By Jonathon Reilly
Ten-man Bathgate Thistle crshed out of the Scottish Cup after they slumped to a 4-1 defeat at home to Oakley United in the third round. Having taken the lead in the fifth minute through Hassan Nyang’s pinpoint header, Bathgate were on course for an enjoyable afternoon up until five minutes before the interval when Andrew Watt pulled a goal back for Oakley and Jags’ centre-half Declan Brady saw red for a risky challenge on Rory Harrower.
The visitors made the most of their numerical advantage in the second-half as a brace from Alan McDonough and a stunning strike by Nichols McGowan sealed their place in the next round.
It was the home side who started on the front foot as Nyang came close to opening the scoring inside the third minute. Brady’s free-kick found Stuart McLeod whose clever back heel then presented Nyang with a golden opportunity to score but the central defender – who began the match in midfield – saw his low shot saved by David Manderson.
Nyang was given the chance to score again only two minutes later, this time as a result of Gordon Harris’ free-kick delivery from the left, and he was to make no mistake as he headed the ball firmly back across goal and into the far corner.
Bathgate were almost caught cold on what was already a typically bitter November day when McDonough found space in behind the Jags’ backline sixty seconds after the restart but was unable to come out on top in a one-on-one with Gavin McQuillan.
McLeod nearly had his name on the scoresheet only for Manderson to parry his well-struck volley away shortly before McDonough sent a volley of his own skimming narrowly over the bar for Oakley.
A cynical foul from Harrower on Bryan Jaconelli resulted in a yellow card for the defender and a free-kick 20 yards from goal but Nyang blasted his shot well over.
The referee’s hand was back in his pocket when Brady was shown a yellow along with Watt ten minutes before the interval for their tussle at a free-kick and Reece Fraser was cautioned for another rash challenge just moments afterwards.
Oakley managed to level the tie towards the end of the first period courtesy of Watt’s close range finish. A strike from Dale Allan was palmed away by McQuillan but the ball broke to Craig Paterson on the left who had the composure to then pick out the forward who was unmarked at the far post for the simplest of finishes.
Evidently annoyed by the cheap manner in which his side had conceded, Brady was then given his marching orders for a dangerous lunge on Harrower close to the halfway line.
Bathgate were then forced to alter their line-up with Nyang dropping back into central defence and McLeod playing in a deeper midfield role.
The home side emerged from the break with a determination to grab an early goal and retake the lead in a match which was threatening to get away from them.
Jaconelli was almost the player who did just that when he met Harris’ deft flick-on but Manderson was equal to his effort.
A controversial penalty – awarded after McLeod was adjudged to have fouled right-back Michael Fleming – then enabled the away side to take control of the game as McDonough sent McQuillan the wrong way and gave Oakley a 2-1 lead.
The visitors were intent on giving themselves a safety net and a curling effort from Allan and Derek Murray’s looping header were not far off the target.
Oakley did eventually land the killer blow to Bathgate’s hopes of a cup run with 20 minutes remaining.
A cross from the left was scrambled clear to the edge of the area, only for the ball to fall kindly to McGowan who unleashed a fizzing left-footed drive from outside the box that found the top corner.
With a man down and the clock against them, Bathgate struggled to keep hold of possession or create any serious threat to Manderson’s goal as the game drew to a close.
McLeod’s daring run which saw him weave his way past three Oakley defenders and place the ball just wide was the Jags’ final noteworthy effort and there was still 15 minutes remaining for Oakley to add a fourth.
That goal came five minutes from the full time whistle as McDonough plucked Fraser’s cross out the air and swivelled before rifling a volley into the bottom corner which finished the match as a contest.