BOB MALCOLM LEAGUE CUP FINAL: Sunday 5 June, 2016, Creamery Park, Bathgate
Bathgate basked in summer sunshine and end-of-season glory on Sunday as they lifted their second successive League Cup. A 2-1 win over Broxburn Athletic Colts after extra-time saw the trophy collected by Thistle captain Ross Powley after an emotionally and physically draining 100 minutes of football.
Both teams put in phenomenal effort in searing heat, resulting in an entertaining and gripping finale to the 2015/16 campaign. In the end, Thistle’s resolve went deeper and ensured they prevailed after a close and competitive encounter.
The match had started disastrously for the blues as left-back Leon was forced off injured in the first minute. One of the team’s most consistent performers, he was forced to watch the remainder of the afternoon from the dugout. Jay took his place and went on to deliver an imperious display which was by some distance his best in a Bathgate shirt.
Thistle moved ahead shortly after the 20-minute mark when Darren’s free-kick rocketed beyond the Broxburn defence and goalkeeper from 25 yards. The breakthrough came at a period when Bathgate were dominating, however they were pressed back before half-time.
Two saves by John in goal kept Broxburn out, but not for long. As red shirts poured forward, Colts midfielder Kevin capitalised on some slack defending to volley a fine equaliser. Bathgate had to regroup during the interval and rediscover their passing game.
They did so in the second half and would have retaken the lead had another of Darren’s raking free-kicks not crashed off the crossbar. In defence, Thistle held firm with James, Darren, Sean and Jay all at the top of their game. Midfielders Ross, Sam, Dylan and Kieran worked tirelessly to initiate attacks for Elliot, Bailey and Billy up front.
Temperatures continued to rise and, when extra-time arrived, it was tough on both sets of players to endure another 20 minutes. The game remained tight and tense, but Bathgate conjured a winning goal with ten minutes left.
Dylan drove forward from midfield to thread a pass through to Bailey. He cut inside an opponent and shaped to shoot, but instead slipped the ball to Billy near the penalty spot. As the home support held its collective breath, the winger took a touch and steadied himself to lash an emphatic left-footed finish high into the net.
It was a goal fit to grace any occasion, and certainly merited Bathgate’s League Cup success. There was also a late cameo appearance by David – out injured for several weeks but desperate to be involved for the final few minutes on his team’s big day.
At the full-time whistle, there were palpable and euphoric scenes of joy for those in blue. James deservedly collected the man of the match award and Ross lifted the trophy in front of his team-mates and supporters.
It was an afternoon those involved will not forget and brought a fitting end to a great season for Thistle.