Saturday 30 July 2016, 15.00, Ferguson Park

The opening day of the Lowland League season and it’s Whitehill Welfare against East Kilbride.

My second viewing of Welfare after attending their friendly with Berwick Rangers Under 20s and since then, they have signed Kerr Dodds.  Kerr sustained a serious knee injury in the 2014-15 season.   He always impressed me and has featured as a Trialist in most of pre-season, but has now re-signed with the club.

The original East Kilbride was founded in 1871.  During the decade, the Club folded and then restarted several times.  They played in some of the earliest Scottish Cup competitions in seasons 1878-79 and 1879-80.

The modern club was as a result of the amalgamation of Stewartfield FC and Jackton BC in 2010, playing their games at K-Park.  They are founder members of the Lowland League.  They played in the Scottish Amateur Football League until their election into the senior leagues in June 2013. They won the Division 2 title in 2011-12 and were crowned Division 1 champions in 2012-13.  They were given a place in the South of Scotland League for season 2013-14, but were elected to play in the newly formed Lowland League, without playing a game in the South of Scotland League.  A 3-1 defeat of Gretna 2008 in the Lowland League Cup final on 2015 and then a win on penalties against the same side in 2016 have seen silverware the last two seasons in East Kilbride.

Last season saw their second foray into the Scottish Cup and they defeated Forres Mechanics, Stenhousemuir and Lothian Thistle Hutchison Vale before losing by two goals to nil to Celtic.

Finishes of eighth, second and fifth so far in the Lowland League.

East Kilbride have signed Kieran Gibbons who played for Livingston in the Scottish Championship last season.  Top scorer Jack Smith has left the club, but Joao Victoria has returned to the club from Arbroath.  Defenders David Proctor, James Brough and Fabio Capuano have also been added to the squad along with midfielders Declan Hughes, Anthony Marenghi from Stenhousemuir and former Alloa player Ryan Gemmell and Albion Rovers Ross McNeil.  A lot of players with league experience and it’s no surprise they are one of the favourites for the title.

As both teams were ready to start we seemed to be missing the referee, but he did appear and the match got underway in front of around 110 spectators.

McGregor picked up a booking after six minutes after catching an East Kilbride player with a high boot.  His eyes seemed to be on the ball but his foot was very high.

The first real chance came for East Kilbride after 8 minutes when Marenghi chipped the ball through to Strachan, who sidestepped a defender, but Young managed to push his shot away at full stretch.

In 13 minutes, a ball into the Welfare box was half cleared to the edge of the penalty area and Marenghi half volleyed it into the corner to give the away side the lead.

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It was clear that Marenghi’s pace and direct running was causing problems for the Welfare defence.

Proctor stayed down after an aerial challenge with Welfare’s Martin in 26 minutes.  A free kick was given for East Kilbride, but the home side were not happy with the decision.

Manson came forward for Whitehill in 30 minutes and he struck for goal on the right hand side, but it was a comfortable save for McGinley.

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Welfare were struggling to create anything against a well drilled East Kilbride.

In 35 minutes, Brydon came forward for the home side and ran towards the box but was taken out by Marenghi who received a yellow card.  From the free kick, McGregor’s shot came off the head of Winter and spun just wide with McGinley going the other way.

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Martin did very well on the right for Welfare in 41 minutes and he picked out Keane at the back post, but he volleyed wide.  The flag went up after his shot.

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Just before half time EK’s Proctor was lucky to escape a booking after committing two fouls in quick succession.

Four minutes into the second half, Victoria seemed to have a kick at Welfare’s McGregor off the ball, but the referee didn’t see it.

Two minutes later the game was in danger of boiling over when Welfare’s Murray went through the back of McNeil right in front of the dugouts.  A free for all was the outcome with benches involved as well and when the dust settled, the ref booked Welfare’s Moffat and EK’s Strachan.  I’m not sure how Murray escaped punishment.

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In 59 minutes, Welfare’s Osborne went into the book for a late tackle on Gibbons.  The home fans weren’t happy at something Victoria did to McGregor off the ball again.

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A Welfare corner in 62 minutes taken by Manson seemed to be right on the head of an unmarked Williams, but he missed the ball completely.

Another corner for the home side in 68 minutes saw Manson’s cross met by an acrobatic effort by Osborne, but McGinley saved.  The rebound came to Williams who hammered a shot off the bar.

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Interesting corners by Welfare where all the attacking players stand on the goalline.

A Connolly shot in 73 minutes was fumbled by McGinley and Brydon looked like grabbing the equaliser, but lost his footing.

A minute later Osborne’s cross was met on the volley by Keane, but McGinley made a great save to keep his team in front.

In 83 minutes, Marenghi played the ball to Millar and he turned away from two defenders and sent Young the wrong way to double East Kilbride’s lead.

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Great football by EK in 87 minutes ended with a shot from Coll, but it was straight at Young.

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A lovely disguised pass by EK’s Gibbons found Winter and he lifted the ball over the advancing Young into the net to make it 3-0.

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Quite a tetchy game which East Kilbride won convincingly in the end, although the home side were full of energy until the second goal went in.  It’s easy to see why East Kilbride are one of the title favourites.

Marenghi was very impressive for East Kilbride while O’Hara was best for Welfare.

Full Time: Whitehill Welfare 0 East Kilbride 3.

Admission: £6

Whitehill Welfare: 1 Bryan Young, 19 Aaron Moffat, 3 Dale O’Hara, 4 Nikki Murray, 5 John Williams, 6 Connor McGregor (Connolly 63), 7 Steven Manson, 9 Andy Martin (Trialist 78), 11 Kevin Keane, 15 Michael Osborne, 14 Scott Moffat (Brydon 63). Subs: 2 Trialist, 10 Callum Connolly, 12 Connor Brydon, 16 Steven Hislop, 17 Frankie Arthur, 18 Trialist.

East Kilbride: 1 Matt McGinley, 2 Fabio Capuano, 3 Bernard Coll, 4 David Proctor, 5 Scott Stevenson, 6 Kieran Gibbons, 7 Sean Winter, 8 Adam Strachan (Millar 78), 9 Ross McNeil (16 81), 10 Anthony Marenghi, 11 Joao Victoria (12 89).  Subs: 12, 15 Gavin Millar, 16.

Referee: Gavin Ross.

Programme: £2.

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