Hill of Beath Hawthorn 2-0 Whitehill Welfare
East of Scotland League – Premier Division Kier’s Park, Hill of Beath
Hill of Beath got their season back on track with their first league win in a month against Whitehill at Kier’s Park. Goals from Ryan Connelly and Joe Kinninmonth either side of half-time were enough to give John Mitchell’s side a battling victory and put a stop to a run of three consecutive league defeats. More importantly, it gives Haws a valuable three points which lifts them back into the top half of the table.
Haws are still without half a dozen first team regulars and went with a 4-4-2 formation with Robert McFarlane in goal and a back four of skipper Russell Grierson, Kevin Conners, Bradley Grieve and Lyle Kellichan. Mark Wilkie & Scott Gibson were the two central midfielders, with Brandon Luke on the left, Callum Adamson on the right and a strike partnership of Connelly and Kinninmonth.
Welfare have been on a poor run themselves and went with a 4-5-1 of Ross Gilpin in goal, Liam McKenna, Bryan Wilson, Taylor Rogan and Jack Murray at the back. Dean Cunningham and Michael Barfoot as defensive midfielders behind Robert McKenzie, Connor Spowart and Scott Millar with Kevin Stuart in the lone striker role.
Welfare were quickest out of the blocks with a couple of early free kicks to test the home defence, but although they got the ball into the danger area, there was nothing to trouble McFarlane. Haws looked a little nervy in the opening minutes and it took a good 10 minutes before they could put a meaningful attack together. Two quick corners from Kellichan finally sparked the home side into life and they began to grow in confidence slightly.
Welfare were forced into a re-shuffle thanks to an injury to Kevin Stuart, Chris Cairney introduced after only 25 minutes. Ten minutes later and Hill of Beath were in front, another Kellichan corner played into a crowed six-yard box and Connelly was on hand to head home from close range.
With both sides struggling for form, there wasn’t a lot of quality on show, most of the game being played in the middle of the park. There was no lack of effort from either side though, and with plenty of tough tackling on show, the midfield was no place for the faint hearted. Despite the competitive nature of the game, ref Alan Budd only had to reach for his yellow card once in the half, McKenna with a late one on Grierson.
Haws were looking sharp on the break, Adamson and Kinninmonth both having a couple of chances each on the counterattack. But on each occasion, neither could find the target, the lack of confidence showing as they snatched at their shots. The best chance to add to the scoring actually came from a heavy back-pass that Gilpin had to palm away from danger – Haws were expecting an indirect free kick as a result, but after a quick chat with his assistant, Budd only gave a throw-in.
The second half was more of the same really, plenty of hard graft, nobody shirking a tackle, but not an awful lot of quality on display. The Haws wide men were starting to see a bit more of the ball, with some decent balls into the box, but nobody was able to get on the end of anything.
Hill of Beath grabbed the second just short of the hour mark, Kellichan again with the delivery, Connelly couldn’t connect but it ran for Kinninmonth who fired home form 10 yards out and give his side a bit of breathing space. He was replaced by Joe Kirby shortly afterwards, gaffer Mitchell going for an extra body in midfield to ensure they kept hold of the points.
Haws had a few more chances to wrap things up. Connelly should have put the game to bed after a fine run down the right, but he couldn’t find the finish and he had to go off as pulled something in the process. The best chance fell to Adamson, again with a quick break, but Gilpin got a big hand to the shot to keep his side in the game.
Just as they had started it, Welfare finished the game strongly too, but despite a decent spell of late pressure, they still couldn’t work the keeper. With only 7 goals all season long, it was always a big ask to drag themselves back into the game and despite the effort, McFarlane only had one fairly routine save to make. It was still a nervy finish for Haws though, and they would have been glad to hear the final whistle and wrap the points up.
Hill of Beath were many punters pre-season favourites, but injuries and suspensions have given John Mitchell plenty of selection headaches and that has shown in the results. They still look well short of their best, but the win lifts them up to eighth in the table, although at 10 points adrift of the leaders, there’s still plenty of work to do. Things look even worse for Welfare, rooted to the foot of the table without a point to their name. Both sides now have home games to look forward to. Haws will be looking to build on the win when they welcome Penicuik next Saturday, while Welfare look to turn it around when they host LTHV.
Man of the Match: On a day when the result mattered more than the performance, hard work was probably more valuable than fancy footwork. And nobody worked harder than Bradley Grieve, who really put in a shift in the heart of the Haws defence, helping his side to a confidence boosting clean sheet.
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