Tuesday 26 July 2016, 19.15, Penicuik Park
Another friendly, this time between East Superleague’s Penicuik Athletic and Lothian Thistle Hutchison Vale of the East of Scotland League.
Part of my youth was spent watching Penicuik at their old Eastfield Park ground, where they had been since the early 1950s. Formed in 1888, they have picked up a few trophies over the years, but never managed to win the pinnacle of the Junior game, the Junior Cup, although they have had a few near misses. They lost narrowly in the 1966 semi-final and lost 1-0 in a replay in the final in 1970.
After a good period in the 70s, the 80s hit the club hard and the ground was eventually sold in 1986 to clear debts. Although arrangements for a new ground had been promised, Athletic disappeared altogether and there were several failed attempts to secure a new pitch as the years passed.
An agreement was eventually reached in 2002 and Penicuik had itself a football team again after 16 years in the wilderness.
After a few near misses, they have worked their way back up the tree and this is their third season back in the top league.
They finished last season by beating the Superleague champions Bonnyrigg Rose in the Fife and Lothians Cup Final at Olivebank.
Player manager Craig Meikle resigned after the Cup win and has now been replaced by former Penicuik striker Johnny Harvey, who was the manager at Haddington Athletic.
They’ve signed Greig Callaghan from Arniston Rangers and have a number of trialists at the club, including Ross Montgomery, who has been a Penicuik stalwart in the past.
Lothian Thistle were founded in 1969 as an amateur works team for Lloyds Finance, and were initially named Lloyds & Scottish before becoming Lothian Thistle.
They originally competed in the Lothian amateur league before a spell in the Caledonian Amateur Football League. They moved up to senior status when they joining the East of Scotland Football League in 1995, gaining promotion to the Premier Division two years later. Strongly linked to youth football club Hutchison Vale, they changed their name to Lothian Thistle Hutchison Vale before the start of the 2011–12 season. Hutchison Vale has been a breeding ground over the years for footballers and their past players read like a who’s who of Scottish football. These include John Collins, Kenny Miller, Allan McGregor, Danny Wilson, Jason Cummings, Sam Nicholson and even Icelandic International Alfred Finnbogason.
After playing in various sites over Edinburgh, they currently play their home games at Saughton Enclosure. They won the Premier Division for the first time in 2013-14 and repeated the feat the following season. They were pipped to the title by Leith Athletic last season.
They had their first appearance in the Scottish Cup proper in 2014-15 season and the following season, they hit the heights in the competition dispatching Girvan, Kelty Hearts, Montrose and Huntly, before going out to Lowland League side East Kilbride in the fourth round.
For the new season, they have signed Adrian Shala, Ryan Fox, Elliot Taylor and Jordan Mungall from their Under 20 side, Omar Ali from Vic Loco and Jamie Devlin and Anthony Muir from Whitehill Welfare.
In 2 minutes, Thistle’s Muir played the ball to Devlin who had a chance to be clean through, but got the ball caught in his feet and although he managed to get a shot away, it was a comfortable save for Bejaoui.
A great ball by McKenzie in 5 minutes had Devlin charging in on the home goal again, but a heavy touch gave Bejaoui the chance to gather at his feet.
Gay tried a chip from 20 yards in 17 minutes, but Thistle keeper Swain managed to get back and hold on.
Just before the half hour, Janczyk’s ball into the Thistle box was volleyed goalwards by McCallum, but there wasn’t enough power to trouble Swain.
With 31 minutes gone, a great ball by Sproule from the right wing found Somerville peeling away at the back post, but he got his header all wrong and sent it wide of the Thistle goal.
The persistent rain seemed to be getting heavier as the match progressed.
A fine through ball by Brown in 41 minutes was lofted over the defence for Thistle’s Devlin, but offside was given.
A competitive first half with chances for both sides, but the home side’s lack of width seemed to have given Thistle too much space.
The second half was only a minute old when the away side took the lead. Moore intercepted the ball on half way and raced down the right evading several challenges and his cross found Wringe unmarked in the middle, whose downward header beat Bejaoui.
In 51 minutes, Hare found McKenzie, who played the ball to Devlin, but his shot from the edge of the box was just over the Penicuik goal.
A slack pass from Barr saw O’Donnell bring the ball forward on the left for Thistle in 63 minutes and his cross hit Barr on the heel as he tried to make up for his mistake, but it fell to the feet of Wringe who blasted high into the net for his and his side’s second.
Penicuik’s number 15 had a shot blocked in 74 minutes and the ball came back to McCallum whose shot was pushed away by Swain in the Thistle goal.
Number 21 for Thistle took the ball down well in 83 minutes on the edge of the box after a headed clearance. He stepped away from a defender but fired his shot over.
A kick out by Bald in 85 minutes was flicked on by McCallum and Somerville beared down on the Thistle goal, but shot wide.
In 86 minutes, Brown played through Devlin on the left and he ran on and put the ball through Bejaoui’s legs to make it three nil.
In the last minute, Penicuik found the net when McCallum headed home a cross from the left, but he was given offside.
A convincing win in the end and it looks like another good season ahead for the men from Saughton. Penicuik were a bit flat and the new manager looks to have work to do. Not least getting some width into the team.
Full Time: Penicuik Athletic 0 Lothian Thistle Hutchison Vale 3
Penicuik Athletic: 1 Yousef Bejaoui (Bald 70), 2 Wayne Sproule, 3 Daryl Devlin (Forbes 53), 4 Greig Callaghan, 5 Darrell Young, 6 Neil Janczyk (14 Trialist 68), 7 Lewis Barr, 8 Ryan Gay (15 Trialist 45), 9 Aaron Somerville, 10 Ryan McCallum, 11 Trialist. Subs: 12 Andy Forbes, 14 Trialist, 15 Trialist, 16 Billy Bald.
Lothian Thistle Hutchison Vale: 1 Kevin Swain, 2 Dylan Moore (O’Donnell 58), 3 Jordan Mungall (McDonagh 78), 4 Paul Crawford, 5 Grant Munro (21 Trialist 45), 6 Anthony Muir (12 Trialist 58), 7 Willis Hare (15 Trialist 64), 8 Kevin Brown, 9 Sean Wringe (Hutchison 64), 10 Scott-Taylor MacKenzie (Wilkes 70), 11 Jamie Devlin. Subs: 12 Trialist, 14 Alan McDonagh, 15 Trialist, 16 Ryan Fox, 17 Liam O’Donnell, 18 Richie Wilkes, 19 Ryan Hutchison, 21 Trialist.
Referee: George Calder