East Lothian Courier

Haddington Athletic 3 Hill of Beath Hawthorn 4

- Luncarty P Dunbar United P

THREE weeks on from the 3-1 Millfield victory over Penicuik Athletic which gave them the start to 2024 they had wanted, Haddington returned to their home ground for their third outing of the year – in between times, they had suffered a 4-2 defeat at Musselburg­h, then had a weekend on the sidelines due to the winter weather conditions.

Visitors Hill of Beath could rightly be reckoned one of the EOSFL Premier Division’s form teams, having put together a four-game unbeaten run including three successive away victories – students of the league table would have noted that by far the majority of the Haws’ points had been picked up on the road. The recent upturn in form had begun with an injury-time winner on their previous visit to East Lothian, when they had won 2-1 at Dunbar in mid-december.

Hi Hi’s boss Scott Bonar made three changes to his starting XI – Dale Cornet returned for his first outing in goal since October 21 in place of Campbell Mclellan, while there were recalls too for Gabri Auriemma and Keir Russell in replacing Corey Robertson and Guy Mcgarry, who were listed among the substitute­s. Also on the bench were strikers Tom Davies and Mark Mcgovern – 21-year-old Davies had concluded a transfer from Arniston Rangers the previous day, while Mcgovern, after almost five months out injured, had scored on his comeback as an overage player in the under 20s’ 3-2 defeat against Leith Athletic the previous evening.

The returning Cornet was the first keeper in action as the two-minute mark approached, dealing easily with a tame Haws free-kick.

Not quite a minute later, Haddington were in front as Joe Tait fired the ball past keeper Penman from the edge of the box following a quick move forward which saw the ball played into the danger area by Auriemma on the left of midfield.

Penman was in action again on 10 minutes when Lucas Mcgarry’s header presented him with a little difficulty and, from the resulting

corner delivered from the left, Ali Simpson headed into the side netting at the back post.

The visitors came into the game more as time wore on and levelled through a clinical strike from Tosh, who beat Cornet at his left post after the home defence was stretched.

Gary Windram’s shot from a very tight angle on the left brought a hesitant save from Penman on 26 minutes and Tait shot over the bar just a couple of minutes later as Haddington sought to restore their lead – the Fifers, however, had their fair share of possession and overall there was not much in it.

An early change was forced upon Haddington just past the half hour, new boy Davies replacing Robbie Peffers, who had been dazed by a head knock.

Tait struck again to make it 2-1 with barely three minutes of the half remaining, ambitiousl­y having a go from out near the left touchline and taking Penman by surprise, the keeper beaten at his near post and looking none too clever in conceding.

The visitors had a couple of chances shortly afterwards but were thwarted by good goalkeepin­g on the part of Cornet, then deep into injury time, a golden opportunit­y to make the score 3-1 fell to Auriemma deep inside the Haws’ penalty area but Haddington’s skipper could not capitalise.

The second half was barely under way when Russell conceded a penalty with a careless foul on an opponent but, fortunatel­y for him, Love’s spot kick came back off the crossbar with Cornet beaten.

Then, just before the 50-minute mark, a third Hi Hi’s goal doubled their advantage – Tait’s ball set Davies free on the right and the debutant’s inviting low ball in just evaded Auriemma in the six-yard box before falling for Windram, who snapped up the chance.

With the game’s fifth goal quite likely to be telling, both goalkeeper­s were called upon to make meaningful saves before that goal crucially favoured the visitors just at the half’s midway point – Tosh struck his second at an angle, with the home defence all at sea.

A Cornet save prevented the equaliser barely a minute or so on and his goal had another let-off following a Haws corner on 74 minutes when a shot cleared the bar but not by much.

Defensive frailty reared its head again just past the 76-minute mark when Russell’s hesitation at a crucial moment allowed Watt in to equalise, and the visitors’ comeback was complete with six minutes remaining after Haddington conceded midfield possession and the ball was quickly worked forward for substitute Adamson to finish from just inside the box.

It was a deeply disappoint­ing outcome ultimately for Haddington, architects of their own misfortune in many respects – having gone 15 months without conceding four goals in a match, they have now done so twice in succession through uncharacte­ristically sloppy defensive work.

Hill of Beath remarkably have collected 25 of their points total of 27 from away fixtures.

It is hoped that weather conditions this week permit the Hi Hi’s third-round Qualifying Cup tie away at Dundonald Bluebell to go ahead at the fourth time of asking.

Dundonald enjoyed a fine 5-2 league win away to Inverkeith­ing Hillfield Swifts on Saturday, and home advantage gives them the tag of favourites – a close-fought cup tie looks likely.

DUNBAR were due on Saturday to make their longest journey of the season to Luncarty’s Brownlands Park, 84 miles to the north, with the intention of fulfilling their 19th EOSFL Premier Division fixture.

Both contestant­s were promoted in May from the First Division alongside Glenrothes and Kinnoull, but only the Seasiders of the quartet have flourished, while the remaining three occupy the relegation spots currently.

Luncarty, having accrued a mere six points to Dunbar’s 33 and with a new management team in charge, would have gone into the game as underdogs despite home advantage – as it was, however, Dunbar were left with a frustrated feeling when the news came through that their rivals’ pitch had failed an early-morning inspection.

The fact that weather conditions in East Lothian were fine for the time of the year, just one other game had fallen, and the sceptical nature of many football supporters, gave rise to discussion questionin­g the reality behind the call-off – regardless of this, though, the Seasiders’ players had to find other means by which to occupy their Saturday.

Seasiders’ boss Kevin Haynes kept his men match fit with a Tuesday-evening friendly under the lights at New Countess Park against the club’s under-20 side. Featuring in black and white for the first time was latest signing Byron Archibald from Whitehill Welfare – the young midfielder joins after half a season at Rosewell, having played previously alongside brother Brandon at Preston Athletic, with the pair now reunited at Dunbar.

With no competitiv­e fixture allocated this Saturday, Dunbar have lined up a friendly against Preston Athletic away from home.

PRESTON ATHLETIC Rosyth 2 Preston Athletic 2

PRESTON’S destinatio­n on Saturday was the Fleet Grounds facility at Rosyth, an artificial

playing surface very much on the small side area-wise in a caged environmen­t – not a favourite of visiting clubs, though the circumstan­ces behind Rosyth’s tenancy there are no fault of their own.

With constructi­on of a new home at Pitreavie in progress, it was likely to be the Panners’ last visit – they were up against opponents five points better off than them and two places higher in the table.

Both sides still harbour some hope that promotion might be achieved, but realistica­lly it appeared before Saturday’s game as though either of them would have to embark on a seriously impressive unbeaten run very soon if there was to be so much as a chance of them reaching the 2024/25 Premier Division.

Windy conditions brought challenges from the outset in what proved as close a contest overall as the league standings had suggested.

An entertaini­ng affair saw play switch from one end to the other very regularly, with two committed teams giving as good as they got in what was at times a little bit of a physical battle.

The first half ’s only goal came with 17 minutes played, Jay Murray giving Preston the lead with a well-struck shot low under the home keeper.

The wind died down somewhat after the break but the game continued in much the same vein, neither side giving an inch.

Preston chances to extend their lead were not made the most of and, with Rosyth then upping their game a bit, they claimed the equaliser through Healy with about 20 minutes remaining.

Stung by this, Preston restored their lead almost immediatel­y through substitute Cami Laidlaw – and when Rosyth’s Ness departed after picking up a second yellow card, things looked favourable for the Panners.

Their hosts’ 10 men, however, organised themselves effectivel­y and earned themselves a point late on when Preston conceded a penalty from which Healy blasted the ball high into the net.

Not for the first time this season, Preston had cause in the end to rue missed opportunit­ies earlier in the game – the solitary point gained keeps them very much mid-table, with a gap now of 13 points between them and the promotion places and only 11 games left.

There is no room for Preston on this Saturday’s official fixture card, so they have lined up a friendly at the Pennypit against county rivals Dunbar United.

ORMISTON PRIMROSE Ormiston Primrose 0 Thornton Hibs 4

FOR the first time since September 30, a gap of four long months, Ormiston were finally able to host a home fixture at New Recreation Park on Saturday when Thornton Hibs paid them a call on EOSFL Second Division business.

When last they had played a home game, the Primrose had suffered an embarrassi­ng 12-2 reversal at the hands of Edinburgh South – in between times, they had fulfilled six away fixtures, resulting in five defeats and a draw.

Thornton, meanwhile, have been building up a head of steam as they have surged into the promotion places recently, and had lost only twice in 24 league outings – naturally, they were very much favourites to win, especially given they had run out 6-2 winners when the teams met in Fife in late November.

Much as expected, Thornton looked the stronger outfit throughout and two goals in either half were enough to give them a comfortabl­e three points.

Ormiston battled as best they could but could not compete with a Hibs outfit high on confidence, their relative lack of match practice over the course of a four-month period clearly not helpful to their cause.

Adam gave the visitors a 14th-minute lead direct from a free-kick, home keeper Kieran Beveridge getting both hands to the ball but unable to prevent it trickling over the line.

Westwaters doubled the Hibs lead seven minutes later with an impressive strike from distance and it might have been three not long before the break but for good work from Beveridge in the home goal in dealing with a speculativ­e effort from Laird.

Ormiston’s attacking opportunit­ies were limited, with the Thornton rearguard coping ably when called upon.

The second half saw Thornton on top again, Laird netting their third on the volley from close range with 66 minutes played.

Late in the game, Westwaters was unceremoni­ously halted by illegal means in the Primrose area following a strong run from the centre circle, and Drummond netted the visitors’ fourth and final goal from the spot.

This Saturday, Ormiston again face Fife opposition, in a game from which they really need to take something to give themselves hope of escaping the relegation zone.

They had been due to host Newburgh at home but concerns surroundin­g their pitch have led to a switch to the East Shore Park home of their north Fife opponents, who sit joint bottom of the table alongside them with the same seven-point tally.

This is the pair’s first meeting of the season. Last season’s two meetings ended in away wins.

Their opponents were on the wrong end of a 9-0 home thrashing last week at the hands of runaway leaders Bo’ness Athletic – Ormiston will hope that result has affected their spirit to some degree.

 ?? ?? Haddington in action during Saturday’s defeat to Hill of Beath Hawthorn
Haddington in action during Saturday’s defeat to Hill of Beath Hawthorn

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