Bathgate Thistle were denied a win against senior opponents, Lothian Thistle Hutchison Vale, on Saturday after they conceded a late goal with the last kick of the ball.
In the second match of The Jags pre-season, Andrew Colley’s new look side faced a step up in class against senior opposition. The gaffer named all 6 summer signings Darren Dalrymple, David Taylor, Jamie Clark, George Bonnar, Iain Griffin and Reece Boyle in the side. Hassan Nyang lined up alongside Darren MacIsaac in the centre of defence in front of Michael Watson in goals. Stoogs McLeod added his quality in midfield with Robbie Feeney wearing the number 9 shirt up front.
Lothian Thistle Hutchison Vale were one match away from a glamour tie against Celtic in the Scottish cup last season and had beaten League 2 side Montrose on their way there. Bathgate’s win the previous Wednesday against our own Sunday side had brought six goals but that wasn’t ever likely to be the case in this match.
Bathgate started brightly and could have gone ahead in the opening minutes after a fine move upfront saw Darren Dalrymple lay the ball off to Stoogs McLeod on the edge of the area. McLeod should probably have shot but laid the ball off inside to Robbie Feeney who had just drifted into an offside position and the chance was gone.
Just 2 minutes later Bathgate were punished as LTHV took the lead. Some good work on the right hand side of the pitch ended with a high looping cross making its way towards the Bathgate box which was headed back to the edge of the area by an away attacker. Muir watched the ball drop and managed to hit it first time towards Michael Watson in the home goal. It may have hit a defender on the way as it agonisingly nestled into the bottom left hand corner of the net. 0-1
The early goal lifted the visitors and they began to play some good football with some neat passing and skilful running with the ball a main feature of their play but Bathgate weren’t overawed by this and managed to limit them to mainly speculative shots from around the box. One promising move did result in a shot hitting the underside of the bar, then the inside of the post, before being cleared to safety but this was as close as they came to adding to their lead. Up the other end Bathgate also created some chances. Dalrymple will probably feel he could have done better when he pounced on some slack play at the back to find himself in a promising position but it was difficult to generate any power into the shot and it didn’t trouble the keeper.
Some excellent cross field passing in midfield from Taylor was helping to get Bathgate up the pitch into promising positions but LTHV were defending well to nullify any potential threats. Half time arrived and although LTHV would have been happy to be in front there wasn’t a great deal between the two teams and Bathgate were more than holding their own. HT 0-1
Both teams emerged for the second half as the light rain subsided. Bathgate immediately went on the front foot and some organisational tweaking from the gaffer meant that LTHV were finding it very hard to get as much space in midfield.
The home team were starting to threaten more regularly. Some excellent play by McLeod in midfield saw him knock the ball over an opponent’s head a-la-Paul Gascoigne at Euro 96 and his ball forward with the outside of his right foot sent Feeney through on his goal. Unfortunately he screwed his shot wide of the left hand post.
Reece Boyle came close with a header after a great ball from the right wing found him largely unmarked at the far post and shortly after Dalrymple again made the keeper work after cutting in from the left hand side and getting a shot off after a nice step-over.
When Bathgate scored there was no doubt it had been coming. A corner from the dug-out side was played back out to Jamie Clark who delivered a first time ball to the back post with the perfect balance of power and direction. Hassan Nyang, as he has so often done for Bathgate, rose and powered a delicious header back across goal and into the net. It was a brilliant goal and possible because of the terrific cross from Clark. He appeared to tweak something in his thigh as he made the delivery and was replaced shortly after his vital contribution. 1-1
The second goal for Bathgate arrived quickly. Reece Boyle powered his way through the away midfield and played a brilliant pass in between the LTHV defence. Feeney, arriving into the box, took a heavy first touch and the keeper blocked. The second ball fell to Dalrymple who was also denied by the keeper. Stoogs McLeod made no mistake though as he arrived late into the box and fired a low drive into the net through a nest of defenders. It was just reward for a brilliant second half from McLeod and his team-mates. 2-1
Which made the final 30 seconds or so of the game so much tougher to take. LTHV are a very good side and like all good sides they kept going right to the end; probing for openings. Though Bathgate had defended valiantly, they were undone when an attacker found himself on the edge of the box after Bathgate had struggled to clear their lines. There seemed little prospect of scoring unless he could lift the ball over the defence, the keeper and under the bar but to be fair that’s exactly what he managed to do. It was a brilliant goal from the forwards point of view but a cruel blow for the home side. Hurting even more so as the referee blew immediately after the restart. LTHV had scored with their last touch of the ball and the game ended in a draw. FT 2-2
Reflecting after the game, Jags manager Andrew Colley was very pleased with his side’s performance against very good opponents. His thoughts and extended highlights of the game are available now in the ThistleTV section of the website.
Next up for Bathgate is Hill of Beath who visit on Wednesday 27th July, kick off 7pm.