Bathgate Thistle ran out 3-nil winners in a must-win game over 10 man opponents Glenrothes Juniors.
Creamery Park welcomed Glenrothes Juniors for matchday 2 of the 2016/17 McBookie.com East Premier League. Andrew Colley’s side did not play in midweek following the disbanding of Falkirk Juniors so this match took on greater importance in the bid to keep pace with the other sides with promotion hopes in the division. His team selection was compromised with the continued absence of skipper Stoogs McLeod (injury) and Hassan Nyang (suspension). Reece Boyle was also unavailable which meant that the pool of players he had to choose from was greatly reduced. Michael Watson took his regular place in goals. A back four of Darren McIntosh, Darren MacIsaac, George Bonnar and Jamie Clark with Gordon Harris, David Taylor, Sid Easton and Iain Griffin in midfield. Up front Darren Dalrymple and Robin Feeney were the main goal threats.
On an overcast afternoon it was Bathgate who got the match underway and they started brightly. Keeping the ball largely on the deck they were passing the ball around and building play nicely from the back. Bonnar, who is naturally a full back, was carrying the ball forward from the centre of defence with confident ease and this was allowing the midfield to drop and collect the ball.
Bathgate were dominating possession and territory. Easton and Taylor were complementing each other well with Taylors passing ability spreading the play nicely whilst Eastons quick feet and pace was allowing him to get past his opposite numbers and support the forwards. These elements combined to set up McIntosh for a speculative effort from 25 yards that didn’t really threaten the goal but was an early indicator of what was going to work against the Fifers.
Bathgate should have taken the lead around the quarter hour mark. A foul on the left of midfield gave Jamie Clark an opportunity to whip a cross in with his dangerous left foot. A Glenrothes defender got a touch but could only direct it onto the left hand post. The rebound fell to Robbie Feeney who stooped low to head the ball towards goal only to see it cleared off the line by a defender. His clearance however hit the goalkeeper which sent the ball back towards the line which he only just managed to stop crossing for a goal.
Shortly after Bathgate came close again when Dalrymple hit the side netting after some excellent play from Easton. The midfielder broke from midfield, playing a nice one-two with Harris. He cut across the corner of the box and put Dalrymple in on goal who turned a defender inside out only to see his shot go the wrong side of the upright.
The biggest worry for The Jags was that they would not convert their dominance into goals. Glenrothes were led up front by the very experienced John Martin and when he combined with the talented Scott Napier in midfield they were capable of being a threat. The away side were being restricted to long range efforts that were no trouble for Watson in the home goal. Sid Easton was next to threaten when he had a pop-shot from 18 yards but his shot was straight at the goalkeeper.
Just before the break Iain Griffin, who played for Glenrothes last season as they were promoted, applied pressure to the away defender Robert Smith who in turn surrendered possession to Dalrymple just inside the half way line. His hooked pass sent Feeney clear through on goal. He was impeded before shooting by a desperate Glenrothes defender just before the penalty box and the referee gave a straight red reducing the Fifers to ten men. Jags gaffer Colley instructed Jamie Clark to take the free kick and the big defender stepped up to curl a delightful shot into the top left hand corner to put the home side into the lead on the stroke of half time. 1-0
Glenrothes kicked off the second half but Bathgate went straight onto the front foot again. An excellent ball forward by Taylor was excellently controlled by Harris who laid off for Griffin to cross. The defence cleared but only as far as Harris who drilled a shot from the left of the box which the keeper saved.
Moments later, Clark hustled and won the ball on the left wing which Harris collected and played brilliantly inside to Dalrymple who had taken up a dangerous position inside the channel. In one movement the talented forward touched the ball inside and opened up his body to tee himself up for a shot which he expertly placed with the inside of his boot into the far corner. The keeper was left with no chance and Bathgate were two nil up. 2-0
Now The Jags were flying and passing the ball sharply with purpose. One excellent move began with Bonnar, Clark and Taylor combining to give Easton an opportunity to carry the ball forward. He left three players in his wake before splitting the Glens defence with an excellent ball forward for Dalrymple to run onto. He touched it past the keeper but at the last moment a defender managed to get himself between the striker and the goal and cleared the ball.
Glenrothes to their credit were not looking like a team who were a man down and threatened when they could. A free kick forward was headed down to the edge of the area for Fionn McLeod Kay to try his luck but his shot was saved. Sid Easton then let rip from 30 yards – his shot containing lots of power and movement – which the keeper parried. Dalrymple’s follow up effort went straight into the keepers hands.
Then Feeney and Easton worked well in the box to create a chance for Feeney whose shot was blocked for a corner. The striker was looking frustrated. He had got through a power of work in and around the area holding the ball up and bringing others into play but strikers want to score goals. The corner came in and Taylor’s free header was well saved.
Goal number three came at the end of a terrific move which began at left back when Bonnar played a ball out of defence that Taylor controlled and laid off to Clark. He switched the play to right midfield where Griffin passed the ball forward to Dalrymple. He in turn controlled well and laid the ball back to Griffin who exchanged passes with Easton before putting in Feeney who was off and running leaving his marker for dead. The striker would make no mistake this time and rolled the ball past the outrushing goalie into the net for an excellent finish and get the goal that his overall performance had richly deserved. 3-0
The objective now for Bathgate was to protect their goal and preserve the clean sheet. Rhys Minnock and Ritchie Hutton entered the action and Glenrothes went close twice with two headers; the second of which came back off the bar. But despite some nervy moments Bathgate saw the game out and hugely merited the three points at the full time whistle. Bathgate move onto a midweek clash against Whitburn Juniors at Central Park which will be a huge test but one that Andrew Colley goes into with his sides first win of the season in the bag.
Bathgate Thistle: Watson, Clark, Bonnar, MacIsaac, McIntosh, Harris, Taylor, Easton, Griffin, Dalrymple, Feeney Subs: Minnock, Hutton, Thomson
Glenrothes Juniors: Costello, Moffat, Hamill, McDonald, McManus, Smith, Russell, Forbes, Napier, Kay, Martin Subs: Newman, Sneddon, Paterson, Trialist, Gear
Full match highlights and post match thoughts of the gaffer now available in the ThistleTV 2016/17 section of the website.