Musselburgh Athletic 3-0 LTHV
EOSFL Premier Division
Musselburgh left it late to make the points safe against Lothian Thistle Hutchinson Vale in a nailbiter at Olivebank. Gregor Woods had put the home side in front on the hour mark, with his first goal for the club, but the game stayed on a knife edge until late strikes from Darren Downie and Jordan Smith put it beyond doubt with both sides down to 10 men.
Musselburgh gaffer Joe Hamill made four changes to the side that drew away against Tynecastle last week: Greg Page, Declan O’Kane, Jordan Orru & Conor Thomson all in from the start as they lined up with McGinley in goal behind a back three of White, Page & Reid. The five-man midfield consisted of captain O’Kane, Orru, Reilly, Myles & Woods with Ballantyne & Thomson up front. In the away dug-out, gaffer Ryan Harding went with Renton in goal and a back four of Moore, Guiney, Crawford & Penker, five across the midfield: skipper Cunningham, Doherty Kemp, Viola & Signorini with Douglas leading the line.
Musselburgh played over 80 minutes with just 10-men after the skipper O’Kane was shown a straight red in the 8th minute for a heavy challenge on Joe Viola, which incensed the Thistle players and sparked a bit of pushing & shoving in the middle of the park. It was in keeping with the tone of the first half, which was a wee bit ill-tempered at times and definitely not one for the purists.
Thistle probably edged the first half in terms of possession and chances, McGinley definitely the busier of the two keepers. Douglas & Kemp put in a real shift in the first 45, keeping Athletic on the back foot for long spells. When they did get forward, Athletic couldn’t really make much of an impact on the visitors, the home side just looking a wee bit leggy. The exception was Ben Reilly, making only his second start for the club, who was full of running down the right flank and looked like Musselburgh’s best hope in the first half.
Thistle finished the half strongly, with a string of corners played deep to the back post that kept McGinley on his toes. But it was the hosts who nearly pinched a half-time lead after Dylan Moore got his second yellow for a foul on the edge of the box, leaving both sides a man down. Thomson took the resulting free-kick, fizzing it at Renton, who could only parry it away to keep the game goalless at the break.
Thistle started the second half well, picking up where they left off. But it was the home side that broke the deadlock with an hour on the clock, Woods forcing home Thomson’s cross from close range to nab his first goal since joining from Spartans.
Thistle responded with chance for Kemp, but the offside flag stopped him in his tracks. Errol Douglas nearly capitalised on a mistake from McGinley, but Reid was on hand to scramble it behind for a corner. As the clock ticked down, it was Thistle who began to look a bit sluggish, and Harding made a couple of changes to try and get his side back on level terms. But with just ten minutes left, Darren Downie grabbed a second for the hosts, with another close-range effort that beat Renton.
Jordan Smith wrapped up the victory just six minutes from time, to make the three points safe and put a bit of gloss on the score line. In truth a three goal margin flattered Musselburgh a little as Thistle had been well & truly in this match until the dying minutes. Indeed, the visitors will have headed back across the city wondering how they ended up with nothing after a really decent performance in the first half. But the name of the game is putting the ball in the net. Thistle didn’t do that when they were on top, and Musselburgh made them pay, making the most of their chances when they came. Thistle will now have to lift themselves for another tricky match next week when Tranent are the visitors to Ainsley Park, while Musselburgh have a difficult trip to Albyn Park to face Broxburn.
Man of the Match: Ben Reilly had a fine match in his first start at Olivebank, constantly trying to drive his side forward at every opportunity. The contest between him and Kemp was a cracker – the two number 7’s forcing the best out of one and other.
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