Friday 24 March 2017, 19.30 Pennypit Park

Lowland League action between Preston Athletic and Cumbernauld Colts.

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A Friday night game in East Lothian which begins Groundhop UK’s Scottish leg for 2017.  Their tours of grounds have incorporated an official Scottish trip annually and Preston had been one of the grounds on the list for last season.  A very late call off lost Athletic a lot of money, having already made food and produced programmes etc for the much bigger crowd than usual.  The organisers stated there and then that they would include Preston on a future trip and true to their word, they returned to Pennypit Park this year.

I helped a number of hoppers last year outside the ground with possible alternatives to their schedule and am hopeful the same won’t be required this year.

The slight inconvenience to teams having to play at unusual times to accommodate the hoppers is offset by bumper crowds and big sales in merchandise and catering.  The numbers also bring a bit more of an atmosphere, although most seem to be very much neutral in their support.

It’s our first sight of Preston Athletic since seeing them lose 2-1 at Spartans in November.  It’s been a tough season for the men from Prestonpans, and they are yet to win in the league this year and are rooted to the bottom, some distance from safety.  They face relegation to the East of Scotland Football League, but there will be a number of factors, including the team topping the East of Scotland league meeting licensing criteria to satisfy the terms of promotion.

Our only previous look at Cumbernauld Colts this season was also at Ainslie Park, when they played there against Leith Athletic in the Scottish Cup.  Colts haven’t won in the league since the beginning of February but are safely in mid-table.  With the run of form of both teams, this could well be the moveable object against the stoppable force.

With one of the Groundhoppers buses running late, the kick off was pushed back to 7.45 and they boosted the crowd to 263.

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Stevenson picked up an early booking in the second minute for a late tackle on Colts’ O’Neil on the half way line.

Colts were taking the early initiative and Black took a pass from Sheridan in 4 minutes and ran along the edge of the Preston box, but he fired well over the bar.

In 9 minutes, O’Neil took the ball forward for Colts on the left and passed inside to Brown.  As he went to shoot, he was clipped from behind by Conway who became the second home player booked inside the opening ten minutes.

A short pass back by Colts in 10 minutes almost gave Neto a chance, but Fahey came out quickly to clear.

Colts attacked again in 12 minutes and Black found O’Neil on the left side of the box.  He passed inside to Brown and Pennycuick did well to block his shot before the defence cleared.

MacFarlane became the first Colts player booked in 15 minutes after a foul on Neto.

A group of around 20 kids had spent the opening 15 minutes running about in the main stand until a woman led them all away somewhere else, in a pied piper style, to give those watching some relief.

Marshall was running back towards his own goal in 18 minutes and his attempt to clear for a throw ended up being sliced badly behind his own goal to give Preston a corner.  He was relieved that it came to nothing.

The Preston offside trap was sprung in 20 minutes and O’Neil was through on the left side of the box, but he curled his effort wide.

In 22 minutes, a clever pass by Brown set up Murray in the Preston box.  It was a great chance, but he scooped over.  He was glad to see the flag was up.

A ball cut through the Preston defence in 25 minutes and saw Brown running through on goal.  Pennycuick came out and McLeod chased after him, but the striker placed the ball past the keeper to give Colts the lead.

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A nice passing move by Colts in 28 minutes almost saw them break through the defence, but Conway blocked.

Inglis was booked in 30 minutes for bringing down Colts Murray.  Broadfoot swung the free kick into the box where it was headed goalwards by Hunter, but Pennycuick managed to push the ball behind.

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Preston’s Smith was forced to limp off in 31 minutes.

Young showed some good skill on the left in his own half in 33 minutes before he lost the ball.  His frustrations got the better of him and he was lucky not to get a yellow card for a late tackle.  Broadfoot’s free kick to the back post found the head of Brown, but he glanced wide when he really should have made it 2-0.

A cross into the Preston box in 36 minutes was hit goalwards by Black but Pennycuick blocked.  Murray followed up to tap home the rebound, but the flag was up.

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In 40 minutes, O’Neil played the ball through the Preston defence and Brown ran through on goal.  Pennycuick was out quickly and dived on the ball, but was caught by Brown.  The striker was perhaps fortunate not to receive a card from the referee.

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Colts were still a solitary goal in front at the half time whistle, which they certainly merited.

The home side looked to start the second half in a positive manner and Neto passed to Young, who played the ball wide to Binnie, but his cross was cleared.

With 53 minutes gone, Black was the victim of a bad tackle on the half way line.  The referee played advantage as Colts broke forward.  O’Neil was through on goal but just before he reached the box, he was clipped by Cowan.  It may have been accidental, it was difficult to tell from where I was, but the defender was shown a straight red.  Broadfoot’s cross came to the feet of O’Neil, but he shot over.

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Carter latched onto a loose ball on the edge of the Colts box in 56 minutes and struck his shot well at goal, but it was just too high.

Pennycuick in the Preston goal appeared to be using ‘the force’ to keep the ball out of his net, clearly channelling Yoda when shouting to his team mates “Back in we get.”

Colts’ O’Neil was pulled down off the ball by Stevenson as his side broke forward in 59 minutes, but the officials missed the incident.

Young was very late with a  tackle on a Colts player in 60 minutes after his own team had already been awarded a free kick, and was booked.

A pass by Broadfoot in the Preston box to Murray in 67 minutes saw the defence block then a scramble ensued before the defence got the ball away.

A snapshot from Preston’s Carter from the edge of the box in 71 minutes was off target as the home side refused to give up.

Keane was the next Preston player booked in 72 minutes for a foul on Murray.

Colts played a long ball forward into the Preston box in 74 minutes which found Black, but he didn’t catch his shot well and Pennycuick gathered.

The referee considered that Stevenson needed booked for persistent fouling in 75 minutes, with someone in the crowd insisting it was his second yellow card. (It wasn’t).

Nice play by Colts in 77 minutes ended with the ball at Brown’s feet in the box, but McLeod did well to snuff out the danger.

O’Neil and Brown broke clear of the home defence in 79 minutes, but the former took a heavy touch and the chance was gone.

The visitors continued to press and in 83 minutes, Sheridan received the ball on the right and squared it for Brown.  The striker had time to turn and fire low into the corner for his and his team’s second.

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Two minutes later and Brown turned provider when he chipped the ball to the back post for O’Neil, but he headed wide.

A Colts corner taken by O’Neil in 87 minutes should have been headed in by substitute Barclay with his first touch, but he missed his header.

A comfortable win in the end for Cumbernauld and it looks like the end for Preston Athletic in the Lowland League.  The home side fought hard, but it wasn’t to be their day.

Murray played well in the Colts midfield and Neto looked a threat for Preston, but wasn’t on the ball enough.

Full Time: Preston Athletic 0 Cumbernauld Colts 2

Admission: £5

Preston Athletic: 1 Craig Pennycuick, 2 Ross Cowan, 3 Kevin Keane, 4 David McLeod, 5 Shaun Conway (Siegel 85), 6 Gavin Stevenson, 7 Fabio Neto, 8 Jason Young (Jardine 88), 9 Mark Smith (Carter 31), 10 Greg Binnie, 11 Chris Inglis. Subs: 12 Brandon Cameron, 13 Matthew Baines, 14 Jack Jardine, 15 Lewis Turkington, 16 Reece Cochrane, 17 Robbie Carter, 18 Scott Siegel.

Cumbernauld Colts: 1 Chris Fahey, 2 Andy Hunter, 3 Daniel MacFarlane, 4 Jordan Marshall, 5 Andy Ward, 6 Jamie Broadfoot, 7 Stephen O’Neil (MacKenzie 87), 8 Craig Murray (Barclay 85), 9 Sean Brown, 10 Johnathan Black, 11 Fraser Sheridan. Subs: 12 Jamie Barclay, 13 Kenny Giles, 14 Jeff Fergus, 15 Conor MacKenzie, 16 Jordan Pirrie, 17 Blair Bateman, 18 Marc Anthony Byrnes.

Referee: Ryan Lee

Programme: £2

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