Whitehill Welfare 1-5 Penicuik Athletic
Ferguson Park, Rosewell
EOSFL Premier Division
Penicuik were the first footers at Ferguson Park, but the festive season was quickly forgotten about as the league leaders repaid Welfare’s hospitality with a five-goal thrashing. Ryan Weir had given Whitehill an early lead and Athletic took a while to get into their stride. It took a double from Cammy Watson and a Scott McCrory-Irving to put the visitors in front before Lumbert Kateleza came off the bench to grab another couple for the visitors.
Whitehill, who started the day propping up the table, lined up with Musa Dibaga in goal and a back-four of Bryan Wilson, Daz McCormack, Andrew Kidd and Fyn Connor. The four-man midfield consisted of Liam Ireland, Aiden McLaughlin, Jason Howie, and skipper Josh Walker, with Ricky Miller and Ryan Weir up top. At the other end of the league, Penicuik went with Robert Watt in the sticks, with Gregor Lamb, Darrell Young, Teece Hope and captain Andy Forbes in defence. David Edwards, Kieran Watson, and Scott McCrory-Irving in the midfield, with Nicky Reid and Robbie Neave as the two wide men and Cammy Dawson in the centre.
Despite what the scoreline might suggest, Whitehill were well in the game for over an hour, and actually took the lead as early as the second minute. Welfare won a throw-in on the left touchline, and when Miller swung his cross into the middle, Weir sneaked in between the two central defenders to head home from five yards out.
The hosts could have easily doubled their lead just a minute or two later, when the ball broke to Walker in the box, but the skipper needed an extra touch and by the time he got himself set, Athletic were able to clear the danger.
Welfare’s bright start must have thrown Penicuik a little and it took them a while to find their stride, although they did manage to create a few chances, they didn’t really work Dibaga too hard. This was Athletic’s first game since before Christmas and if truth be told, they looked a wee bit rusty in the opening half hour. They did get themselves level on 30 minutes though, Hope firing in a cross from the left for Dawson, who knocked it down with his head and stuck it away into the bottom corner.
The first half was a wee bit scruffy at times, neither side really able to put a sustained spell of pressure together and the game was just lacking a little bit of quality. The one exception was wee Nicky Reid, who always seemed to be able to get the ball down and play a bit. With it being a local derby, there was a bit of needle to the game too, a couple of late challenges giving the fans something to shout about and although it never looked like getting out of hand, it was enough to keep the ref on his toes.
After the break, it was more of the same: Penicuik trying to get into their rhythm and Welfare grafting hard to keep them at bay. One of these sides in challenging for the title and the other is facing a relegation battle, and for the first hour of this match, you might have struggled to tell which was which. But the trick to winning games and picking up points is sometimes being able to dig yourself out of trouble when you need to. Games can turn on key moments and, in this instance, it was Scot McCrory-Irving who turned the game on 66 minutes, running onto the cross-field pass from Neave and slotting it past Dibaga to give his side the lead for the first time.
From that point onwards, Penicuik seemed to find another gear and ten minutes later they extended the lead. Reid collected the ball on the halfway line, turned inside and switched it out wide to Neave. Neave switched it back to McCrory-Irvine, who slid it through to Dawson, and Dawson kept his head to slip it beyond the keeper for his second of the game.
That was Dawson’s last contribution, as he was immediate subbed off, to be replaced by Kateleza and within ten minutes, the sub had made it four. Welfare were pressing forward to try to rescue something from the game, but it was leaving gaps at the back, and Kateleza’s fresh legs allowed him to beat the off-side trap, take it round the keeper and slot home from the angle.
It was hard not to feel a bit sorry for Welfare, who had given as good as they’d got for the first 60 minutes. But a devastating spell from Penicuik had knocked the stuffing out of them, and by now the final whistle couldn’t come quick enough. There was still time for Kateleza to twist the knife with his second of the afternoon, slamming home the loose ball from twelve yards out to complete Whitehill’s misery.
With Linlithgow and Tranent both having their games postponed, and Musselburgh losing away at Newtongrange, the result extended Athletic’s lead at the top to four points and puts them in the driving seat at a crucial point of the season ahead of the home game against Tranent next weekend. Meanwhile at the other end of the table, Whitehill fail to capitalise on Camelon being out of action, and with Hill of Beath winning on the road, things are beginning to look grim at Ferguson Park as Kiddo tries to lift his troops for the difficult trip to Musselburgh next Saturday.
Man of the Match: On a tough afternoon for Penicuik, Nicky Reid was the one who always looked capable of making things happen for his side. Whether hugging the touch line, or drifting inside, he always used the ball well despite the sticky surface.
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