Wednesday 31 August 2016, 19.45, Pennypit Park

A second visit of the season to Prestonpans.  This time, for the Lowland League clash between Preston Athletic and Vale of Leithen.

Preston began their league campaign with a convincing win at Selkirk before a home draw with BSC Glasgow.  They then went on to lose heavily at Cumbernauld Colts, at home to East Kilbride and at Hawick Royal Albert.

A first viewing of the new season for us of Vale of Leithen.  Vale of Leithen Football Club were formed in May 1891 and became full members of the Scottish Football Association in 1897. Other than a short spell in the 1920s in the Junior Leagues, the men from Innerleithen in the Scottish Borders have remained there ever since. They are founder members of Scottish Lowland League and are regular participants in the Scottish Cup where they have made the third round on 5 occasions.

They played their first games at Caddon Park, the first two as ‘Leithen Vale’, but thereafter changed their name to ‘Vale of Leithen’ Football Club. In 1922 they moved to their present home, Victoria Park. The pavilion at the ground was destroyed by fire in 1974.

Despite the Borders (unfathomable) thirst for all things rugby, the egg chasers haven’t quite made their way into Innerleithen, although the surrounding town and villages do have teams.

The club won the East of Scotland League four times, most recently in 1986-87.

Vale finished thirteenth in last season’s fifteen team league and have gone through a number of managers in recent seasons.  Chris Anderson is the new incumbent, the 29 year old ending his playing career with Spartans East of Scotland side by winning the East of Scotland League Cup in May.

Vale are another team with a mixed start. Draws at home to Dalbeattie Star and away to East Stirlingshire began the league campaign before being badly beaten at home by Spartans. They then won very convincingly at University of Stirling before a narrow home defeat to Cumbernauld Colts in their last game.

Neil Doncaster was in attendance at the game, the Chief Executive of the Scottish Professional Football League.

I’m grateful for the assistance of Preston Athletic manager Craig Nisbet in providing the Preston teams names and numbers. He is always excellent at getting back to me. Thanks are also due to Preston’s twitter account for providing the Vale team. It’s always been difficult getting details of Vale of Leithen teams, but a recent revamp of their website and social media will hopefully help with that.

As the teams came out, I got my first sight of Vale of Leithen’s new away kit. Wow that’s bright. The 80 or so in the ground might all have migraines by the end of 90 minutes.

With 7 minutes gone, Vale’s Hunter passed to Stewart on the right. He returned the ball to Hunter who chipped into the box where an attempted header clear only went as far as McLeod, but he shot well over the bar.

Manson played a great through ball looking for Motion in 8 minutes, but Callan was quick off his line to smother at the Vale player’s feet.

Preston attacked in 11 minutes and Cowan picked out Stevenson on the edge of the box. He controlled the ball well, but his curling effort went narrowly wide.

A nice one-two between Vale’s Atkinson and Stewart in 14 minutes created a chance for the former, but Cowan got across quickly to turn the ball behind.

In 15 minutes, Douglas knocked the ball down to Law in the box who mishit his shot, but the ball came to Jardine who tapped into the net for Preston, but his joy was short lived as the flag was up for offside.

A defensive clearance in 17 minutes came out to Siegel who flashed his shot from 25 yards just wide of the Vale goal.

A group of kids had sat in front of Neil Doncaster and were asking him questions such as “are you the boss of Scotland?”, “Who’s the best player you’ve met?” “What teams do you support?” He looked a little uncomfortable, but sadly the kids went away again.

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Preston came forward again in 21 minutes when a long ball found Stevenson running through on goal and he got there before McQueen, but took a heavy touch and the ball ran behind.

A strange sight in 24 minutes as Preston’s Cochrane seemed to be getting help for cramp. The earliest I’ve ever seen it happen in a game.

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A shout from the stand came after half an hour to “concentrate on the game ya fucking balloon”. It wasn’t clear who the gentleman was referring to.

With 38 minutes gone, Atkinson exchanged passes with Hunter before striking a low shot at the Preston goal from around 25 yards. It was well hit, but it looked like Callan should have saved it as it seemed to go under him and into the net for the opening goal.

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Vale still led by the solitary goal as we reached half time.

Right at the start of the second half, the referee waved away the home side’s appeals as Stevenson went down in the box.

In 53 minutes, Vale gave the ball away to Preston sub Colquhoun and he ran on before setting up Stevenson.  With Boyes getting back, the striker’s shot was pushed away by McQueen.  The ball fell to Cowan, but the keeper was there again.

Manson was lucky to escape a card in 56 minutes after a bad tackle on Preston’s Wilson, the referee being content to just give him a talking to.

A great ball in from the right by Preston’s McLeod in 59 minutes found the head of Stevenson in the middle, but he headed wide of the post.

Good work on the right by Vale’s Stewart in 62 minutes ended with him cutting the ball back for Atkinson, but he shot just wide.

The same players combined again for Vale in 66 minutes with Stewart again cutting the ball back, but this time Atkinson missed his kick completely and the ball bounced off his standing leg before the defence cleared.

Atkinson featured again for Vale in 67 minutes when the ball came to him on the edge of the box following a corner, and Callan did well to hold on at full stretch with Scott-Mercer waiting to pounce on any mistake.

A minute later Colquhoun was clean through for Preston, but Boyes somehow managed to get back and get a foot in to turn the ball away.

A cross to the back post was headed back across goal by Colquhoun in 69 minutes and Park’s shot was blocked with the foot of McQueen in the Vale goal.

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Vale sub Edwards played the ball to Atkinson in 71 minutes with his first touch and the striker hammered the ball across Callan and in off the post for his and his team’s second.

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The points were secured a minute later when a cross from the right hand side found the head of McLeod about a yard out and he headed into the net.

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Law ran down the right for Preston in 73 minutes and cut inside before curling a shot just wide.

Both teams didn’t create much after that with the game decided but with 4 minutes left, a long ball forward saw Vale’s Stewart running in on goal before he was brought down on the edge of the box by Cowan. The referee showed him a straight red card. Motion took the free kick and hit a low effort right into the corner but Callan made a fantastic save to turn it round the post.

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The resultant corner was cleared to the edge of the box where Motion’s curling effort came back off the post.

An easy win judging by the result but the game could have gone either way in my opinion. There was little between the teams for much of the 90 minutes and with a bit of fortune, Preston could have got at least a point. Nevertheless, Vale look to be a much stronger side than in the last couple of years.

Preston captain Wilson was strong at the back and trialist Law looked like someone that could add to the Preston team and I’d imagine they will be keen to sign him.

For Vale, Scott-Mercer and Stewart were impressive on the right side of the pitch and Atkinson took his goals well (although he could have had a few more).

Full Time: Preston Athletic 0 Vale of Leithen 3.

Admission: £5

Preston Athletic: 1 Bruce Callan, 2 David McLeod, 3 Reece Cochrane (Glen 73), 4 Ross Cowan, 5 Darryl Wilson, 6 Scott Siegel, 7 Mark Law (T), 8 Kenneth Park (Colquhoun 45), 9 Gavin Stevenson, 10 Jack Jardine (Park 64), 11 Greg Douglas.  Subs: 12 Ross Colquhoun, 13 Craig Pennycuik, 14 Kenneth Erskine, 15 Michael Park, 16 Sean Lawson, 17 Kieran Glen, 18 Scott Barclay.

Vale of Leithen: 1 Andrew McQueen, 2 Jonny Scott-Mercer, 3 Keith Boyes, 4 Steven Lynch, 5 James Elliot, 6 Ainslie Hunter (Edwards 70), 7 Sean Stewart, 8 Robert Manson, 9 Blair Atkinson (McIntosh 73), 10 Keith McLeod, 11 Kevin Motion.  Subs: 12 Brendan Edwards, 14 Liam McIntosh, 15 Ross Brady.

Referee: Simon MacLean

Programme: £1.50

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