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Season 2016-17 review

Season 2016/17 – A review

We had joy (maybe some) and we watched in rain/snow/sun.  So Terry Jacks almost sang in 1973 and if he had, he would have summed up season 2016-17 for me.  (I’ve no idea where I am going with this either.)

Season 2016-17 started for us at Tynecastle, as Hearts faced Infonet Tallin in a Europa League Qualifying 1st Round, 1st leg tie.

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That first game of the season came on 30 June when everyone is supposed to be on a beach somewhere.  If you wonder why the debate about summer football seems to have dissipated recently, it’s because it is already happening!

The season saw us take in 119 and a half games and see exactly 400 goals.  The half came about when we had watched Whitehill Welfare v Abbey Vale in the South Challenge Cup, then raced to East Peffermill to see the second half of Edinburgh University against Wigtown and Bladenoch in the same competition.  (The solitary goal was scored in the first half.)

We watched 115 different teams and saw games in many competitions, including the Scottish Premiership, Championship League One and Two, the Lowland League, the East Superleague, West Super League Premier, East Premier League, East Region South League, East of Scotland League. We also attended various play-off matches in many of these competitions.

There were several visits to cup ties in many different competitions, including the Scottish Cup, Scottish Junior Cup, East of Scotland Cup, City Cup, King Cup, Lowland League Cup, East of Scotland Qualifying Cup, East of Scotland Shield, Fife & Lothians Cup, South Challenge Cup and King Cup.  Some of these were semi-finals or finals.

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In England, we saw games in the Premier League, Championship and Leagues One and Two, as well as the Northern League Division One.

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We also managed a couple of Europa League qualifiers (and of course pre-season games).

We properly engaged with women’s football in Scotland and attended games in the Scottish Women’s Premier Leagues 1&2 as well as the Scottish Cup and Champions League.

There were many highlights.  East Stirlingshire at Civil Service Strollers in August when the visitors won 8-3, a fantastic Women’s Scottish Cup tie between Hearts Ladies and Hutchison Vale Ladies which Hearts won 4-3 after extra time, the sight of Bayern Munich Ladies in full flow at Easter Road in the Champions League, Haddington Athletic winning on penalties against Shotts Bon Accord after a 3-3 draw in which Haddington were 3 down with 13 minutes left, Oxford United’s 3-2 win at Bury in December, Kirkintilloch Rob Roy’s 4-3 win at Penicuik in the Junior Cup 5th Round, Leith Athletic’s incredible 7-2 win over Tynecastle in the semi-final of the King Cup, Brechin’s play-off final win at Alloa Athletic in an incredible topsy-turvy game which was finally settled on penalties. Tranent’s double cup win, etc etc.

It hasn’t all been about the games though.  There have been several memorable incidents.  These included:

The Thorn Athletic players referring to each other as “big man” or “wee man”, apart from the goalkeeper, who was called “Liam” by them all.

The Spartans v Airdrie pre-season friendly where, with three minutes to half time, a woman behind me asked her companion “Are Spartans in blue?”

The Civil Service Strollers player giving a team mate a hard time for not marking anybody, before having it pointed out that the man he had been marking was in the process of going off after being substituted and his replacement hadn’t come on yet.

Members of the Easthouses Lily team sending texts to other team members saying that the manager had told them to turn up dressed smartly.  This led to them cheering every time a squad member turned up in a shirt and tie.  One player had to “go to Tesco” to get some trousers as he didn’t have any and only had £20 left until payday. 

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Bonnyrigg Rose manager Robbie Horn on the touchline hit by the ball in a very tender area, with players and fans of both teams expressing their concern by pissing themselves laughing.

The East Stirlingshire fans telling a linesman that an offside decision he made had been a guess.  He replied with “Every one is a guess”.

The club official running the line at Dunbar United being asked by his mate behind the barrier what a free kick had been given for, and him replying “Dunno.  I wasnae watching”.  The same person running the line later in the game with his flag in one hand and a cup of coffee in the other.

The tannoy announcer at Ainslie Park for the Leith Athletic v Cumbernauld Colts Scottish Cup game playing music through his phone over the loud speakers at half time, with the crowd suddenly treated to hearing his ringtone for a good 60 seconds as his phone received a call.

Pollok’s Tam Hanlon complaining to the linesman about being given offside.  The flag bearer responded with “You were well off.  You know it and I know it.”  He followed this up by putting his finger to his lips in a ‘shushing’ motion to the Pollok manager on the other side of the pitch who was telling him that was third one he had got wrong.

A Motherwell fan helpfully offered his glasses to the officials in a home game against Celtic.

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The parrot sitting on the bar at Linlithgow Rose and Hearts Ladies captain Megan Paterson being told off by her mum for swearing and being told she wouldn’t get any tea.

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It wasn’t all good of course.  Some of the games were so toe curlingly bad that writing them up seemed impossible.  There were several occasions where at least another half dozen layers of clothes were required.  There were also some disgraceful scenes when pies ran out.

Haddington Athletic had the best pies.  Edinburgh University had the best cakes.

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Some teams have a social media presence and are great at replying.  Others don’t seem to get that interaction is key.  Easthouses Lily Miners Welfare and Penicuik Athletic are two that bend over backwards to help.

Some clubs have started writing up the team names and numbers on a board inside the ground, such as Dunbar United, Whitehill Welfare and Kilwinning Rangers.  The biggest problem I have is trying to get team line-ups and it sometimes proves impossible.

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Programmes are good, although for some, it clearly just isn’t cost effective, but Musselburgh Athletic have the right idea, providing team sheets to all.  Edinburgh University include the programme with admission.

Season 2016-17 was the most games I’ve ever seen in a season.  It was hard going at times and keeping up with writing the games up soon afterwards often became undoable.  Having a job and a life gives little time to do them, particularly with the frequency I often go.

Thanks to all who have visited and welcome to anyone new coming across one of my write-ups.  I try to be objective in every game.  You might not agree with my take on things, but I call it as I see it.  I’m usually a neutral regardless of which end I am in.  It might be you that is biased.

Here’s to season 2017-18.

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Featured post

What’s it all about?

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You know that moment when in your team’s biggest game of the season, your lazy but occasionally talented star striker has an opportunity to make or break your entire season if he can just finish this chance?  I think everyone who watches football can relate to that.  (Maybe not the “talented” bit).  These pages will be reports on some of these games.  Who knows, it might be your team’s biggest game of the season.

This will be the home of my reports on the games I attend throughout the football seasons.  The vast majority will be in the Midlothian/Edinburgh area, but I am prone to going further afield than that. Particularly when it gets to the business end of the season.

Season 2015/6 saw me take in 106 matches, which included games in all top four divisions in Scotland, in the English Premier League, League One and League Two, Scottish Cup and League Cup, Play offs, Petrofac Cup, East Superleague, West Super League, Lowland League, Scottish Junior Cup, Scottish Women’s Premier League, Scottish Women’s Cup, East of Scotland Cup, Fife and Lothians Cup, East of Scotland League, East of Scotland League Cup, Anderson Cup, East Region South League, King Cup, Swan Cup and Friendlies and a Testimonial. So something for everyone.  Perhaps.

I will always attempt to call it as I see it, and will try to remain unbiased although this will be more challenging at some games more than others.

Although there can be no promises, I’ll be looking and listening out for the unusual and/or amusing.  Last season’s highlights included:

  • A delay of around 10 minutes at Fauldhouse United, when the match ball went out of the ground and there was no spare;
  • Kelty Hearts striker Callum Smith being frustrated with another ball which sailed over his head and remarking “That’s F*cking jobbies by the way”; and my personal favourite;
  • Hearts Ladies striker Ashley Carse responding to a family member on the touchline who had told her “You’ve got to put those away Ash” – “Right mum.  F*ck’s sake.”

Thanks for looking.

Featured post

Penicuik Athletic v Bonnyrigg Rose

Wednesday 16 May 2018, 19.00, Penicuik Park

Penicuik Athletic against Bonnyrigg Rose in the East of Scotland Cup Quarter Final.

A first sighting of Penicuik since their 1-1 home draw with Broxburn Athletic in February.

It had been a fine season for Penicuik and they had only lost once since that game in February.  Although they had been challenging for the title for much of the season, it looked likely that a third place finish was how they would end it.

There was still potential to make it a great season.  As well as being in the quarter final of the East of Scotland Cup, they were also in the semi-final of the Fife and Lothians Cup, where a trip to Newtongrange Star awaited them.

They made it to the quarter final with wins over Bathgate Thistle, Brechin Vics and Camelon Juniors.

Penicuik were without long term injury victim Lewis Barr.

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We’d last seen Rose when they visited Dundonald Bluebell in March, bringing a 3-0 victory back to Midlothian.

Five points from their last three league games would bring Rose the Superleague title before they depart for the East of Scotland League next season.  Only second placed Linlithgow Rose could catch them.

Bonnyrigg lost in the final last year and would be hoping to go one better this time around.  They reached the quarter final with wins over Dundee North End, Kennoway Star Hearts and Haddington Athletic.

With the league title still to be secured, Rose had first choice defenders Kerr Young and Ewan Moyes on the bench.

A good crowd of around 300 turned up to watch the Midlothian derby, including Broxburn Athletic manager Brian McNaughton, Selkirk manager Ian Fergus and former Rose manager, now in charge at Berwick Rangers, Robbie Horn.

Rose won a free kick in the opening minute and Currie’s ball into the box was met by Hoskins at the back post, but Alison looked to get something on it to deflect the ball as it went across goal and eluded McGachie and Turner before going behind.  The referee thought otherwise and awarded a goal kick.

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In the fifth minute, a Currie corner was headed over his own bar by Williams, under pressure from Hoskins.  Penicuik struggled to clear the corner from the other side before they were awarded a free kick for a challenge by Brett.

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A chip forward by Somerville in 8 minutes was into the path of Jones on the left as the home side came forward.  He struck for goal on the half volley, but it was a comfortable save for Young.

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Gray lobbed the ball into the Penicuik box in 16 minutes and McGachie raced into the box as Allison came out of goal.  The striker got there first, but didn’t make contact, and the ball bounced past them both.  Forbes did well to get back to hook the ball clear before it went into the net.

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A fine cross field ball by Currie in 22 minutes found Gray on the right for Rose and he showed good skill to get away from Williams on the by-line, but he couldn’t keep the ball in.

Gray broke through the tackle of Young in 26 minutes and took the ball forward before shooting just too high of the Penicuik goal.

McGachie was close to catching out the Penicuik defence in 27 minutes when Allison and Forbes exchanged passes, but he couldn’t quite get there.  Penicuik went straight up the park and Kateleza was almost through in the box, but a great tackle by Hoskins halted his progress.

With half an hour gone, Currie put a dangerous looking ball into the box from a Rose free kick, but nobody could get a touch.

The visiting supporters were angered when the referee overruled his assistant to award a throw-in to Penicuik in 34 minutes, but it looked from where I was that the ref was right.

Some nice passing by Penicuik in 39 minutes led to Somerville looking to curl a shot in from 23 yards, but it was too high.

Kateleza squeezed a pass through to Somerville in 40 minutes, but his shot was again too high.

Janczyk received the game’s first yellow card in 41 minutes for pulling back Penicuik’s Jones.

Still no score at the break with the visitors looking the more dangerous of the two sides.

Martynuik crossed into the Penicuik box in the first minute of the second half, but Nelson headed over.

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Penicuik attacked up the left in 47 minutes with Kateleza playing the ball inside to MacDonald, who played it into the path of Somerville on the right of the box, but Young saved his shot.

Hoskins played a ball from the right with the outside of his foot which found Gray running into the Penicuik box in 48 minutes, but he screwed his shot wide of the post.

Somerville picked up the ball on the right a minute later and his cross into the box came to the feet of Kateleza who hit the ball into the ground to bundle the ball past Young and into the net from six yards out to give Penicuik the lead.

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Rose were awarded a free kick in 52 minutes and Currie’s shot came off the wall before going behind.  The same player took the corner which came to Hoskins on the opposite side.  He took the ball into the box, but his shot was also deflected wide.

Currie found Martynuik on the left in 54 minutes as Rose attacked again.  He played the ball into the front post, but Hume was there to send it behind.

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Martynuik won the header from Currie’s corner, but couldn’t find the target.

Currie had a go at goal himself in 56 minutes after being set up by Gray, but Allison got down to save.

A minute later, Martynuik latched onto a loose ball on the edge of the Penicuik box, but he shot wide.

A ball down the left in 58 minutes found Kateleza.  He passed back to Ponton who squared it to Jones on the edge of the Rose box.  He struck for goal but was thwarted by a great save from Young.

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Martynuik became the second Rose player booked for catching Somerville late in 60 minutes.

A slip by Hoskins on the right touchline in 69 minutes gave Kateleza the ball for Penicuik and he played the ball across the edge of the box looking for Jones.  Stewart got there first but passed back firmly towards Young and his touch was a bit heavy, allowing Jones to poke the ball past him and into the net for Penicuik’s second.

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Rose looked to get back into it straight away and Brett’s deep cross from the right was won in the air by McGachie at the back post.  Allison parried, but the ball fell to Nelson, but he could only fire over the bar.

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Gray became the third Rose player cautioned after having a go at the referee in 72 minutes about the award of a throw-in.

The hosts broke forward in 73 minutes with MacDonald feeding Ponton on the edge of the box, but Brett got across to block.

Stewart was the next to go into the referee’s book, again for dissent, in 74 minutes.

Rose made their third substitution in 75 minutes and threw defender Moyes up front.

MacDonald played a one-two with Kateleza in 76 minutes and hit a good strike at goal from the edge of the Rose box, but Young got his fingertips to it to turn it around the post.

A Hoskins ball into the Penicuik area in 80 minutes found the feet of Gray, but he shot straight at Allison.

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Almost immediately after, a poor pass from Rose saw Sampson get a foot in for Penicuik and Kateleza played the ball forward.  Horne got a touch but couldn’t stop it reaching Jones and he chested the ball down before smashing a half volley into the corner past a static Young to make it three nil.

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Currie put a free kick into the Penicuik box in 84 minutes and it bobbled around in the box before Moyes took a touch and hit a low shot into the corner of the net to get a goal back.

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Penicuik’s Sinclair was shown a yellow card in 86 minutes just moments after he came on as substitute.

Rose won a free kick 20 yards out after McGachie went down with a scream following an aerial challenge in 87 minutes.  Hoskins stepped up but blasted high over the bar.

In injury time a Currie corner was headed on by Hoskins and Martynuik shot from the edge of the box, but his effort was too high.

A good win for Penicuik who would have been delighted to get through to the semi-final of both cup competitions.  Rose would be very disappointed and were masters of their own downfall with the goals they gave away.

The home defence all performed well, with Young the pick of the bunch and Jones had a fine game in midfield.  For Rose, Currie was involved in most good things they did, and Horne was good on the ball as usual.

Thanks as usual to those at Penicuik for their assistance with the team line-ups.

Full Time: Penicuik Athletic 3 Bonnyrigg Rose 1

Admission: £6

Penicuik Athletic: 1 Kyle Allison, 2 Andy Forbes, 4 Craig Hume, 5 Darrell Young, 3 John Williams, 7 John MacDonald, 8 Sam Jones (McCrory-Irving 88), 6 Callum Connolly, 11 Arran Ponton, 10 Lumbert Kateleza (Sinclair 85), 9 Aaron Somerville (Sampson 67). Subs: 18 Thomas Cordery, 12 Scott McCrory-Irving, 14 Gary Hamilton, 15 Andrew Sinclair, 16 Kyle Sampson.

Bonnyrigg Rose: 1 Bryan Young, 2 Dean Brett, 6 Alan Horne, 5 Dean Hoskins, 3 Neil Martynuik, 4 Neil Janczyk (Stewart 62), 10 Lee Currie, 8 Adam Nelson (Moyes 75), 11 Scott Gray, 7 Lewis Turner (Wilson 62), 9 Keiran McGachie. Subs: 25 Michael Andrews, 12 Kerr Young, 14 Jonathan Stewart, 15 Ewan Moyes, 16 Kyle Wilson.

Referee: Daniel Graves

Programme: £1.50

Follow me on Twitter @blowyfootball

Heart of Midlothian v Hibernian

Wednesday 9 May 2018, 19.45, Tynecastle Park

Hearts against in Hibs in the Edinburgh derby in the penultimate game of the Scottish Premiership for both sides.

We last saw Hearts on the first day of April when they drew at Dundee.

Hearts would finish in sixth place regardless of the outcome of the game.  Their motivation was very much bragging rights and to stop Hibs from achieving their goals.

John Souttar was missing through injury, but Kyle Lafferty made it after picking up an injury at the weekend, when Hearts lost their unbeaten home record since their return to Tynecastle to Celtic.  They made four changes to that team.

Left wing back Demetri Mitchell had returned on loan to Hearts after injury had seen him go back to parent club Manchester United.

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It was the first time we’d seen Hibs since they visited Tynecastle in January, when Hearts knocked them out of the Scottish Cup.

Hibs were still fighting for second spot.  They would have drawn level with third placed Rangers with a win, one point behind second placed Aberdeen.  With Hibs at home to Rangers and Aberdeen at champions Celtic on the final day, it looked a real possibility for them.

Since we’d seen them last, they signed goalkeeper Cammy Bell from Kilmarnock and coming in on loan, midfielder Scott Allan from Celtic and striker Florian Kamberi from Grasshoppers Zurich.

Hibs were on a thirteen game unbeaten run and made one change to the side which drew 0-0 at Aberdeen in their last game, with Brandon Barker coming in for Jamie MacLaren.  Dylan McGeouch had a fractured cheekbone and was on the bench.

19,324 turned up to watch.

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In 4 minutes, Allan put a ball into the Hearts box from a free kick which McGregor won in the air, but it was over the bar.

Hibs had a free kick in an almost identical spot in 7 minutes, and this time Allan played it short to McGinn, but he dragged his shot wide.

Hibs had started the better and Hearts were struggling to get any possession in their half.

Barker made a good run from his own half in 13 minutes and got to the edge of the Hearts box, but Smith was there to block his shot.

The same player got another sight of goal in 15 minutes, but his low drive was saved by McLaughlin.

Mitchell made a good challenge on McGinn in 16 minutes but caught the Hibs player on the follow through.  McGinn stayed down and Adao tried to haul him back to his feet, thinking he was feigning injury.  Adao was a bit fortunate not to receive a booking.

Hearts went straight up the park and when the move broke down, Lafferty caught Stevenson late as he cleared the ball.  There was a lot of pushing and shoving involving several players from both sides before Lafferty was shown the yellow card.

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In 24 minutes, Lafferty turned away from Hanlon and passed to Milinkovic inside the Hibs box.  He passed first time to Naismith who took a touch before going down under the challenge of Ambrose.  The home fans screamed for a penalty, but the referee waved play on as the ball ran through to Marciano.  It looked like Naismith may have been tripped.

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The Hearts fans were still complaining about the decision as Milinkovic passed to the feet of Naismith just outside the Hibs box in 26 minutes.  He quickly played a pass to the right of the box looking for Lafferty, but Stevenson was in front of him.  The Hibs defender looked like he didn’t know Lafferty was there as he took a touch and the striker nicked the ball off him and quickly poked the ball into the far corner to give the hosts the lead.

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A maroon smoke bomb landed on the pitch before the game could restart.

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Smith crossed in the Hibs box from the right in 33 minutes and Berra won the header, but it looped straight to Marciano.

A second late tackle by Hibs’ Whittaker in 34 minutes saw the Hearts fans wondering why he wasn’t booked.

Cochrane charged forward from the half way line in 36 minutes and was tackled by Hanlon 22 yards out.  With McGinn joining his Hibs team mate to get the ball, Cochrane somehow emerged with it again and shot from the edge of the box, but it was straight at Marciano.

Hibs came down the left in 37 minutes and Allan was brought down by Adao.  The referee played advantage as Barker took possession and he cut inside before unleashing an effort at goal from 20 yards which McLaughlin palmed clear.

The home side put together a fine move in 38 minutes which ended with Milinkovic playing the ball to Cochrane on the edge of the box.  He went past Ambrose on his way into the box, but McGregor threw himself at the ball to deflect the shot wide.

A minute later and Boyle took the ball down the right for Hibs and as he looked to sprint between two defenders, he pulled up with what looked to be a hamstring injury.  He was replaced by McGeouch, complete with a face mask to protect his damaged cheekbone.

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Before the substitute arrived, Cochrane played the ball to Smith on the right and his ball into the Hibs box was just too far in front of Lafferty.

Allan moved out to the right to accommodate the substitute.

McGeouch was involved immediately when he robbed Mitchell and passed to Allan.  He struck for goal from the corner of the box, but McLaughlin was down quickly to stop his shot.

Allan had another go at goal in 44 minutes, but he was off balance and his shot from 23 yards was off target.

A poor pass by Adao just before the 45 minutes was up gave possession to Barker who ran into the Hearts box on the right, but he dragged a poor shot across goal, although it did get a nick to win his side a corner which came to nothing.

Hearts a goal up at the break and although Hibs had started well, Hearts had come on strongly and created the better chances in a feisty first half.

With two minutes of the second half gone, Stevenson won the ball from Smith on half way and charged down the left.  He played the ball to the feet of Barker, but he didn’t control it well, and Adao toed the ball away.  The ball came back to Stevenson and he went down under Adao’s challenge and the referee pointed to the spot.  Kamberi sent McLaughlin the wrong way to draw Hibs level.

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A green smoke bomb appeared on the pitch this time.

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Whittaker was shown the yellow card in 53 minutes for a foul on Hearts’ Mitchell.  Adao was lucky to escape a similar fate for bringing down McGinn after the referee had blown for a free kick.

Lafferty was clipped by Hanlon as he chased a ball down the right in 57 minutes.  Cochrane curled the ball into the near post where Naismith got in front of Stevenson to steer the ball into the far corner with his head to put Hearts back in front.

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In 58 minutes Hibs were back on the attack and Allan squared the ball to Barker, but his shot from the edge of the ‘D’ was blocked well by Berra.

Mitchell looked to pull back Kamberi on the half way line in 60 minutes as the Hibs striker chased a long ball forward, but nothing was given.

Hearts forced four corners in quick succession in the next couple of minutes and the last one came to Cochrane on the edge of the box, but he was high and wide with his effort.

Barker went down the left for Hibs in 67 minutes, but his cross into the middle was cleared by Hughes.

McLaughlin came out of his goal to take a Hearts free kick near half way in 69 minutes and Naismith flicked the ball on at the edge of the box and Lafferty nipped in, but the flag went up and he landed on his shoulder when coming together with Marciano.  He had to go off for treatment but returned soon after.

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MacLaren went down on the edge of the Hearts box in 75 minutes claiming he was tripped by Smith and Hibs manager Neil Lennon went racing off down the touchline, but the flag was up for offside.

With 76 minutes gone, Cowie, who had just come on for Hearts, got the ball full in the face from very close range and required treatment before continuing.

Another sub who had just come on, Hibs’ Slivka, raced into the Hearts half in 78 minutes and played the ball to Barker.  He was forced wide by Smith and slid to get a shot in, but it went over the bar.

Hibs’ McGregor was cautioned in 79 minutes after jumping into the back of Milinkovic with his knee up.

McGeouch was brought down by Adao 20 yards from goal in 83 minutes.  The Hearts midfielder must have really been on his last warning now.  McGinn’s ball into the box was headed clear by Berra.

A McGinn corner in 87 minutes was headed down by McGregor and MacLaren turned and shot but didn’t catch it well and McLaughlin dived on the ball.

The board went up to say that there would be 6 minutes of injury time.

In the fifth minute of injury time, Barker got the ball on the right of the Hearts box and squared it for McGregor, who completely missed his kick.  The ball came to Kamberi who hit the ball over.

Hibs couldn’t fashion another chance and Hearts had the win.

The visitors went more attacking as the game went on but struggled to create chances.  Hearts started slowly but just about deserved their win in the end.

Berra and Cochrane were best for Hearts with Ambrose and Barker Hibs’ top players on the night.

Full Time: Hearts 2 Hibs 1

Admission: £28

Heart of Midlothian: 1 Jon McLaughlin, 2 Michael Smith, 5 Aaron Hughes, 6 Christophe Berra, 24 Demetri Mitchell, 7 Danny Amankwaa (Cowie 69), 66 Joaquim Adao, 47 Harry Cochrane (Callachan 84), 11 David Milinkovic (McDonald 90), 14 Steven Naismith, Kyle Lafferty. Subs: 13 Jack Hamilton, 15 Don Cowie, 20 Ross Callachan, 33 Lewis Moore, 43 Euan Henderson, 46 Anthony McDonald, 48 Chris Hamilton.

Hibernian: 1 Ofir Marciano, 25 Efe Ambrose, 24 Darren McGregor, 4 Paul Hanlon (MacLaren 68), 17 Martin Boyle (McGeouch 41), 3 Steven Whittaker, 23 Scott Allan (Slivka 78), 7 John McGinn, 16 Lewis Stevenson, 20 Brandon Barker, 22 Florian Kamberi.  Subs: 31 Cammy Bell, 6 Marvin Bartley, 8 Vykintas Slivka, 10 Dylan McGeouch, 11 Danny Swanson, 19 Jamie MacLaren, 32 Oli Shaw.

Referee: Craig Thomson

Programme: £3.50

Selkirk v Edinburgh University

Tuesday 8 May 2018, 19.30, Yarrow Park

Selkirk against Edinburgh University in the Lowland League.

The last game of the league season for both and the final game in the Lowland League for season 2017/18.

We last saw Selkirk, coincidentally, when they visited Edinburgh University in October.  They headed back to the Borders with three points after a 2-1 win.

After last season’s second bottom finish, it’s been a much better season for Selkirk and regardless of the result in their final game, they would finish in fifth. They also still had the small matter of the Lowland League Cup Final against Cumbernauld Colts to look forward to.

It would be Selkirk’s fourth game in ten days and with the cup final 5 days later, we were aware that they might not be at their best.  Their last game had been in the cup semi, where they recorded an impressive 3-0 victory over BSC Glasgow.

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The game in October was also the last time we’d seen Edinburgh Uni.

Uni had the opposite problem to Selkirk.  They hadn’t played since 21 April when Edusport Academy knocked them out of the Lowland League Cup on penalties.  The students might be a bit rusty.

They sat in eleventh spot, but a point would take them up a place.

So ultimately a tired team with a cup final to look forward to against a side who hadn’t played for two and a half weeks.  With nothing of any real consequence to play for, the smart money would have been on a goalless draw.

Around 60 turned up to watch.

In the opening minute, Selkirk’s Donaldson did a clever flick to beat an opponent, but the move broke down.  He showed commendable modesty by saying to no-one in particular “that wasnae bad by the way.”

Calbacho found some space on the left of the Selkirk box in 2 minutes and fired the ball across the face of the goal where Boyle was there to volley the ball into the net from close range to give Uni an early lead.

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Uni came forward again in 6 minutes and the ball came to Kuivalainen on the edge of the box.  He struck a low shot at goal which took a slight nick and flew into the net to double the students’ lead.

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In 11 minutes, Sclater’s free kick into the Uni box was headed on by Healy and Addison won the next header, but there wasn’t enough power in it to trouble Tait.

Kuivalainen picked up a loose ball in 18 minutes and had a go at the Selkirk goal from 22 yards but screwed it wide.

Selkirk escaped a hand ball claim on the edge of their box in 22 minutes.  Donaldson had certainly moved his arm towards the ball when it hit it.

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Baxter lined up a free kick in 23 minutes and he struck it well from 22 yards, but it was wide of the Uni goal.

A cross into the Selkirk box by Murray in 25 minutes had the home defence in trouble again, but the offside flag saved them.

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Murray passed to the feet of Maskrey in 27 minutes and he turned Fleming inside out before taking the ball into the Selkirk box and firing into the far corner.  Uni three nil up and it looked like the game was over within half an hour.

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In 34 minutes, Healy flicked the ball to Davidson on the left as Selkirk came forward and when he crossed into the middle Healy was there to send a clever header into the net to give the hosts a lifeline.

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Two minutes later Healy received the ball in the Uni box and played it back to Addison.  He shot for goal, but it was blocked behind.  Baxter took the corner and found the head of Donaldson who rose unchallenged to bullet past Tait to put Selkirk just one behind.

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Selkirk really had their tails up now and Donaldson got to the by-line in 37 minutes and fired across the face of goal.  Tait couldn’t reach it, but a defender managed to boot clear.

Next, King had a go after being set up by Healy, but it was wide of the Selkirk goal.

Back up the other end Murray crossed into the Selkirk box in 39 minutes and it was met by Maskrey, but he missed the target.

Sclater put Selkirk back on the attack in 40 minutes when he passed to Addison on the right.  He cut inside and shot for goal, but Tait saved.

Healy created some space for himself in 43 minutes and hit a half volley towards the Uni goal, but it was too close to Tait.

A minute before the interval Baxter received the ball on the left and crossed into the Uni box where Healy headed downwards from close range and into the net to tie the score at 3-3.

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An incredible first half where the visitors looked to have the game sewn up only for Selkirk to come roaring back to draw level.

Both sides had changed formation during the half, with Selkirk starting off 4-3-3 and reverting to 4-4-2 as they chased the game.  Uni had begun with a 4-4-2, but changed to 3-5-2 as Selkirk came back, with the full backs pushed forward.

There was a delay to the start of the second half as one of the nets needed some additional pegs to hold it down.  I happened upon Selkirk boss Ian Fergus as we waited.  He stated that four games in ten days was too many and the way it was going it could end up 6-6.  I pointed out that it was great entertainment and had been some comeback.  He considered that it was a manager’s nightmare and he really hadn’t seen the comeback coming.

Selkirk made two substitutions before the half begun.

The home side had a number of corners in the opening minutes of the second half and Tait made good saves from Chalmers and Addison.

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Uni’s Calbacho required treatment in 50 minutes and had to be replaced.

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Another Selkirk corner in 53 minutes was sent over by Baxter and Healy headed back across goal, where Chalmers flicked it on to Fergus, but he volleyed over.

Skjaeveland brought the ball forward for Uni in 56 minutes and passed to Conington on the wing.  His cross took a deflection and came to Boyle who chested it down, but his volley was off target.

Good work by Boyle in 59 minutes saw him play the ball through for Kuivalainen on the left of the Selkirk box.  He rifled at goal, but it was just wide.

It was interesting to see that both sides had reverted to their original formations, although Selkirk continued to tinker, with Fergus moving to right back and Sclater to left.

Sclater found the feet of Hopkinson on the left of the Uni box in 69 minutes.  He reached the by-line and as he played the ball across goal he was caught by Murray.  Penalty.  Healy sent Tait the wrong way to put Selkirk in front for the first time and to complete his hat-trick.

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Healy passed to Davidson on the right for the hosts in 71 minutes and he crossed to the back post where Healy won the ball in the air but couldn’t get it past Tait.

With 73 minutes gone, McKirdy hammered at the Uni goal from just outside the box and Tait made a great save to turn the ball around the post.  Baxter’s corner was headed down by Healy, but it wouldn’t come down for McKirdy who could only shoot over the bar.

Fergus caught Uni’s Maskrey late in 75 minutes and the referee booked him after the move broke down.

Although there are now floodlights at Yarrow Park, they don’t seem to be in operation yet, as we were starting to need to their assistance.

Sutherland found Condie on the left for Uni in 82 minutes.  His ball into the area was headed at goal by Kuivalainen but it was too high.

A fine run into the Selkirk box by Maskrey in 83 minutes saw him go past two defenders, but he tried to beat one too many and the defence cleared.

Healy chased a through ball in 86 minutes and went down under the challenge of Sutherland on the edge of the box.  The defender was booked.  Sclater took the free kick and got it over the wall, but saw his effort come back off the post with Tait beaten.

A high ball forward by Selkirk was taken down well by Healy in 89 minutes and he put Davidson through on goal.  Tait managed to block his shot.

In injury time a cross was floated to the back post by Uni for Maskrey, but on the stretch, he couldn’t make good contact and the chance was gone.

Some great entertainment and seven goals saw Selkirk come back from the dead to take the three points.  A fine advert for the Lowland League for anyone watching.

Selkirk would be disappointed to lose three goals but must have been pleased with their powers of resilience to come back to win.  Uni must be wondering how they managed to lose a game they had won in half an hour.

Baxter, Sclater and Healy were best for Selkirk while Murray, Maskrey and Skjaeveland played well for Uni.

Full Time: Selkirk 4 Edinburgh University 3

Admission: £6

Selkirk: 1 Gregor Amos, 2 Ryan Sclater, 10 Ciaren Chalmers, 4 Andrew Fleming, 3 Reece Donaldson (Fergus 46), 8 Josh Davidson, 19 Ross King, 6 Lewis Turkington (McKirdy 46), 13 Phil Addison (Hopkinson 62), 9 Daryl Healy, 16 Dale Baxter.  Subs: 11 Jordan Hopkinson, 12 Cameron Fair, 15 Declan Fergus, 17 Sean McKirdy, 18 Jamie Chambers.

Edinburgh University: 1 Mark Tait, 2 Luke Murray, 5 Greg Swan, 4 Paul Sutherland, 3 Max Condie, 7 David Maskrey, 8 Embrik Skjaeveland, 10 Santeri Kuivalainen, 6 Finn Daniels-Yeoman, 11 Rafa Calbacho (Conington 52), 9 Joe Boyle.  Subs: 21 Calum Davidson, 14 James Conington.

Referee: Iain Snedden

Programme: £1.50

Forth Wanderers v St Roch’s

Monday 7 May 2018, 19.00, Kingshill Park

Forth Wanderers against St Roch’s in the West Central District Division One.

A return to Kingshill Park after our visit in July for their pre-season friendly with Indian side Real Kashmir.

 It had been a difficult season for Forth, with the weather playing a big part.  After lots of postponements, they had played a lot of games in a short space of time and results had suffered.  They were in danger of dropping back into the Second Division.

 Four wins in their last five games, including ending Neilston’s promotion bid in their last game, have given them a chance of getting out of danger, but there was still a lot of hard work to do.  They sat in third bottom, the final relegation place, with the two below (Thorniewood and Lesmahagow) looking doomed.  At least nine clubs could still fill that bottom spot and Forth had games in hand on most of them.

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 As far as I can remember, it was the first time I had seen St Roch’s.

St Roch’s Football Club was founded in 1920 in the Royston district of Glasgow after a meeting called by the local priest, Father Lanton, in St Roch’s Primary School.  They play their home games at James McGrory Park, formerly Provanmill Park, which was renamed in 2013 in honour of their most famous player Jimmy McGrory (1904-1982).  McGrory began playing for St Roch’s aged 16 in the 1921/22 season.  In that first year, and before he was snapped up by Celtic, he helped St Roch’s win the Scottish Junior Football League and the Scottish Junior Cup (scoring the team’s first goal in a 2-1 victory over Kilwinning Rangers).  McGrory went on to play for Celtic on 378 occasions, scoring 395 goals – he also turned down an offer to sign for Arsenal during this time.  He was capped for Scotland 7 times, scoring 6 goals and went on to manage both Kilmarnock and Celtic.

 Nicknamed the “Candy”, St Roch’s won the Glasgow League in 1924/25 and 1925/26 seasons.  They were Central League champions in 1943/44.  In the early 70s, they won back to back promotions from the Central League C and B Divisions.  They won Central Division One in 1983/84, before slipping back into Division Two, where they won promotion again in 1994/95.

 In 2002, following league restructuring, St Roch’s were placed in the West of Scotland League Central District Second Division where they won promotion to the First Division as runners up in that league in 2006/07.  In the last ten years, the club have had a number of spells in both the First and Second Divisions and in 2016/17 finished 3rd in the First Division. 

This season has been a good one.  They were in a battle for the league title with Rossvale and Benburn and they would have two games left after this one.  Wishaw had lots of games in hand, but a very busy schedule would mean they were unlikely to catch the teams at the top.

 Rossvale led the way on 58 points after 26 games, Benburn were second on 55 points after 26 games and St Roch’s had 53 points after 25.  With just the top two going up, none of the teams could afford to drop any more points in the 28 games league season.

A big and noisy St Roch’s contingent came through to boost the crowd to around 100.

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With three minutes gone, Darren Maguire played a through ball for Logan, who looked offside, but Dunlop got back for Forth to turn the ball behind.

Logan had a chance in the Forth box in 10 minutes, but Corbett got a challenge in.  The ball came back to Logan, but Cherrie was there to save his shot.

A pattern seemed to be emerging when Logan was again the recipient of a through ball in 12 minutes.  He cut inside a defender but saw his shot pushed away by Cherrie.

Hanlon took a St Roch’s corner in 18 minutes and Robert Maguire challenged for the ball at the front post with Forth’s Dunlop.  The visitors weren’t happy with the decision and Glackin was booked for taking his protests too far.

A Forth throw-in was delayed by the referee in 21 minutes as he waited for a player to tie his laces.  Never seen that before.

A snap shot on the half volley by Forth’s Kane in 22 minutes was well taken by Stark, with the ball bouncing right in front of him.

St Roch’s won a free kick about 25 yards out in 24 minutes after a dubious looking decision was given against Kane.  Daw struck for goal and it took a deflection off the wall, wrong footing keeper Cherrie, and flew into the corner to give St Roch’s the lead.

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Forth’s McArdle was booked in 27 minutes for going through the back of Glackin.

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Grenfell made a good run into the St Roch’s half in 28 minutes before laying the ball off to McGeechan.  He passed wide to Connelly, but his cross into the box was overhit.

Darren Maguire’s cross into the Forth box in 29 minutes was punched clear by Cherrie and he also fisted away the follow up shot.

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With 31 minutes gone, Darren Maguire tried to catch Cherrie out of his goal, but his effort drifted wide.

Forth’s McGeechan required treatment for a head knock in 33 minutes but was ok to continue.

The referee sent a member of the Forth coaching staff off seconds later for something he said.

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Darren Maguire featured again in 35 minutes, when his shot from the edge of the box was tipped around the post by Cherrie.

Tierney went into the referee’s book in 37 minutes for bringing down McArdle.

A ball through the Forth defence in 38 minutes put McManus one-on-one with Cherrie.  He took the ball around the keeper and rolled the ball into the net to make it two.

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Forth’s Tippen was the next to be cautioned when he brought down McManus in 42 minutes.

Glackin put a free kick into the Forth box in 43 minutes which fell to the feet of Robert Maguire.  He struck for goal, but the ball hit Dickson and went straight into Cherrie’s arms.

As the first half reached its allotted 45 minutes, McGeechan put a free kick into the visitors’ box which was flicked on by Tippen and McArdle ran in at the back post but somehow headed wide when he looked certain to score.

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In injury time a clearance from St Roch’s was headed on and Logan ran on to it.  Although we were standing in line and he was clearly offside, there were no official linesmen and he was allowed to continue.  He got to the by-line, but Cherrie caught the cross.

St Roch’s two goals in front at the break and they deserved their lead.  Although the first goal had a large element of good fortune, Forth had offered little, other than the header just before the interval.

The opening minute of the second half saw a bit of a fumble by Cherrie in the Forth goal, but he was able to recover to reclaim the ball.

McArdle had a go from 22 yards in 47 minutes, but his shot was wide of the St Roch’s goal.

As most will know, many Junior games do not have official linesmen and each club provides someone to run the line.  While they don’t play a big part (mainly flagging when the ball is out of play) it has become tradition when officials running the line aren’t there.  This makes a referee’s job very difficult as he is unlikely to be anywhere near where the decision could be accurately made.

The purpose of the paragraph above is to help with what happened in 48 minutes.  A long ball forward by Forth went over the visiting defenders and Larkin raced after it.  The linesman on our side began shouting at the referee “he’s off you!”  I’m guessing he was the one provided by St Roch’s.

Daw broke down the left for St Roch’s in 49 minutes and played the ball into the middle where Logan was unlucky to smash the ball off the bar.

Up the other end, Dunlop’s ball into the area came to Larkin who turned well, but his shot lacked power and Stark saved.

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St Roch’s were back on the attack in 51 minutes with Darren Maguire through on the left of the box, but Cherrie was able to push his shot wide.

Maguire then passed to Logan on the left-hand side of the box in 54 minutes, but his shot went wide of the far post.

Brown had a go at goal from a 23 yard free kick in 56 minutes, but it came off the St Roch’s wall.  Brown claimed it had hit a hand, but the referee didn’t agree.

A mix up between Cherrie and Brown in 58 minutes allowed Logan to nip in for St Roch’s.  Cherrie managed to save his shot and Darren Maguire couldn’t quite get to the rebound.  The ball was played back in to Logan, but he could only hit the side netting.

McGeechan picked out Connelly at the back post in the St Roch’s box in 60 minutes, but Dickson got a cross to block his shot.

Cherrie came out of his goal in 62 minutes and his attempted clearance was straight to the feet of St Roch’s Martin.  He shot for goal from just inside the Forth half but was just off target.

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In 66 minutes, Martin played the ball forward looking for Logan.  He got the better of Tippen and was through on goal.  Cherrie saved his shot, but the ball came back to him and with an open goal, he somehow managed to put the ball over the bar.

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St Roch’s keeper Stark was taking a long time to take a goal kick in 67 minutes and there was a shout, which seemed to come from the Forth bench, of “come on!  I’ve got work tomorrow.”

Forth had their best period of the game in the next few minutes, but solid defending and poor final balls didn’t let them create anything of note.

Glackin passed through to Maguire on the left-hand side of the Forth box in 75 minutes, but he shot wide.

A minute later, Martin chased a pass into the Forth box and got the break of the ball off Cherrie, but he couldn’t keep the ball in play.

Daws played the ball to McManus 81 minutes and he held the ball up on the right-hand side of the box before squaring it for Logan.  He knocked the ball past Cherrie to wrap up the points for the visitors.

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Some nice build up play by Forth in 86 minutes ended with Grenfell drilling wide from the edge of the box.

With time running out, someone in the crowd pleaded with the referee to blow for full time as “the midges are killing us.”

A convincing win for the visitors in their quest for promotion, much to the delight of their travelling support.  It could and should have been more but for some poor finishing in front of goal.  Forth fought hard but created very little and their scrap for points continues.

A difficult night for Forth, but Dunlop, McArdle and Cherrie all showed good moments.  St Roch’s defence was solid, with Tierney the pick of them, closely followed by Dickson.  Daw looked decent in midfield.

Thanks to Forth Wanderers Facebook for help with their team

Full Time: Forth Wanderers 0 St Roch’s 3

Admission: £5

Forth Wanderers: 1 David Cherrie, 2 Corbett (McKeown 61), 2 Jason Corbett, 4 Kieran Brown, 5 Willie Tippen, 3 Christopher Dunlop, 11 Ryan Connelly, 7 Connor McArdle, 6 Warren Grenfell, 8 Stephen Kane (Byrne 66), 10 Barry McGeechan, 9 Stephen Larkin.  Subs: 12 Peter Byrne, 16 Christopher McKeown.

St Roch’s: 1 John Paul Stark, 15 Paul Tierney, 29 Ross Dickson, 5 Stephen Bryson, 18 Tam Hanlon, 6 Robert Maguire (Martin 46), 8 Kieran Daw, 23 Reece Glackin, 14 Darren Maguire (Naismith 83), 92 Jordan Logan (McCluskey 85), 19 Ryan McManus.  Subs: Robert Halliday, 88 Thomas McCluskey, 7 Darryl Naismith, 10 Kieran Martin, Christopher Treacy.

Referee: Ross Nelson

Programme: None.

Follow me on Twitter @blowyfootball

Queens Park v Stenhousemuir

Saturday 5 May 2018, 15.00, Hampden Park

The League One Play-off Semi Final second leg between Queens Park and Stenhousemuir.

All to play for in the second leg after the sides drew 1-1 when we visited Ochilview on the Tuesday before.

Cummins sending off in the first leg meant that he missed out for Queens Park with Gerry McLauchlan starting in his place.

Stenhousemuir made one change to their starting line-up, with Alan Cook coming in for the injured Colin McMenamin.  Innes Murray took Cook’s place on the bench.  Jamie Gullan came in for David Galt who dropped to the bench.  Anton Brady was scheduled to start but was inured in the warm up and replaced by Conor McVey.

Queens Park play their home games at the National stadium.  While they have played at Hampden Park since 1873, the current home is the third site on which the ground has stood, which opened in 1903 and was the biggest stadium in the world at that time.  The ground capacity peaked at over 188,000 in 1937.

Renovation began in 1981 which was eventually completed in 1999, giving the stadium a capacity of just under 52,000.  Queen’s Park retained ownership of the ground, with the Scottish Football Association holding a lease due to run until 2020.

A crowd of 948 had plenty of room to move around.

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In the opening minute, Stenny’s McGuigan went down in the box but nothing was given.  The referee stopped play as the striker lay injured.

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Cook ran down the left for Stenny in 3 minutes onto a pass from Donaldson and crossed into the middle where Scott threw himself at the ball, but challenged by two defenders, his header went wide.

The young lads who had been behind the goal at Ochilview in the first leg were down the front, this time with a drum and were singing “we’re gonna pump yiz.”

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The visitors had very much started on the front foot.

QP first showed their intent in 7 minutes, when Millen crossed into the box, but McVey got his header all wrong.

A great turn by Keena on the left in 10 minutes got him past a Stenny defender and he hit a shot from well out which came back off the bar with Smith beaten.  Donaldson headed the rebound behind.  Millen swung the corner into the Stenny box in 11 minutes and the ball bobbled around before Donnelly struck for goal, but Meechan managed to clear the ball off the line.

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Paton played the ball into the path of Donaldson just outside the QP box on the left in 17 minutes and his ball into the box saw McGuigan jump with defender Gibson.  The ball seemed to come off the shoulder of McGuigan and looped over White and into the net to give Stenny the lead.

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The scorer raced across to the Stenny fans and almost fell as he slipped on the tarmac.

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The early chances for both sides fell away as it became a war of attrition in the middle of the park for a lengthy period, with neither side able to create anything.

Donnelly played the ball wide to Burns in 31 minutes and he went for goal, but it didn’t look close to finding the net.

QP broke forward in 33 minutes, but they were a bit over-elaborate and Gullan’s shot was a comfortable save for Smith.

They produced some nice football in 36 minutes to set up a chance for Donnelly on the edge of the box, but it was blocked.

McVey became the first player booked in 38 minutes for a late tackle on Stenny’s Paton.  The free kick was headed away to the edge of the box where Paton tried a volley, but it was wide of the target.

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Donaldson was penalised for a foul on QP’s Leitch a couple of yards from the by-line on the right in 40 minutes.  Millen crossed to the front post where a diving McLauchlan headed into the net for the equaliser.  Smith had got a hand to it but couldn’t keep it out.

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The sides level again at the break and it was hard to tell who would prevail.

The first minute of the second half saw Burns run down the left for the home side and his cross was deflected towards Leitch, but Smith was quickly out of his goal to smother.

Paton made a good run forward in 50 minutes and clipped the ball into the box but Burns headed away.  It was put back into the area and Scott hooked the ball at goal over his shoulder, but there was no power and it was easy for White.

Leitch passed to the feet of Donnelly in the Stenny box in 56 minutes and he played the ball back to Keena.  He broke through a tackle before showing good feet to create space, but his shot was over the bar.

Good build up play by QP in 59 minutes won them a corner, but it came to nothing.

Paton was booked in 61 minutes for what the referee perceived to be a late tackle, but the Stenny midfielder looked to get the ball form where I sat.

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Stenny’s Ross Dunlop and QP’s McVey came together in 68 minutes which resulted in a free kick to the home side.

Donnelly passed to Galt on the left in 71 minutes and he fired the ball across goal but there were no takers for QP.

In 72 minutes, a clearance from QP’s McLauchlan smashed straight into the face of Millen from point blank range.  He looked as if he was out cold and was tended to for several minutes before leaving the field on a stretcher.  Docherty came on to replace him and Galt filled in at right back.

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Things got worse for the hosts in 79 minutes when McVey went down injured and also had to be replaced.

Paton nicked the ball away from Docherty in his own half in 82 minutes and raced forward.  He went past a defender and continued his run before sliding the ball through for McGuigan.  White came out of his goal, but the striker knocked the ball past him and it rolled into the net to put Stenny back in front.

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A bad tackle by Stenny’s Cook on Leitch in 84 minutes produced a yellow card.

There would be lengthy injury time after the delay for the injury to Millen.

In 92 minutes, Docherty played the ball to Donnelly but his cross from the left was taken by Smith.

A cross into the Stenny box in the 95th minute was headed by Keena, but it was too high.

The only further action was when a ball boy accidently managed to do a full somersault when trying to retrieve the ball.

Stenhousemuir were through to the play-off final and would face Peterhead to determine who would be promoted to League One.  Queens Park would drop into League Two.

It was a hard fought game that was in the balance throughout, with the key period being the ten minutes which saw QP lose two players to injury and the deciding goal.

McLauchlan and Leitch were Queens Park’s best performers while Fotheringham played well for Stenny and Paton was excellent.

Full Time: Queens Park 1 Stenhousemuir 2 (Stenhousemuir win 3-2 on aggregate).

Admission: £14

Queens Park: 1 Michael White, 2 Ross Millen (Docherty 76), 5 Gerry McLauchlan, 6 Scott Gibson, 3 Sean Burns, 7 Robbie Leitch, 4 Gregor Fotheringham, 18 Conor McVey (Mortimer 80), 11 Jamie Gullan (Galt 62), 10 Luke Donnelly, 9 Aiden Keena. Subs: 12 Thomas Orr, 14 Dominic Docherty, 15 Daniel Nimmo, 16 David Galt, 17 William Mortimer, 20 Ewan MacPherson.

Stenhousemuir: 1 Chris Smith, 2 Ross Meechan, 4 Ross.Dunlop, 3 Michael.Dunlop, 5 Ruaridh Donaldson, 11 Eddie Ferns (Murray 62), 6 Mark Ferry, 8 Harry Paton, 10 Martin Scott (Longworth 95), 7 Mark McGuigan (Dallas 90), 9 Alan Cook. Subs: 17 Lewis McMinn, 12 David Marsh, 14 Murray, 15 Thomas Halleran, 16 Andrew Dallas, 18 Jamie Longworth.

Referee: Euan Anderson

Programme: None (online version).  Team sheet 10p.

Partick Thistle v Ross County

Friday 4 May 2018, 19.45, Firhill

Partick Thistle against Ross County in the Scottish Premiership.

A vital game at the foot of the Premiership with bottom club County visiting second bottom Thistle.

With three games left, County had 27 points and Thistle 29.  The teams immediately above were Dundee and Hamilton Accies, who both had 33 points.  With last place relegated and second last in the play-offs, both would have been looking for the three points.

We last saw Thistle when they visited Tynecastle in November as they grabbed a late equaliser to draw with Hearts.  Wins have been few and far between, but their last two games saw them win 2-1 at home to Hamilton Accies and draw away to St Johnstone.

The January transfer window saw them add defender Bailey Cargill on loan from Bournemouth.

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It had been some time since we had seen Ross County.

They were formed in 1929 after the amalgamation of two sides from the North Caledonian League, Dingwall Victoria United and Dingwall Thistle and gained admission to the Highland League.

In that first season, they lifted the North of Scotland Cup, but had to wait until 1967 before winning the Highland League for the first time.  Although they picked up a cup here and there, it took until 1991 until they won the league again, a feat they repeated the following season.

The club applied for admission to the Scottish Football League for season 1994/95 and were successful in their application.  They steadily made progress and in 1999, won the title in the bottom tier.  They were promoted again the following season.

They dropped back to the third tier in 2007 in the same season they won the Challenge Cup but were promoted again the season after.

They reached the Challenge Cup final again in 2008, but lost that one, before winning it again in 2011.  Season 2010-11 was an amazing one for the men from Dingwall.  As well as that cup win, they reached the Scottish Cup Final, beating Hibs and Celtic on the way, but lost out to Dundee United.

County were promoted to the top league at the end of the 2011-12 season and in 2016, won their first major trophy, beating Hibs in the League Cup Final.

After a poor start to this season, manager Jim McIntyre was sacked in September.  Owen Coyle replaced him but couldn’t turn the tide and he was relieved of his duties on the first day of March.  Co-managers Stuart Kettlewell and Steven Ferguson took over.

April was a good month for County, with a 4-0 home win against Thistle and draws with Hibs and Motherwell, before a disappointing defeat at Hamilton in their last game.

At the start of this his season they signed left back Sean Kelly from Wimbledon, midfielders Jim O’Brien from Shrewsbury Town and Ross Draper from Inverness Caledonian Thistle and forward Billy McKay from Wigan Athletic.

January saw County add defender Liam Fontaine from Hibs and unattached striker David N’Gog; and on loan – midfielders Greg Tansey from Aberdeen and Mattias Kait from Fulham, left back Max Melbourne from West Brom, and defender Harry Souttar from Stoke City.

With the game being shown on TV, it was a Friday night match and the chance for both sides to gain some ground on the teams above them.

It had been a while since we had ventured to Firhill, which due to sponsorship, was now known as the ‘Energy Check Arena at Firhill’.  I’m not convinced that the Energy Check Arena for thrills has the same ring to it.

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The man selling raffle tickets outside the ground advised potential buyers that they were ‘disappearing faster than Graeme Murty.’

It was the first time I had seen Partick mascot ‘Kingsley’ in the flesh and it didn’t dissuade me from thinking that it must be terrifying for children.

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A crowd of 4,312 turned up to watch.

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The opening minutes were predominantly spent in the County half, but Thistle were unable to create anything.

In the fifth minute, Naismith burst down the right touchline for County and pulled the ball into the box where it found the feet of McKay.  He attempted to backheel it into the path of Schalk, but it was read by McGinn.

Thistle quickly won the ball back and Erskine sent a through ball looking for Sammon, but he pushed Fraser to get himself in on goal.

In 8 minutes, Edwards swung a cross into the County box and Sammon got his head to the ball in front of Naismith, but he couldn’t direct it on target.

Woods took a free kick in 10 minutes from a central position and sent it into the County box.  Cargill went down under the challenge of Souttar, but the referee wasn’t interested.

Thistle came forward again in 17 minutes with Sammon playing a one two with Doolan and scampering down the left.  His ball across was looking for Erskine, but Draper got a foot to it and sent it back to keeper Fox.

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It was interesting to hear the bloke behind referring to at least seven Thistle players as ‘big man’, while Edwards was known as ‘wee man.’

A poor ball by Woods gave County a throw, deep in Thistle territory in 19 minutes.  The home defence struggled to get the ball clear after it was thrown into the box and eventually Lindsay nodded it down for Naismith, but his half volley was well over the bar.

Cerny’s kick out in 21 minutes went over the head of Sammon as two County defenders were drawn to him and the ball fell for Doolan on the left.  He chipped the ball into the middle and although it was slightly behind Erskine, he stretched to hit a volley into the net to give the hosts the lead.  Although the ball was close to keeper Fox, it went past him with a lot of power.

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Thistle’s Edwards received the game’s first booking for a late tackle on Melbourne in 22 minutes.

Gardyne got free on the right for County in 24 minutes, but his cross was behind those in the middle.  The ball was retrieved by Melbourne who crossed to the back post for Draper, but his header across goal was cleared by the defence.  Gardyne was caught late as he crossed, and the linesman had flagged, but the referee played on and didn’t return to the incident.

Back up the other end, Erskine played the ball into the feet of Sammon in 26 minutes on the edge of the box, but his shot was blocked by Fontaine.

County went straight up the park and a good run by Naismith got them well up the pitch before McKay passed to the overlapping Fraser.  He cut the ball back for Naismith, but a fine block by McGinn stopped his shot.

A Gardyne free kick into the Thistle box from the right touchline in 27 minutes saw Fontaine get a header on goal from the edge of the six-yard box, but Cerny was down quickly to save.  Thistle’s Cargill required treatment after picking up a knock as he challenged Fontaine, but quickly resumed.

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County were beginning to fashion a few chances, but Thistle forced four corners in quick succession around the 35 minute mark, but the defence coped with them all.

Gardyne won a free kick on the right in 42 minutes and took the kick himself.  His ball into the Thistle box was cleared as far as Fontaine on the edge of the area who hooked the ball over his shoulder back into the box.  With the defence claiming offside, the ball came to McKay who knocked it past Cerny for the equaliser.

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A Thistle supporter shouted at the referee ‘Clancy! You’re a prima donna!’  Only at Thistle.

Thistle won a free kick in injury time and Woods’ ball into the box was met by the head of Cargill but went straight to Fox.

All square at the interval and Thistle would have been concerned at County starting to create chances as the half had progressed.

There was very little of note in the opening period of the second half, with the first effort at goal coming in the 52nd minute, although Elliott’s shot at the County goal from 20 yards was nearer the corner flag than the goal.

Lindsay was a bit lucky not to get booked in 55 minutes, when a late tackle on Thistle’s Edwards on the touchline was ignored as the ball had gone out before he played it.

After a Naismith cross into the Thistle box had been blocked in 56 minutes, Schalk played the ball back for McKay on the edge of the area, but his shot was wide.

Cargill required his second spell of treatment and this time had to be replaced by the home side.

A County free kick from the left in 59 minutes was swung in by Gardyne and bounced up and hit Sammon’s hand, but the referee ignored the County appeals.

A minute later, Schalk played the ball wide to Gardyne on the left and he fired the ball across the face of the Thistle goal, but it missed the player in the middle and Melbourne’s effort at the back post was blocked by Elliott.

Erskine made some room for himself after he had received the ball from Edwards in 64 minutes, but his shot from outside the box was well over the top.

A long ball forward by County in 65 minutes saw them get away with a Schalk handball as the ball fell to McKay. He was halted by a fine Devine tackle, but the ball fell to Gardyne whose swerving shot was turned behind by Cerny.  Some of the County fans thought it had gone in, but it was the side netting that it hit.

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Thistle’s McCarthy was booked for his protests.  Cerny punched the corner away.

Fraser crossed into the Thistle box in 66 minutes and McKay’s header was only just wide of the post.

In 69 minutes, Woods seemed to pull back Fraser before he crossed into the County box, but Doolan couldn’t make good contact and the ball drifted wide.

Woods was then booked in 70 minutes for diving into a challenge on Gardyne.

A cross from the by-line on the left by Keillor-Dunn in 72 minutes was not cleared well by Devine and came to Gardyne just outside the Thistle box, but from inside the ‘D’, he lashed over the bar.

Schalk was next to have a go at the Thistle goal, but his shot from 22 yards was also too high.

Woods had a shot at the County goal from the edge of the box in 77 minutes and claimed that Souttar had blocked with his arm, but again, the referee showed no interest.

With seven minutes left, Spittal picked out a running Storey inside the County box, but his flick was turned over the bar by Fox.  Woods’ corner fell to Spittal at the edge of the box and his rifled low shot hit a County defender and spun wide.

Good work by Sammon down the right won Thistle a corner in the final minute.  Spittal’s cross was powerfully headed at goal by Devine and Fox did very well to get a foot to the ball, but it fell to Storey whose shot hit the elbow of Fraser before spinning wide.  Again, the ref ignored the penalty appeals.

The resultant corner saw Spittal once again find the head of Devine and there were more appeals when the ball seemed to hit the arm of Draper before going wide.  You’ve guessed what the referee did.

Naismith charged down the left for County in the third minute of injury time and his cross was met by the head of Draper.  His glancing header looked in but hit team mate Schalk and fell wide of the post.  Schalk was subsequently flagged offside.

The final whistle came soon after and neither side would have been content with a solitary point.  Thistle would be slightly happier as they were still two points clear of County, but the chance for either to put pressure on the teams above was lost, and Dundee were to play Hamilton the following day.

County had the better chances and Thistle fell away after taking the lead, although they were coming on strong at the end.

Erskine and McGinn were best for Thistle, with Naismith and Gardyne County’s standouts on the night.

Full Time: Partick Thistle 1 Ross County 1

Admission: £22

Partick Thistle: 1 Tomas Cerny, 16 Paul McGinn, 15 Daniel Devine, 4 Bailey Cargill (Barton 57), 14 Christie Elliott, 37 Martin Woods, 24 Andrew McCarthy, 19 Ryan Edwards (Spittal 65), 10 Chris Erskine, 9 Kris Doolan (Storey 74), 18 Conor Sammon.  Subs: 12 Ryan Scully, 2 Mustapha Dumbuya, 6 Abdul Osman, 7 Blair Spittal, 11 Steven Lawless, 13 Adam Barton, 39 Miles Storey.

Ross County: 1 Scott Fox, 3 Jason Naismith, 32 Liam Fontaine, 5 Harry Souttar, 2 Marcus Fraser, 35 Max Melbourne (Keillor-Dunn 69)18 Jamie Lindsay (Kait 82), 17 Ross Draper, 7 Michael Gardyne, 22 Billy McKay (Curran 86), 10 Alex Schalk. Subs: 31 Aaron McCarey, 9 Ryan Dow, 11 Craig Curran, 14 David N’Gog, 25 Jim O’Brien, 40 Davis Keillor-Dunn, 47 Mattias Kait.

Referee: Kevin Clancy

Programme: £3.

Haddington Athletic v Musselburgh Athletic

Wednesday 2 May 2018, 18.45, Millfield

Haddington Athletic against Musselburgh Athletic in the East Premier League.

Third against first in an East Lothian derby and the last one between the sides in the Juniors, with both set to join the East of Scotland League next season.

We’d last seen Haddington at Musselburgh, when the home side won by three goals to nil in what was a somewhat flattering result for the Burgh.  Haddington were unbeaten at home in the league, having won eight of their eleven games.

It had been a fine season for the Hi-His, and they were battling with Fauldhouse United for second spot.  Although they had games in hand on Musselburgh, even a win in the derby would be very unlikely to give them a chance of catching them.

That derby in February was also the last time we’d seen the Burgh, and with six games left, they had only lost once in their league campaign.  With just three draws, they had won twenty of their matches.

Although Fauldhouse had three games in hand on the Burgh, they were eighteen points adrift and the title looked to be heading for the Honest Toun.

A good contingent from Musselburgh travelled the short journey to boost the crowd to around 120.

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Although no excuse was needed, not having had any dinner meant I could tuck into the excellent pie which is served at the Haddington Athletic food stall, guilt free.

With two minutes gone, Burgh’s Murphy played the ball to the back post for King, but on the stretch, he was unable to make good contact and the ball went wide.

Murphy got a foot in to win the ball for Burgh in four minutes and King played the ball to Myles who strode forward before side footing for goal from about 20 yards.  Although it wasn’t hit with great power, it was placed right in the corner and the diving Alysandratos couldn’t reach it and the ball hit the back of the net to give Burgh an early lead.

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In 8 minutes, a Murphy shot from the edge of the box was turned around the post by Alysandratos for a Burgh corner.  Davie’s corner saw the keeper struggle to get the ball away, but the defence completed the job.

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Haddington won a free kick in 9 minutes and Jones took it quickly trying to catch the defence and keeper out, but his effort from 23 yards was off target.

King played a one-two with Davie and received the ball near the by-line on the left of the box in 13 minutes.  He cut the ball back to the feet of MacDonald who seemed to have loads of time to steady himself and shoot into the far corner to double the visitors’ lead.

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Jones got a shot away from the edge of the Burgh box in 19 minutes, but it took a deflection, which made it easy for Adams to claim.

A great turn by Moffat in 21 minutes got him away from a Burgh defender and he passed wide to Jones.  He fired the ball across goal and Quinn slid in at the back post but couldn’t get the touch to send it into the net.

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A Burgh through ball in 24 minutes saw King chasing and Alysandratos coming out of his goal.  The two clashed and the referee awarded a free kick to Haddington.

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Donaldson miskicked in his own box in 26 minutes and gave the ball to Jones.  He seemed to be torn between a cross into the Burgh box and a shot and he ended up with neither, blootering the ball behind.

Just after the half hour, Hill passed to Berry on the left for Haddington.  His cross was blocked behind.  Hill’s corner was met at the front post by Moffat, but Davie was there to head the ball off the line.

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Gray struck a shot at goal from 20 yards in 36 minutes which produced a flying save from Alysandratos to push the ball behind for a Burgh corner.  The kick dropped in the box and Donaldson, MacDonald and King all had a touch, but nobody could direct the ball at goal.

Alysandratos reacted furiously after claiming he was caught by King for the second time as he came out to clear a Burgh through ball in 39 minutes.  The referee had a word with the keeper.

A fine crossfield ball by Burgh’s Donaldson in 41 minutes picked out Whyte on the left, but the referee gave offside, much to the chagrin of the Burgh fans who were in line.

With two minutes to the break, MacDonald slid the ball through for King but Alysandratos was out of his goal quickly to block his shot.

As the teams left the field at half time, Haddington’s Cunningham seemed to be having an argument with some of the Burgh fans in the crowd.

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Disgracefully, I had a second pie at the break.

The first real action of the second half came in 49 minutes, when for the third time, Alysandartos came out to clear and went down as King closed him down.  This time, the Burgh striker was booked.

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Burgh came forward in 52 minutes and King passed to Murphy whose shot at goal took a nick off a defender.  Alysandratos spilled the ball but was up quickly to smother.

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Berry had a strike at the Burgh goal in 53 minutes from 22 yards.  It was well hit, but just too high.

A great ball through the Haddington defence in 56 minutes by Murphy found King racing in on goal.  He took the ball round Alysandratos and was caught by the keeper, but no penalty was given, and the ball ran out.  Alysandratos wanted the striker booked for diving, but King hadn’t gone down.

Cherrie showed some good skill to get into the Haddington box on the left in 60 minutes.  He hit the ball across goal and Alysandratos got a hand to it before it hit Cunningham who booted clear.  The ball was quickly returned to Myles whose shot was pushed away by the keeper.

A mistake by Burgh’s Myles in 65 minutes gave the ball to Berry who passed through to Quinn, but his shot was half blocked and trickled through to Adams.

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Haddington pushed Cunningham up front for the remaining minutes, going to three at the back.

Myles’ corner in 68 minutes came all the way to Whyte on the other side.  He showed great skill to get to the by-line and cross back into the Haddington box, but King couldn’t get a touch.

Murphy found King on the corner of the visitors’ box in 69 minutes, but he shot straight at Alysandratos.

In 70 minutes, Adams pushed away a Haddington cross.  Quinn hit it back towards goal and Cunningham tried to get a touch, but it went back to the keeper.

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Jones shot at the Burgh goal from 22 yards in 78 minutes, but it drifted wide.

A bit of a lunge by Haddington’s Quinn on Murphy in 80 minutes saw him booked by the referee.

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Berry put a good cross to the back post in 81 minutes and Quinn headed down, but it was a comfortable save for Adams in the Burgh goal.

Burgh’s Gray clattered Moffat in 83 minutes and was shown a yellow card.

With five minutes left, a Cairney ball into the Burgh box was headed down by Moffat and Jones shot for goal but saw his strike hit the outside of the post.

Two minutes later and a Jones cross into the Burgh box was palmed away by Adams only as far as Moffat, whose volley smashed off the bar.

Another cross in 88 minutes saw Quinn cleverly flick the ball into the path of Cunningham and his shot was parried by Adams before Lynch cleared over the bar.

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A long kick by Adams in the final minute found Moffat on the left and he turned away from Cairney before lobbing the ball over the advancing Alysandratos, but the ball hit the top of the net.

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Full time and another win for Musselburgh who wouldn’t have too long to wait until they secured the title.  Particularly with Fauldhouse losing to Tranent on the same night.  Although the game was killed off by the two early goals, the home side never gave up, but it wasn’t their day.

Brown and Berry were the best performers for the hosts, with Gray, Cherrie and the excellent Murphy the stand-outs for Burgh.

Full Time: Haddington Athletic 0 Musselburgh Athletic 2

Admission: £6

Haddington Athletic: 1 Haris Alysandratos, 2 Gavin Brown (Cairney 66), 4 Frazer Paterson, 5 George Cunningham, 3 Joe Hamill, 7 Shaun Hill, 6 Chris Inglis (Devlin 50), 8 Bob Berry, 10 Declan Quinn, 9 Scott Moffat, 11 Andy Jones.  Subs: SG Craig Cockburn, 12 Chris Cairney, 14 Jordan Cropley, 15 Paul Devlin, 16 Mark Torrance.

Musselburgh Athletic: 1 Ally Adams, 3 Matty Lynch, 12 Bradley Donaldson, 4 Chris Gray, 11 Jed Davie, 18 Bradley Whyte (Moffat 74), 8 Gary Cherrie, 6 Jackie Myles, 7 Sean Murphy, 10 Mathu King, 20 Stephen MacDonald. Subs: SG Asher Tufail, 2 John McManus, 14 Michael Moffat, 19 Calvin Shand.

Referee: Iain Snedden

Programme: None.

Stenhousemuir v Queens Park

Tuesday 1 May 2018, 19.45, Ochilview Park

The League One Play-off Semi Final First leg between Stenhousemuir and Queens Park.

A place in League One the prize for the play-off winners, with Stenhousemuir, who finished fourth in League Two, against Queens Park, who finished second bottom of League One, in one semi-final.  Peterhead would play Stirling Albion in the other (2nd and 3rd in League Two respectively).

We last saw Stenny when they won 2-1 at Edinburgh City in December.  With three draws and a defeat in their last four games, they somewhat stumbled into the final play-off place.

They were bidding for an immediate return to League One after relegation last season.

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We hadn’t seen Queens Park since, coincidentally, they played Edinburgh City in the Petrofac Cup in July 2015.  They won the game on penalties at Meadowbank that day.

Queens Park are the only fully amateur club in the Scottish Professional Football League and the oldest association football club in Scotland, having been founded in 1867. They are also the only Scottish football club to have played in the FA Cup Final, achieving this feat in both 1884 and 1885.

They dominated football in Scotland in the early years and have won the Scottish Cup ten times, although their last triumph was in 1893. In the more recent era, they have gone between the bottom two leagues.

Season 2012-13 saw them finish runners-up to Rangers in the bottom tier.  After losing out in the promotion play-offs, many of that side were snapped up by other clubs at the end of the season, including Andy Robertson, now a mainstay in Liverpool’s side.

The following season saw them finish rock bottom as team rebuilding started.  Luckily enough for them, it was the year before the relegation play-offs started.

That bottom placed finish clearly had the desired wake-up call, as they were second at the end of 2014-15, but lost out in the play-off final to Stenhousemuir, the second leg of which we were there to witness.

2015-16 saw them scrape into the play-offs on goal difference and this time they beat Clyde in the final to reach League One.

Last season was one of consolidation as they finished in sixth place.

After looking like automatic relegation was guaranteed this season, a last day 3-0 win over Arbroath gave them a reprieve, with Albion Rovers going down.

Gus MacPherson has been at the helm since 2014.  He had signed a number of new players for the season, with many coming from the Junior ranks.  Left back Ryan Docherty from Rutherglen Glencairn, goalkeeper Michael White from Petershill, midfielder Chris Duff and defender Kevin Green from Kirkintilloch Rob Roy, midfielder David Green and right back Michael Bailey from Yoker Athletic, midfielder Dominic Docherty from Partick Thistle and forward James MacLennan from West Park United.

Midfielder Luke Donnelly was signed after his release from Celtic and unattached defender Gerry McLauchlan joined in January.

Hearts young midfielder Harry Paton was on a season long loan along with St Mirren’s Robbie Leitch.  These were added to with Hearts Aiden Keena joining on loan in January.

A crowd of 657 included Alloa Athletic manager Jim Goodwin, Brechin City boss Darren Dodds, Steven Craigen, manager of Motherwell’s Under 20s, East Fife manager Darren Young and Scott Leitch, Motherwell’s Academy Director (whose son was in the Queens Park team.)

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In the opening minute, Stenny’s McMenamin had a shot from distance, but it drifted wide.

Mullen crossed to the front post in 3 minutes and Keena almost got a touch, but Stenny keeper Smith was there to claim.

A good run by QP’s Keena in 5 minutes saw him lay the ball off to Donnelly, but Donaldson got there first to clear.

Keena tried a curling shot from the corner of the Stenny box in 6 minutes, but it was a comfortable save for Smith.

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There were around 20 young lads behind the goal Stenny were shooting towards who were making quite a racket, including one who had a megaphone.

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Good build up play by the home side in 16 minutes ended with Scott playing the ball to Ferns on the right, but his cross couldn’t pick out a team mate in the middle, and the defence cleared.

A clever one-two between QP’s Fotheringham and Keena in 21 minutes, after good skill by Donnelly, saw Fotheringham running into the box, but Paton got back to put a tackle in to halt his progress.

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Meechan put a throw-in into the QP box in 27 minutes which was headed out of the box by Cummins.  Ferns played the ball first time to the back post where the stooping Scott headed in to give the hosts the lead.

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A minute later, Paton created some space for himself before shooting at the QP goal, but it was an easy save for White.

In 31 minutes, QP’s Keena played the ball into the path of Fotheringham who fired at goal from 20 yards, but it was straight at Smith.

Up the other end moments later Donaldson crossed to the back post where McMenamin won the header but couldn’t direct it on goal.

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The ball bounced up nicely for Stenny’s Ferns in 33 minutes and he tried his luck from distance, but saw his shot go just wide.

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Stenny came forward again in 34 minutes and McGuigan tried a dipping shot which went narrowly over the bar.

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Meechan was shown the game’s first yellow card in 36 minutes for a challenge on QP’s Galt.  The decision looked a bit harsh.

There was little in the way of chances in the remainder of the first half.

Stenny with their noses in front at the interval with what may have been a vital lead.

Queens Park started the second half in commanding fashion, keeping possession in the Stenny half and Donnelly fed the overlapping Fotheringham on the right hand side of the box who cut the ball back into the path of Leitch and he swept the ball into the net for the equaliser.

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In 47 minutes, Keena had an effort from 25 yards at the Stenny goal, but it was wide of target.

Scott crossed into the QP box in 51 minutes and McMenamin met it with a fine downward header which beat White but came back off the post.  Burns was there first to get the ball clear.

Stenny were starting to see a lot of the ball but were not creating much.

QP broke forward in 58 minutes with Fotheringham finding Mortimer on the right but his ball into the middle was booted clear by Ferry.

Donnelly passed to Leitch in 60 minutes and he played the ball into the Stenny box, but Smith came out of his goal to snatch the ball off the head of Keena.

Ferns did well in 70 minutes to get to the QP by-line, but the ball ran out before he was able to play it across goal.

Stenny won a free kick around 23 yards from goal in 77 minutes and Ferns stepped up to take it, but his effort hit the wall.

In 79 minutes, Donaldson burst down the left for Stenny and went past a couple of challenges before Cummins came across and booted him up in the air right on the touchline.  The referee showed the defender a straight red card and QP were down to ten men.

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The visitors immediately took off a forward and brought on a defender.

McMenamin brought the ball forward for Stenny in 82 minutes and fed Ferns on the right.  He cut inside and took the ball into the box, but his shot was over the bar.

With 86 minutes gone, Dallas chased a through ball into the QP box, but White was out quickly to kick clear.

A great run by Fotheringham with three minutes left took him into the Stenny box, but his shot was blocked.

QP were awarded a free kick in 88 minutes and Keena took it quickly, lofting the ball over Smith and into the net, but the referee deemed him to have taken it too quickly and brought it back to be retaken.  Fotheringham shot from the retake, but it landed on the roof of the net.

As we reached injury time, Ferns crossed into the QP box and there was a bit of a scramble before Fotheringham put the ball behind.  Cook’s corner looked right on the head of Michael Dunlop, but he didn’t make contact.

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Stenny came forward once more and Ferns cross was blocked behind after he had been released by Longworth.  Cook’s corner was punched clear by White.

One each and all to play for in the second leg.

A tense and nervy affair which didn’t see too many clear cut chances.  Both sides could point to moments in the game that were key, but a draw was probably about the fair result.

Ferry, Scott and Paton were best for Stenny, with the latter showing a lot of good touches, but too often he wanted to beat another man.  For Queens Park, Keena and Donnelly linked up well, with Donnelly often showing great close control.  Fotheringham was a force in midfield.

Full Time: Stenhousemuir 1 Queens Park 1

Admission: £13

Stenhousemuir: 1 Chris Smith, 2 Ross Meechan, 4 Ross.Dunlop, 3 Michael.Dunlop, 5 Ruaridh Donaldson, 11 Eddie Ferns, 6 Mark Ferry, 8 Harry Paton (Longworth 88), 10 Martin Scott (Dallas 78), 7 Mark McGuigan (Cook 63), 9 Colin McMenamin. Subs: 17 Lewis McMinn, 12 David Marsh, 14 Alan Cook, 15 Thomas Halleran, 16 Andrew Dallas, 18 Jamie Longworth.

Queens Park: 1 Michael White, 2 Ross Mullen, 5 Adam Cummins, 6 Scott Gibson, 3 Sean Burns, 7 Robbie Leitch, 4 Gregor Fotheringham, 8 Anton Brady (McVey 83), 11 David Galt (Mortimer 46), 10 Luke Donnelly (McLauchlan 80), 9 Aiden Keena. Subs: 12 Thomas Orr, 14 Dominic Docherty, 15 Gerry McLauchlan, 16 Michael Ruth, 17 William Mortimer, 18 Conor McVey,19 Ewan MacPherson.

Referee: Alan Newlands

Programme: By donation.

Middlesbrough v Millwall

Saturday 28 April 2018, 19.30, Riverside Stadium

Middlesbrough against Millwall in the Championship.

A second consecutive Saturday taking in a game from the Championship after the previous weekend’s relegation battle between Sunderland and Burton Albion.  This time, at the other end of the table, with both sides looking to cement a place in the promotion play-offs.

This was the penultimate game of the league campaign.

It was almost a year to the day since we had seen Middlesbrough.  A battling performance at home to Manchester City in the Premier League produced a 2-2 draw on the last day of April, but it wasn’t enough to save their top league status.

As is invariably the way when a team gets relegated, there were a raft of changes to personnel at Boro for the season ahead.  They appointed Gary Monk as manager, and spent big on players, looking for an immediate return.

The three biggest buys were all forwards.  Britt Assombalonga from Nottingham Forest for almost £15.5m, Martin Braithwaite from Toulouse for over £10m and Ashley Fletcher from West Ham for £6.5m.  Over £5m was spent on midfielder Jonny Howson from Norwich City and also for goalkeeper Darren Randolph from West Ham.  In excess of £2m was paid for each of centre Back Ryan Shotton from Birmingham City, right back Cyrus Christie from Derby County and midfielder Marvin Johnson from Oxford United.  Most of this was recouped by sales of the existing squad.

The promotion challenge didn’t materialise under Monk and he was sacked in December with Boro in ninth place.  He was replaced by Tony Pulis, who had been sacked by West Brom the previous month.

The underperforming Braithwaite and Fletcher were both put out on loan in January and Cyrus Christie was sold to Fulham.  Pulis clearly not happy with some of Monk’s signings.  Defender Martin Cranie, midfielder Mo Besic and winger Jack Harrison were added on loan from Huddersfield Town, Everton and Manchester City respectively.

While Boro have still dropped points, a vital win at Derby County the Saturday before meant that a win against Millwall would guarantee them a place in the play-offs.

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Millwall began life as Millwall Rovers in 1885, playing in the Millwall area of the Isle of Dogs.  Despite moving from that area in 1910, the Millwall part of the name has stayed with them.

They dropped the ‘Rovers’ part of their name in 1889 (despite still playing on the Isle of Dogs) and added ‘Athletic’.  Their early years were full of success.  Founder members of the Southern League, they won it in the first two seasons and were runners-up the year after.  They won the Western League in 1908 and 1909 and reached the semi-final of the FA Cup in 1900 and 1903.

Millwall joined the Football League in 1920 and have spent most of their time between the second and third tiers.  They had a two year stint in the top flight after promotion in 1988 and in 2004 reached the FA Cup Final.  Their cup final appearance qualified them for Europe for the only time in their history.

Former striker Neil Harris was made permanent manager at the end of the 2014-15 season, after his caretaker spell had failed to preserve their Championship status.  His first full season saw them lose the play-off final to stop them from going straight back up.  Last season saw them reach the play-off final again, this time making the jump back to the second tier with a win over Bradford City.

It had been a fine season for ‘the Lions’, with a 16 game unbeaten run and they were still looking to make the play-offs.  A defeat at home to Fulham in their last game had been a setback, but a win at Boro would put them right back in it.  They sat one place outside the play-offs, two points behind Derby County and three behind Boro.

With a very different budget to Boro, Millwall’s signings saw a fee paid for just one of their new arrivals.  They paid £513k for midfielder George Saville from Wolves.  Several free transfers were picked up and the squad had gelled together well.  January’s additions included the signing of former player Tim Cahill, who returned from Australian football.

The games earlier in the day had seen Derby draw level on points with Boro and Preston North End go a point above Millwall.

There were 28,606 in attendance for a game which kicked off at 5.30 due to TV coverage.

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There was an electric atmosphere in the ground as the match kicked off.

The game began with Boro having a lot of possession in the Millwall half and they created the first chance in the fifth minute.  Besic fed Friend on the left and his cross found the head of Howson, but he put it over the bar.

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Millwall’s Meredith went down holding his face after a coming together with Traore in 9 minutes, but the referee satisfied himself by just giving a free kick.

A long ball forward by Ayala in 12 minutes got Assombalonga running in behind the Millwall defence.  When the ball came down, the Millwall defenders looked to have got back.  Assombalonga cut inside the challenge of Romeo in the box and his shot came off the heel of Hutchinson and went into the net via the post to give the hosts an early lead.

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Besic played a good ball down the left looking for Downing in 16 minutes, but Archer raced from the Millwall goal to boot the ball into touch.

Boro had started confidently and had played most of the opening period in the opposition’s half.  Millwall were starting to have a bit more possession, but other than forcing a couple of corners, hadn’t really threatened.

A fine run down the left by Boro’s Besic in 28 minutes took him to the corner of the box.  He played the ball across for Downing 20 yards out, but his shot was dragged wide.

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Downing cut in from the left in 29 minutes and had a go at goal again from 20 yards, but this time it took a nick off a defender and went out for a corner.  Traore’s delivery picked out Ayala at the back post, but on the stretch, he couldn’t direct his header on target.

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Besic picked up a loose ball in midfield in 31 minutes and his run took him all the way into the Millwall box, but under pressure from Hutchinson, his shot was wide.

In 37 minutes, Millwall’s Romeo picked up a knock and had to be replaced.

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Boro broke forward in 40 minutes and Besic laid the ball into the path of Downing on the left.  He took the ball into the box but a fine sliding block by Hutchinson took his shot away from goal.

More good play by Besic in 43 minutes gave Downing a sight of goal, but the defence managed to block his shot again.

Marshall took a Millwall corner in injury time which was flicked on by Morison, but Ayala got there before Cooper at the back post to turn the ball behind.  Morison won a header from the corner from the other side, but it was well over the bar.

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Williams became the first player booked in the third minute of injury time for bringing down Boro’s Besic.

The hosts a goal in front at the interval and they deserved their lead.  Millwall had been unable to create any chances and only some good defending had prevented them from being further behind.

Friend was shown the yellow card in 48 minutes for catching Millwall’s Morison.

Besic played a great pass over the Millwall defence in 49 minutes to find Traore running into the box and he took a great touch but screwed his shot wide under pressure from Meredith.

Millwall’s Marshall required treatment in 52 minutes after a tackle on Howson and had to be stretched off.  The second enforced substitute for the visitors.

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McLaughlin fired a ball forward in 57 minutes and Elliott flicked the ball on, but Randolph was quickly out of the Boro goal to clear from Gregory.

Millwall were putting the home side under more pressure but were still not creating much.

In 61 minutes, Friend cut inside from Boro’s left and played a one-two with Besic to take him into the box.  His touch came to Assombalonga who went down as he was tackled from behind by Cooper, but the referee waved away the penalty appeals.

Assombalonga nicked the ball away from a cluster of Millwall players in 62 minutes and Besic threaded the ball through for Traore, He looked clean through, but a great challenge by McLaughlin saved Millwall.

There was some nice build up play by Millwall in 63 minutes which took them into the Boro box, but Gregory’s backheel was smacked behind by Ayala.  Williams’ corner was punched clear by Randolph.

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Another Millwall corner in 64 minutes saw Williams’ cross won by Hutchinson in the air, but he was stretching, and Randolph was able to claim.

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Patient build up by Boro in 66 minutes ended with Friend playing a pass to Downing on the left.  His cross looked right into the hands of Archer, but Cooper jumped up to head the ball just before it reached him, and it put off the keeper and the ball went through his hands, dropping to Howson, who gleefully knocked the ball into the net from about a yard out to make it 2-0.

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Morison found some space on the left for Millwall in 69 minutes, but his cross into the box was headed clear by Ayala.

A lofted ball over the Boro defence by Williams in 71 minutes saw Elliott chasing the ball into the box and as Randolph claimed the two came together with both going down.  The keeper needed treatment before continuing.

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A poor pass by Bamford, who had just come on, gave possession to Millwall in 78 minutes, but Wallace’s shot from the edge of the box was a comfortable save for Randolph.

Good feet by Wallace on the right for Millwall in 82 minutes gave him space to cross into the box and Williams rose to head at goal, but it was straight at Randolph.

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Traore cut inside from the left in 84 minutes and let fly from 20 yards, but the ball took a deflection and went straight to Archer.

In 85 minutes, Besic charged forward into the Millwall box from midfield and went down as Hutchinson challenged.  It looked like he had been caught but the referee didn’t agree and Besic was booked for his protests.

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A great run from deep in his own half by Traore in 87 minutes saw him go past three Millwall players, but the third one, Hutchinson, cynically brought him down and was booked.

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Another barnstorming run from Traore from his own half in the fourth minute of injury time saw him tackled 20 yards out by the chasing Tunnicliffe, who was booked.  It looked a harsh decision from where I was as it looked like he got the ball.  Bamford slipped as he took the kick and the ball went well wide.

Bamford broke clear on the right for Boro in the sixth minute of injury time, but put his shot wide of the far post.

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The full time whistle was greeted with a pitch invasion from the home support, with some of them heading over to goad the Millwall support.  Both sets of fans had been exchanging pleasantries throughout and things could have turned nasty, but police and stewards prevented the fans reaching each other.

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Boro were guaranteed a play-off place and Millwall would need a nine goal swing in the final game to have any chance of getting there.

A convincing win for Boro with Millwall struggling to create anything against a stubborn home defence.

Besic was excellent for the hosts, with Howson performing well too.  Millwall’s best were in defence, with Hutchinson the pick of the bunch.

Full Time: Middlesbrough 2 Millwall 0.

Admission: £30

Middlesbrough: 25 Darren Randolph, 5 Ryan Shotton, 4 Daniel Ayala, 6 Ben Gibson, 3 George Friend, 16 Jonny Howson, 8 Adam Clayton, 27 Mo Besic, 37 Adama Traore, 19 Stewart Downing (Fabio 81), 9 Britt Assombalonga (Bamford 77). Subs: 1 Dimi Konstantopoulos, 2 Fabio Da Silva, 7 Grant Leadbitter, 11 Patrick Bamford, 15 Martin Cranie, 20 Dael Fry, 23 Jack Harrison.

Millwall: 1 Jordan Archer, 12 Mahlon Romeo (McLaughlin 38), 4 Shaun Hutchinson, 35 Jake Cooper, 3 James Meredith (Ferguson 83), 14 Jed Wallace, 6 Shaun Williams, 18 Ryan Tunnicliffe, 44 Ben Marshall (Elliott 54), 9 Lee Gregory, 20 Steve Morison.  Subs: 16 David Martin, 2 Conor McLaughlin, 8 Ben Thompson, 10 Fred Onyedinma, 11 Shane Ferguson, 19 Tom Elliott, 22 Aiden O’Brien.

Referee: Paul Tierney

Programme: £3

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