Bathgate faced Salters AFC from the Lothian East league in the Logan Cup, the associations premier cup competition, on Saturday. It was a depleted squad with only 12 players available for selection, however this proved no barrier to getting a good result and a first win of the season with a fine 3-2 victory.
The game didn’t start in the best of fashions for Thistle when they went behind after 6 minutes. After clearing a corner, from Salters the ball was fed out wide on the right to their midfielder. Bathgate’s defence failed to close down the cross and the dangerous ball into the box was met by the attacker on the run to knock it past Tugman in goals. The game settled into a pattern where both teams made chances but nothing clear cut or which overly troubled either keeper. In this spell Bathgate worked a few decent crosses in and Gary Pollock had one shot easily held by the keeper.
Bathgate were level on 33 minutes when decent work on the left between Nisbet and Byle sent a ball forward to Mark Neil who worked hard to fight off a number of defenders and make his way into the box. Once in there he knocked a shot high past the keeper and off the underside of the bar and in. This prompted a quick spell of other chances for Thistle. Nisbet going close with a header from a Bell free-kick, then a great save from the keeper to leap high and turn over a Pollock half-volley following a clipped ball in from McMahon. McMahon was to go close with a header from the resulting corner, and a final opportunity of the half fell to Pollock which the keeper saved. Overall it was a strong first-half following an early setback, and the strong work-rate and hassling from Thistle helped to put Salters on the back-foot.
The second half started quietly and also saw a substitution for Neil Davey coming on to replace the injured Dean Byle, who had a nasty looking swelling on the instep of his foot after being caught late. The first chance fell to Mark Neil who again turned to run at the defence and fizzed one narrowly over the bar as the defence backed off.
Salters were soon to take the lead though when a free-kick was blocked by Bathgate but the Salters’ player adjusted well to knock a shot in which Tugman was unable to reach. Five minutes or so later Bathgate were again back on level terms when good fight and play around the 18-yard area by McMillan saw him squeeze a ball through to Davey who was brought down just inside as he side-stepped his man. Veteran David Bell stepped up to send the keeper the wrong way and continue his record of scoring in every season since the club’s formation. The winning goal followed shortly after when Nisbet had one thunderbolt shot which the keeper punched away only for the ball to soon make its way back to Nisbet for him to drive the ball across goal and find Mark Neil who again managed to control the ball and knock it high past the keeper.
With 15 minutes remaining, Salters pushed forward for the equaliser but were unable to breach the defence which was well marshalled in the centre by McTaggart and Welsh, and with Tugman organising well in goals. The final chance of the match fell to Pollock when he sent a free-kick narrowly wide of goal with the Salters keeper beaten.
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