in the match shortly after the half-hour mark.
Some good pressing high in the final third by Jaconelli allowed the frontman to steal the ball off the toe of Daryl McKenzie and play a quick one-two with his strike partner Jack to set up the angle for a simple finish into an open goal.
Darren MacIsaac and Rhys Minnock both had goal-bound efforts blocked by a scrum of Forfar bodies in the penalty area after a well-worked short corner routine almost paid dividends.
The Jags were soon required to perform some desperate defending of their own as Gordon Harris cleared Mark Godfrey’s header off the line after the midfielder had leapt well to meet Ramsay’s swirling delivery from a corner.
Forfar again pulled a goal back through Ramsay who scored another brilliant goal from outside the box.
Cameron Clark had stung the palms of Tugman just thirty seconds beforehand and the resultant corner from that save landed at the right foot of the goal scorer.
With a sea of players in front of him, Ramsay had the necessary composure to take a touch before curling an effort in off the upright to drag his side back into the game and ensure the teams headed in for the break at two goals apiece.
Bathgate began the second period like they did the first: on the front foot and eager to break the deadlock.
Jaconelli and Jack tested Reid’s reflexes with driven strikes five minutes after the restart before Hassan Nyang headed Stuart Macleod’s free-kick straight into the grateful grasp of the home keeper.
The visitors had to rely on their own man in the sticks as Forfar almost took the lead with twenty minutes to go.
Substitute Matthew Reynolds had found space inside the area to aim for goal, only for the onrushing Tugman to deny him sufficient room to manoeuvre and block the shot.
Reynolds again went close to scoring the winner as the clock hit the ninetieth minute but his effort curled just wide of the post before his teammate Craig Bell missed a gilt-edged chance to seal the match in the third minute of added time but he could only blaze the ball over the bar at the back post.
Bathgate manager Andy Colley was in high spirts after the match and admitted he was more than satisfied with the point, saying: “That’s us taken four points off them now so you’d take it every day of the week.
“We beat them at our place and we got a point here, if you can do that to most teams in the league you’ll be right up there so I thought a point was good.”
Colley also praised the performance of stand-in keeper Tugman for his part in a solid team performance
He said: “He did fantastic. He wasn’t even in anybody’s thoughts thirty-six hours ago – he had no chance with the two goals, they were lovely strikes – I thought his handling was good and his kicking was good so it was nice of him to come.”