Wednesday 12 April 2017, 18.30, Victoria Park
The Lowland League clash between Vale of Leithen and Whitehill Welfare.
Unusually, only a second viewing of Vale of Leithen this season and a first visit to Innerleithen since last season. Our only previous viewing was in August when they won at Preston Athletic.
It’s been an encouraging season for Vale manager Chris Anderson in his first season as manager, with his side sitting in 12th place in the 16 team league and well clear of any relegation worries. They were very much looking up the table rather than down with opponents Whitehill Welfare only 3 points ahead and five places higher.
Vale were at home four days earlier when they went down to a last minute winner against Stirling University.
We’ve seen Whitehill Welfare in three home games this season, but not since manager Steven Hislop left in November to take up the assistant manager job at Linlithgow Rose. Whitehill’s assistant David Bingham took over the manager role
Welfare’s inconsistent season has continued, with almost a whole new squad at the start of the season and several changes throughout it. Their mid table status is very much a consolidation after the raft of changes. They went down 3-1 at home to Edinburgh University in their last game.
Victoria Park is set in the Borders town of Innerleithen and has a picturesque setting with hills nearby. It has a small enclosure on one side of the pitch.
Vale had Hibs loanee Ali Smith in midfield while Welfare started with three trialists, with a further one on the bench.
There were 84 in attendance.
With 4 minutes gone, McGregor played the ball left to Atkinson who took it into the Vale box before shooting for goal, but it was a comfortable save for McQueen.
Paterson brought the ball forward for Vale in 7 minutes and had a shot from 25 yards which he managed to slice out for a throw in.
A Vale free kick in 11 minutes was put into the box by Paterson and fell for McLeod, who made a clever dummy, before shooting into the corner to give the home side the lead. Young got a hand to it but couldn’t keep it out.
McGregor took a Welfare corner in 13 minutes which hit Manson and headed towards the defender’s own goal, but Paterson was there to clear it off the line.
Straight up the other end and there was a chance for Vale, but Young was out quickly to block. Atkinson went right over the top of the keeper and needed treatment.
A mistake by Kerr in 18 minutes gave the ball to Vale’s Atkinson, but a defender got across to halt his progress on the edge of the box.
Osborne played a one-two with Spowart in 23 minutes as Welfare came forward. His cross to the back post found McGregor, but his shot took a deflection which made it easy for McQueen in the Vale goal.
A great ball into the Welfare box in 24 minutes by Stewart just eluded his team mates in the middle.
An early substitution took place for Welfare in 26 minutes with Kerr being replaced. He didn’t look too happy. Substitute Ali went up front with Healy dropping back into midfield.
In 31 minutes, an Atkinson cross almost found McLeod, but Williams managed to get something on it to turn it away from the Welfare goal.
A Welfare corner in 43 minutes was taken by Osborne and cleared to the edge of the box. Laing struck for goal, but McQueen saved.
A great ball across goal by Paterson in 44 minutes saw none of his Vale team mates take a gamble and the chance was gone.
Right on half time, Currie ran into the Welfare box but saw his shot take a deflection and Young punched the ball clear.
It was a competitive first half which Vale had the better of.
Six minutes into the second half Atkinson found Stevens running into the Welfare box. His shot was well saved by Young, but the ball ran kindly for Paterson who had a tap in to double Vale’s lead.
Vale’s McBride was booked in 52 minutes for a foul on Healy although he did seem to get the ball in the tackle. Osborne stepped up to take the free kick and curled it into the top corner to give Welfare an immediate reply and a lifeline.
McGregor put a Welfare free kick from his own half into the Vale box in 55 minutes and Ali sent a looping header towards goal, but McQueen managed to get there.
When a Vale corner was cleared in 58 minutes, Manson returned the ball to the back post for Lynch, but his shot was blocked by the foot of Young.
Another McGregor free kick in 61 minutes fell to Ali who hammered at goal, but his shot hit a defender and spun wide. McGregor also took the corner, which was met by the head of Williams, but he nodded wide.
With 65 minutes gone, Osborne lobbed the ball into the Vale box, but Ali headed wide.
Lynch received a yellow card in 61minutes for bringing down Welfare’s Spowart. Paterson followed his team mate into the book in 70 minutes for a foul on McGregor. A heavily limping McGregor took the free kick which resulted in an overhead kick by Williams which went over the bar.
A great run into the Vale box by Osborne in 78 minutes saw him go past a couple of defenders before he rifled at goal only to see his shot clip the top of the bar as it went over.
McGregor was forced to limp off in 80 minutes.
Stewart joined the mounting number of Vale players booked for a foul on Ali in 82 minutes.
Jason Stevens had a shot at the Welfare goal from the edge of the box in 84 minutes which took a nick on its way over the bar.
Welfare won a free kick in 88 minutes and Jason Stevens stood in front of the ball to try and delay the taking of it. Osborne pushed him away and Stevens sounded like the most shocked man on the planet as he shouted to the referee “He just pushed me in the chest!” The ref wasn’t interested.
A fine run into the box by Vale’s Stewart in 89 minutes was stopped by a goal saving challenge by Dodds.
With 90 minutes gone, Vale’s Motion played the ball wide to Shaun Stevens whose cross found McIntosh at the front post, but his shot hit the side netting.
In injury time Vale broke forward after a Welfare free kick and had three against one. Shaun Stevens misplaced his pass and Young was able to gather.
A battling win by Vale who played some good football in parts and had a number of good performances. Admirable fight from Welfare who made the second half difficult for the home side and never gave up.
As stated there were a number of players in the Vale side who played well, but the full backs, Stewart and Paterson, in particular impressed most with the latter excellent.
For Welfare there were some excellent deliveries by McGregor at set pieces which caused Vale problems and Osborne was particularly prominent in the midfield.
Full Time: Vale of Leithen 2 Whitehill Welfare 1
Vale of Leithen: 1 Andrew McQueen, 2 Sean Stewart, 3 Thomas Paterson, 4 Steven Lynch, 5 Craig McBride, 6 Robert Manson, 7 Ryan Currie, 8 Ali Smith (Motion 60), 9 Jason Stevens, 10 Keith McLeod (Stevens 68), 11 Blair Atkinson (McIntosh 76). Subs: 12 Johnny Scott-Mercer, 14 Shaun Stevens, 15 Liam McIntosh, 16 Ainslie Hunter, 17 Daniel O’Donnell, 18 Kevin Motion.
Whitehill Welfare: 21 Bryan Young, 16 Mark Sampson (T), 8 Kerr Dodds, 5 John Williams, 2 Corey Robertson, 6 Connor McGregor (Russell 80), 14 Jamie Laing (T), 10 John-Ross Kerr (Ali 26), 15 Michael Osborne, 11 Daryl Healy, 18 Connor Spowart (T), Subs: 17 Omar Ali (T), 19 Scott Russell, 21 Ross Jardine.
Referee: Iain Snedden