Bathgate Thistle lost 2-1 to St Andrews United in the McBookie.com Premier League on a wet and windy afternoon at Creamery Park.
The one constant so far this season for Bathgate Thistle is that their form has been inconsistent. This proved to be the case again as they lost 2-1 to St Andrews United on a difficult day for the Jags. Although manager Andrew Colley was able to welcome back into the fold David Taylor, Darren MacIsaac and Hassan Nyang he is still a long way from having a full squad to choose from as Iain Griffin had picked up a knock against Whitburn in midweek, Reece Boyle and Robbie Feeney were on holiday and Stuart McLeod is still recovering from injury. This meant that for the fourth game in a row his team was very different from the one that had played in the match before. Bathgate started with Michael Watson in goal; a back four of George Bonnar, Hassan Nyang, Darren MacIsaac and Jamie Clark. In midfield were David Taylor, Sid Easton, Rhys Minnock and Gordon Harris. Darren Dalrymple and Ritchie Hutton started up front.
The game kicked off under incessant rainfall and Bathgate were slow out of the traps. It was proving difficult to retain possession of the ball and they were giving it away without really being put under any pressure by the away side. In fact either side was largely ineffective in this opening period with the closest each side came to threatening a couple of crosses that didn’t really cause either defence any unrest.
After 8 minutes, Dalrymple for Bathgate tried to inject some urgency by picking up the ball inside the St Andrews half and driving at the centre of defence. He took a shot but a defender charged it down and United quickly started a counter attack with Aidan Hendry collecting a pass and scurrying forward. He was eased off the ball about 35 yards out by MacIsaac, who was playing at right back, and the referee gave a foul. Barry Sibanda stood over the ball and took a shot at goal that swerved and dipped as it made its way towards the net. Watson could only parry and the ball fell kindly to onrushing St Andrews forward Sam Buchan who was very fortunate as his first shot was saved by Watson but the ball rebounded off him and rolled into the net to give the visitors an early lead. 0-1
Bathgate tried to respond immediately by getting on the ball and trying to pass themselves into the game. Taylor, Easton and Nyang combined to get the ball to Dalrymple who was forced wide but managed to deliver a dangerous cross which Hutton only just failed to connect with.
Bathgate were certainly seeing more of the ball and the passing rhythm which has charecterised their play this year seemed to be coming back. They remained however vulnerable to the counterattack, particularly when Buchan and Hendry were breaking, and only a last gasp tackle – perfectly timed as it was – from Bonnar stopped another goal scoring opportunity.
Bathgate’s opportunities to threaten often came when Easton turned and ran at the away defenders. The little midfielder has been in excellent form for Bathgate of late and his ability to move the ball quickly between his feet and find a pass was putting The Jags into some great positions but all too often the final ball or delivery wasn’t hitting the spot.
Towards the end of the half Sibanda showed the ugly side of his game when he cynically tried to win a penalty by diving in the box. It was a blatant attempt to subvert the view of the referee who made a good decision in rejecting the appeal but perhaps should have shown the St Andrews number 7 a yellow card for his efforts.
Some slack defending saw Bathgate allow the Fifers two efforts on goal. Buchan shot low and hard from a tight angle that Watson held comfortably. Then, Lea Schiavone dropped a shoulder to create some space on the edge of the box but his low curled effort was not on target.
Bathgate ended the half strongly with two efforts of their own. Hutton laid the ball off to Harris who sent in an excellent delivery into the box. Minnock met the cross ball with a first time volley but his effort flashed just wide of the left hand upright. Then Easton ended the half with a shot from the edge of the area after collecting the ball on the halfway line. He sprinted towards the box leaving the opposing midfielders in his wake. The shot was solid but lacked direction and was comfortable enough for the away goalkeeper. HT 0-1
The Bathgate manager must have had some strong words for his charges at half time and his side started the second period well immediately putting their opponents on the back foot. A few moments later they were almost on level terms when David Taylor picked up the ball around halfway. He touched the ball past Josh McPhie about 40 yards out and let loose with a thunderous drive that rattled the crossbar and rebounded to safety.
It is with the slimmest of margins that games such as these are decided and moments later Taylor tried a backheel pass which would surrender possession and lead to St Andrews taking a two goal lead. Hendry picked up the loose ball and carried it across the face of the Jags defence before playing in Connor Ireland (just on as a sub). He played the ball back to Sibanda on the edge of the 6 yard box who almost made a mess of his finish, playing the ball with his right foot on to his left, but the ball bundled its way into the net. 0-2
St Andrews, bouyant with their lead, began to boss the game for a period. They were winning more first and second balls and Bathgate were being bombarded with wave after wave of attacking play. It wasn’t necessarily the case that they were a threat on the home goal but they were ensuring that the bulk of play was as far away from their own goal as possible.
Slowly though Bathgate started to turn the tide. Taylor became far more of an influence on the game and he was retaining possession far better than earlier in the match. It was a period of sustained pressure and ball retention that led to Bathgate getting back into the match. Easton, Minnock and Hutton combined to take the ball from one side of the pitch to the other and when Taylor picked the ball up on the right wing he delivered a pin-point cross which Dalrymple expertly finished with the head eight yards from goal. 1-2
The Jags should have been level just moments later. This time Dalrymple found himself out on the right wing to deliver a beautiful ball but this time Minnock could not finish with the same quality that his teammate had shown moments earlier and the ball bounced in front of goal before veering off to the left of the post.
Bathgate had turned the tide of the match and by this point were well on top. Dalrymple beat two men and fired a shot from just outside the area but it went wide. Then Easton let fly from 25 yards, his shot full of venom, but the keeper parried this to his right hand side and eventually St Andrews cleared their lines.
The chances were coming thick and fast now. Jamie Clark delivered a dangerous free kick which Nyang couldn’t quite get enough on to trouble the keeper. Dalrymple beat two defenders on the edge of the box before hammering a shot just wide of the right hand post. It was all in vain. FT 1-2
Their poor start to the match and lapses at key moments had meant that the task was too great and it was the Fifers who returned home with the three points and congratulations to them. Bathgate will travel to Kennoway Star Hearts in their next match desperate to take the three points and get this game out of their system.
Bathgate Thistle: Watson, Clark, Bonnar, Nyang, MacIsaac, Harris, Taylor, Easton, Minnock, Dalrymple, Hutton Subs: Thomson, MacDonald, McIntosh
St Andrews United: Cargill, Perrie, McInnes, Wedderburn, McPhie, Honeyman, Sibanda, Fleming, Buchan, Schiavone, Hendry Subs: Falconer, Hunter, Ireland, McNeish, Duffy (T)
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