Match report by Robert Allen
Juniors: Bathgate Thistle 2 – 3 Arniston Rangers
Bathgate were not able to follow up Saturdays fine performance with a win against Arniston Rangers in the Mcbookie.com East Premier League on Wednesday.
A typically Scottish evening, hailstones prior to kick-off then resplendent blue skies thereafter, greeted both sides as they took the pitch at The Creamery for this crunch match. Home manager Andrew Colley was able to pick an unchanged side from the team who had played brilliantly in the previous match against Jeanfield and he would have been looking for more of the same from his team.
Bathgate kicked off and were first to have an effort on goal when Stephen Easton found some space about 20 yards out but his shot was not on target. Just 60 seconds later a ball over the top from Brian Jaconelli found Gordon Harris on the edge of the box but his shot was weak.
The strong start continued and after only 4 minutes Jaconelli burst into the box and was fouled by an Arniston defender. The referee pointed to the spot and awarded the home side a penalty. Jaconelli himself stood over the ball and coolly placed his shot to the right of the keeper and into the back of the net – one nil!
It certainly seemed as though the Jags were looking to continue in the same vein as the weekend but it was to prove to be a frustrating evening. Arniston, who had not really gotten out of first gear up until this point, immediately set out to get back on terms. They managed to work the ball into a great position inside the Bathgate box and forced a good save from Michael Watson in the home goal.
Shortly afterwards a long ball by the visitors brought Watson rushing out from his goal in a race with the right full back to get to the ball first. Watson won the race and gathered but the pitch, still greasy from the hailstorm prior to kick off, meant that the keepers momentum carried him to the very edge of his area. Watson tried in vain to ensure the ball remained legal but the ref adjudged that he had carried it over the line and awarded a free kick. A three-man wall was set up and although the resultant cross was cleared by the home defence there were definite signs that Arniston were now well in the match.
This was confirmed when they managed to get an equaliser on 12 minutes. A long throw in from the left touchline fell to Somerville. His well struck shot was excellently saved by Watson in goals. The resulting short corner however was bundled out for a throw to the visitors and this time the long throw from the other side fell to Katezela who had the easiest of tasks to score from 4 yards and even things up at 1-1.
The ball was spending long periods in the air and Bathgate in particular were struggling to get the ball down and string some passes together. Arniston were finding things a bit easier and a second goal came on 16 minutes when their tall number 9 raced on to a through ball in between the Thistle defence and placed a low finish inside the far post. There seemed to be a hint of offside to the goal but the referees whistle remained silent and the team from Midlothian celebrated going into the lead.
A strong period of Arniston play followed. They were able to get the ball forward quickly, often with diagonal passes into the channels and Katezela was able to use his pace to keep the pressure on his opposition defenders. When Bathgate did get the ball back passes were going astray and this only encouraged the visitors.
The Arniston number 2 received a needless booking for delaying a throw in after 21 minutes.
Bathgate were losing too many battles in the middle of the park. Yet slowly they started to get into the match more and more. Some neat interplay from skipper Graham Baird, Easton and Harris saw the bell fed to Hassan Nyang about 25 yards from goal. He managed to beat two men and although his shot was not on target there were signs that Bathgate could create problems for the visitors.
On 29 minutes they grabbed an equaliser when some great play on the right wing by McLeod saw a pinpoint cross curled in. Robbie Feeney scored his third goal in two games for his side when he met the ball with his head 6 yards out and despite a touch from the keeper the ball nestled in the back of the net to get both sides back level at 2-2.
Bathgate were now playing with their heads up and had their best spell of the match as they applied some pressure to the Arniston defence.
In fact they almost grabbed another when Bryan Jaconelli and the away keeper raced to reach a loose ball on the edge of the area. The home striker managed to get there first and prodded the ball past the advancing goalie. It seemed to take an age as it trundled its way towards the target but eventually it rolled agonisingly past the left post and out for a bye kick. To compound this the resultant long punt up field was allowed to bounce twice by the home defenders and then inexplicably Watson in goals failed to gather with the ball dropping to Katezela to grab his second and Arnistons third. Watson may well have been impeded by the blinding sun beginning to set behind the opposite end of the park but he will be no less disappointed for that.
The timing of the goal,coming 4 minutes before half time was a real sucker punch although the visitors were delighted. HT 2-3
Arniston restarted the match but the fireworks that marked the end of the first half were not carried over into the second period. A prolonged period of attritional play seemed to set the tone for what would become of the second half.
The first real effort by either side came when Nyang of Bathgate met a Harris free kick about 8 yards out but the contact from his header was fleeting at best and it harmlessly drifted wide.
Most of the play was centred around midfield and in truth anything of quality was more likely to come from the visitors. The tenacious midfield duo of Baird and Easton were evenly matched by their opposing numbers and the ball was spending too much time in the air or heading out of play to allow any side to really get to grips and start to wrest control of the match.
The old cliché ‘a game of two halves’ could have been written for this match as the goal mouth action was at a premium.
Arniston, with still 25 minutes to go in the match won a throw-in on the left hand touchline opposite the home penalty area. With most of the second half still to come the Arniston throw-in taker and a team mate indulged in a spot of time-wasting to the extent that the referee raced over and promptly booked both players. This meant that the 3 opposition players who had received bookings had all had their names put in the book for time-wasting at a throw-in.
One moment of quality came when Feeney and Jaconelli managed to link up brilliantly on the edge of the area. Feeneys intelligent lay off into the feet of Jaconelli led the striker to attempt to lob the ball over the keeper who had come off his line. The ball looked destined to drop into the goal but landed on top of the netting. It was a great piece of play from the two forwards though and was without a doubt the highlight of the half.
Home manager Colley tried to shake things up and replaced Easton with Rhys Minnock in an effort to exploit any gaps down the right hand flank. The number 8 had just picked up a booking for a robust challenge in the middle of the park. Kyle Nicholl and Richard Hutton then replaced Darren McIntosh and Gordon Harris with 15 minutes remaining. As Bathgate committed more and more men forward Arniston attempted to break quickly whenever they could but without any real threat on goal. Grant MacDonald at right back was handling anything that came into his area.
In a last ditch effort to salvage something from the match Nyang was sent forward and Bathgate went with three up front but the lack of service meant that this was in vain and Arniston managed to see the game out and claim the three points. FT 2-3
After the match the gaffer Andrew Colley was honest in his appraisal – ‘When I got the players in at half-time I went through them like a dose of salts. We were totally second to everything. They never played the way I asked them to play. Our defence tightened up in the second half but the distribution was shocking to be honest.’ He added, ‘Defensive mistakes have cost us again. I think of the last 11 goals we have conceded 9 of those have been errors, so we need to cut that out. We tried to change things, we brought the subs on and pushed Hassan up top the last 10 minutes but we couldn’t give them anything to work with. It was just a bad day at the office today.’
Bathgate’s next match is the derby against local rivals Armadale Thistle at Volunteer Park on Saturday – k.o. 2.30pm – when the boys will be aiming to get back on track and return to winning ways. We would love to see a large contingent of Bathgate fans cheer them on to claim the spoils so please come along and give us your support.
Together we are stronger