Saturday 28 January 2017, 13.45, Central Park
The East Premier League game between Whitburn Junior and Sauchie Juniors.
Although the plan had been to go to this, we were nearly swayed late on by the Kirkintilloch Rob Roy v Musselburgh Athletic in the Junior Cup, but that was postponed, so we headed to Whitburn.
Snow flurries most of the way through and still coming as we arrived at Central Park had us worrying our trip would be fruitless, but the game looked like it was going ahead.
Whitburn Junior were formed in 1934 from the Whitburn amateur team. They ceased to operate during the second world war, but restarted in August 1945. The following year saw the erection of an enclosure, which came from the old Polish army camp nearby.
Some local cup wins came, but big success eluded them. They had their best season to date in 1965-66 when they won the East of Scotland Cup and reached the final of the Scottish Junior Cup, but lost to Bonnyrigg Rose in a replay.
The trophies started to come though, and they won 9 of them between 1966 and 1974. Relegations and promotions followed until 1985-86 when they won the top league for the first time.
The title was retained the following season, and would have been 3 in a row but for an administrative error which allowed Linlithgow to make an appeal that meant that they won the league. Whitburn though won the title again the following two seasons. Further top league successes have come in 1995-96, 1997-98 and 2000-01. They also had another losing final appearance in the Junior Cup in 1995.
The holy grail of Junior football was won in 1999-2000, when they beat Johnstone Burgh on penalties in the final of the Junior Cup.
In more recent times, two consecutive relegations in 2010 and 2011 saw them fall to the East Region South Division. Last season saw promotion back to the Premier Division, one step away from the top league, when they finished runners-up to Tranent.
The Premier Division has been tough and they currently sit third from bottom.
Sauchie Juniors began as Sauchie Juveniles, which was a league for players up to 27 years of age. They had a lot of success in the 1950s and decided to step up to the Junior leagues and Sauchie Juniors were formed in 1960. They won the East Region League Title in their second season.
After local cup wins in the 1970s, they won the East Dryburgh Cup in 1982–83, then went on to win the National Dryburgh Trophy against the other Dryburgh winners. They have never progressed beyond the quarter final in the Junior Cup.
The Fife and Lothians Cup was won in consecutive years in 2003 and 2004. Back to back promotions in 2011 and 2012 got them to the top league. Relegation last season sees them back in the Premier League this season.
One of the pre-season title favourites, Sauchie currently sit third with several games in hand. They can easily claim top spot if they win those games in hand.
Liverpool legend Alan Hansen began his playing career at Sauchie.
The aforementioned enclosure dominates Central Park, although they have a huge social club which would be the envy of many teams in the Juniors and beyond.
A visit to the pie stand before kickoff proved to be fruitless as they weren’t ready. This was because “the ref didn’t tell us that the match was going ahead”. (We did return later.)
There were around 180 at the game.
Sauchie created the first chance of the game in 3 minutes when Higgins laid the ball off to Millar on the right hand side of the Whitburn box, but he shot wide.
Higgins was involved again in 6 minutes when he received the ball on the left and found McCulloch on the edge of the box. He ran onto the ball and caught it well, but it was too central and Horne managed to push the ball away.
Some good passing by Sauchie in 10 minutes ended with Shirra playing the ball to Higgins on the left of the box, but he skyed his first time effort.
A great crossfield ball in 13 minutes from Sauchie’s Morgan picked out Millar on the right hand side of the box. He volleyed at goal first time and the ball went just wide of the far post.
Another good move by Sauchie in 17 minutes ended with Morrison’s shot blocked and then Horne saving Higgins’ follow up.
Higgins had another effort in 18 minutes when he got on the end of a cross, but Horne went down well to gather.
It seemed only a matter of time before Sauchie would go in front.
Whitburn had a chance in 21 minutes when a free kick into the box was miskicked by McCulloch and fell to McAteer, but his shot was a powder puff effort and easy for Grieg.
A Morgan through ball in 24 minutes sent Higgins through on the Whitburn goal, but Horne blocked the shot with his legs.
In 27 minutes, Patrick played a ball to the back post which was just too far in front of Millar and he couldn’t direct the ball on target.
Whitburn’s McAteer picked up the game’s first booking in 32 minutes.
Higgins had a shot from the edge of the box in 36 minutes which went narrowly wide and had taken a nick off a defender on the way towards goal.
Russell was next to go in the book on 41 minutes. The Whitburn player being booked for dissent.
Sauchie’s Morgan was also booked for dissent just before half time.
Goalless at half time but it was clear to see why Sauchie were challenging at the top of the league. Whitburn were starting to get a foothold in the game as the half progressed.
Two minutes into the second half Brass had a chance in the box for Whitburn, but his effort was blocked.
Morgan had a shot at the Whitburn goal in 49 minutes, but it was deflected wide.
An overlapping run by Syme in 51 minutes saw him run into the Whitburn box, but his shot across goal was pushed away by Horne.
McAteer stole the ball from McCulloch in 54 minutes and the Whitburn right back was booked for pulling him back.
Bain fed Russell in 57 minutes and his shot for goal was spilled by the Sauchie keeper, but he managed to gather the ball as it spun towards goal.
A great run forward by Whitburn’s McAteer in 59 minutes was stopped by a last ditch challenge by Syme.
McTaggart broke down the left in 61 minutes and passed inside to Millar. He made some space for himself, but fired over the bar.
Brass won the ball for Whitburn on the half way line in 64 minutes and played in McAteer on the left. He tried to chip Grieg, but succeeded in playing the ball straight into his hands.
Gardner was booked in 65 minutes and from the free kick, McCulloch found Fleming in the Whitburn box, but his attempted volley went wide.
A Sauchie corner taken by Morgan in 67 minutes was met by Syme’s downward header, but it was wide.
The Sauchie players were unhappy in 72 minutes when the referee called them back for a foul, despite the fact that he could have played advantage, when they had three men against 2. The free kick was juggled by Horne, but he managed to hold on.
With 74 minutes gone, Higgins went past a defender in the Whitburn box and went down. Penalty. It didn’t look like the defender had touched him. McQueenie was shown a yellow card, but I don’t know if it was for the tackle or something he said.
Morgan took the kick and sent Horne the wrong way to give Sauchie the lead.
Whitburn almost had a chance in the Sauchie box in 76 minutes, but a series of heavy touches ended with a shot wide.
A Sauchie player was booked in 82 minutes. It may have been Flood, but I’m not sure.
Some great control in the Whitburn box by Higgins in 85 minutes saw him create some space, but Horne blocked his shot.
The ref looked as though he had flashed another card at someone for what must have been dissent, but he didn’t make it clear who it was.
In 87 minutes, Higgins played a through ball for Flood, but he scuffed his shot wide of the home goal.
With two minutes left, McAteer ran through on the Sauchie goal but Grieg came out of his box and got there first. He battered the ball forward but it hit McAteer and he ran on to knock it into the net, but the referee disallowed the goal as he said it struck McAteer’s hand. It did look to have hit his arm which he had out to the side for balance, but he certainly hadn’t meant it.
With a minute left a Sauchie through ball saw Shields lay the ball off to Flood, but Wilson got back to block.
In injury time Sauchie’s Higgins was booked for kicking the ball away.
A narrow win in the end for Sauchie and no-one could argue that they were not the better team. However, it didn’t look a penalty and on another day McAteer’s ‘goal’ may have been allowed to stand.
A tough afternoon for both sets of players in tough conditions and the heavy pitch certainly would have sapped their energy.
Sauchie’s McCulloch, Tapping, Syme and Shirra impressed, while Horne was good in goal for the home side and McAteer did well on the left.
We had pretty much stayed where we were after half time, but fans of both teams changed sides to be under the enclosure nearest the goal their team was attacking. It was interesting to hear that both sets of fans thought that the referee was biased to the other team.
Full Time: Whitburn Junior 0 Sauchie Juniors 1
Whitburn: 1 Peter Horne, 2 Jack Hamilton, 3 Connor McQueenie, 4 Greg Skinner, 5 Willie Gardner, 6 Chris Patrick (Wilson 83), 7 James Martin (Taylor 69), 8 Kris Russell, 9 Gary Brass, 10 James McAteer, 11 Jordan Bain. Subs: Andrew Gordon, Michael Fairbanks, 14 Dean Wilson, 12 Dewi Taylor
Sauchie: 1 Maitland Grieg, 2 Gary McCulloch, 3 Iain Syme, 4 Jordan Tapping, 5 Oliver Fleming, 6 Anthony McTaggart, 7 Ryan Millar (Flood 69), 8 Andy Shirra, 9 Steven Higgins, 10 David Morrison (Shields 86), 11 Brian Morgan (12 89). Subs: Mark Sharp, Steven Dolan, Stuart McFarlane, 17 Joshua Flood, 16 Martyn Shields.
Referee: Colin Whyte