EK open seven point gap at top of table
Prunty nets first goal but warns big tests lie ahead
Bryan Prunty opened his East Kilbride account as the defending Lowland champions came from behind to beat 10-man Whitehill Welfare.
And the Kilby striker warned every single point between now and the end of the season will be hard-earned.
Craig Malcolm bagged a brace and Sean Winter was also on target in the win as the hosts bounced back from Connor McGregor’s opener to sink Welfare, who had Joe Murray sent off midway through the second half.
The league leaders opened up a seven-point gap at the summit after nearest rivals BSC Glasgow had an idle weekend.
However, last-gasp wins for East Stirlingshire and Spartans – who have games in hand – means it’s still very much all to play for in the title race.
Prunty said: “It’s always nice to get your first goal at a new club and I’m delighted to get off the mark.
“The score was 2-1 at the time, so it was an important goal at an important time. We showed good strength of character to come back and we are going to have more tests like this.
“We know we can’t just turn up and expect to win games. We’ve got to fight for every goal and fight for every point over these last few games.
“Every point will be precious, but the boys are looking good at the moment. It’s an old cliche, but we’ve got to keep looking after ourselves and tick the games off one at a time.”
Kilby fell behind after 33 minutes when skipper Barry Russell, making his 100th appearance for the club, was penalised for a handball in the box. From the resultant penalty, keeper Matt McGinley saved McGregor’s spot kick, but the Welfare striker followed up to net the rebound.
With the hosts trailing at the break, a fast start to the second half was vital and seven minutes after the restart theLowland leaders were level.
Russell atoned for giving away the penalty by crossing for Winter and he bulleted home a header for 1-1.
Five minutes later Malcolm scored a tap-in after Winter’s effort was saved to edge EK ahead and Welfare’s woes continued in 65 minutes when Murray was shown a second yellow for a late tackle on Ross McNeil.
Winter won EK a penalty in 74 minutes, but Adam Strachan saw his spot-kick saved by the keeper.
Kilby’s third goal did arrive 10 minutes from time when Winter teed up Prunty to slot home his first goal for the club.
Prunty turned provider in the final minute to set up Malcolm for his second of the day, smashing the ball into the net at the back post.
K-Park boss Billy Stark said: “At the time I thought it was a very soft decision for the penalty, but we just had to get on with it.
“That was a blow, particularly as Matty saved it and it’s fallen kindly for the boy to put in the rebound.
“The pleasing thing was I asked them at half-time to up the tempo and show more urgency and then we had a really strong start to the second half.
“A great leap and a great goal from Sean got us back into it and that gave us a real lift. We know, playing at home, that teams like to sit in against us, so it was important to get the goal early on [in the second half ].
“We showed a good mixture of composure and urgency. The goals kept coming and Bryan Prunty showed his quality as a finisher.”
Kilby have just six games remaining and play their final home league match of the season on Saturday when they host Vale of Leithen.
Stark added: “It’s just the vagaries of the fixtures, compounded by the fact we switched our game with BSC to K-Park earlier in the season.
“But when we play away from home, I find teams are more willing to push players forward. They’ll come to our place and sit in more, so I don’t think it will be a big factor playing all these away games.”
Kick-off on Saturday is 3pm.
At the double Craig Malcolm took his tally to three goals in two games with a brace
On target Prunty fires home his first goal for East Kilbride