By Jonathon Reilly
Bathgate Thistle slumped to a third consecutive league defeat as they lost 2-0 against Haddington Athletic at a rain-soaked Creamery Park.
Unable to repeat the effort and determination they showed in their previous match versus Greenock in the Scottish Junior Cup, Bathgate’s lacklustre performance reflected the gloomy conditions this match was played in on what was a disappointing afternoon for the home side.
Both sets of players struggled to adapt to the demanding conditions as the match began with the ball repeatedly sticking in puddles or zipping beyond an outstretched leg.
It was the visitors who eventually found their feet first and they almost took the lead inside the opening 10 minutes when Arran Ponton latched on to Gavin McQuillan’s wayward pass before seeing his long range effort float narrowly over the bar.
The Jags didn’t help their own cause when Grant MacDonald wiped out Chris Inglis on the edge of the penalty area and provided Haddington with an opportunity to break the deadlock but Ponton sent the resultant free-kick well wide of the target.
It took 24 minutes to lapse on the stopwatch before Bathgate had their first meaningful attempt on goal; Declan Brady producing a well-timed run and leap to connect with Stuart Macleod’s inviting cross but his header flew just over.
A minute later and Bathgate had another chance in front of goal as MacDonald’s long throw landed at the feet of Macleod who swivelled on the ball and skimmed an effort wide of Liam Amos’ goal.
But no more than sixty seconds after that piece of action McQuillan found himself picking the ball out of his net after Paul Devlin was left unmarked at the back post to tap in Ponton’s low cross for the easiest of finishes.
Although the away side hadn’t threatened the Bathgate goal a tremendous amount, the Jags were visibly stunned by the concession of the opening goal and struggled to carve out any more scoring opportunities at the opposing end with the visitors content to sit on their lead until the half-time interval.
Bathgate emerged for the second period with a greater sense of urgency as the forward line began pressing for the ball higher in their opponents’ final third.
Some quick thinking by Graham Baird from a free-kick at the halfway line found Macleod on the wing but his driven ball across the goalmouth just evaded the toe of Gordon Harris.
Macleod then had a chance of his own to pull his side level on the hour as he headed MacDonald’s lofted delivery wide of the right-hand post.
But, once again, a minute later the hosts conceded another goal after creating an attacking chance of their own.
Miscommunication between McQuillan and his backline caused a moment of defensive confusion and panic as a searching ball up front somehow fell kindly for Andy Sinclair to score a tap-in into an empty net and double his side’s advantage.
Sean Martin then went close to putting Haddington out of sight when his blistering left-footed shot brought a fine save out of the Bathgate keeper to prevent the ball from nestling in the top corner.
Haddington were dominating the play as the game entered the final quarter of an hour and a phenomenal reactionary save from McQuillan was required to keep the score down as Craig Hume’s header looked destined for the roof of the net.
McQuillan had to dirty his gloves once again in order to keep the score respectable after a punt forward from Amos bounced over the Bathgate defence and Martin saw his volley palmed away.
The final few minutes saw Harris and Hassan Nyang both have a go at bringing Bathgate back into the match but they skewed their attempts well wide.
Martin then missed another decent chance to add a third name to the visitors’ scoresheet with practically the last kick of the ball when he slid in to stab Wayne Sproule’s cross from the right just inches wide of the near post.
Bathgate will be eager for next weekend to come around quickly in order to put right all that went wrong on a frustrating day against Haddington when they travel to face Dundee Violet in the league this coming Saturday.