East Lothian Courier

Dropped points, call-offs and frustratio­n for county footballer­s

- By Tom Thornton

AFTER the previous weekend’s largely wipedout fixture card, weather conditions were kinder last week, with the result that only two matches across the East of Scotland Football League (EOSFL) fell by the wayside.

The East Lothian contingent were hit disproport­ionately hard, with Musselburg­h Athletic and Dunbar United forced to abandon plans to travel to Crossgates Primrose and Luncarty respective­ly in the Premier Division.

Three games took place locally but results were disappoint­ing – Tranent’s Lowland League title hopes diminished further after Caledonian Braves’ injury-time goal at Foresters Park meant a 1-1 draw and two more dropped points.

In the Premier Division, Haddington Athletic let slip a 3-1 lead to go down by the odd goal in seven to resurgent visitors Hill of Beath Hawthorn, and two divisions below, Ormiston Primrose finally managed to host a match for the first time in four months but were well beaten by promotion-chasing Thornton Hibs, comfortabl­e 4-0 winners.

Preston Athletic were in Fife to contest First Division points with Rosyth, where a 2-2 draw did their increasing­ly remote promotion prospects no good.

This week’s fixture card contains a scattering of cup ties, three with a local interest.

Tranent have a home tie with Premier Division champions-elect Broxburn Athletic in the South Challenge Cup’s fifth round, while in the Qualifying Cup third round, Musselburg­h and Haddington try again with away ties at Harthill Royal and Dundonald Bluebell respective­ly, both previously postponed.

Ormiston have switched their Second Division fixture to Newburgh due to ongoing concerns over the New Recreation Park pitch, while Preston and Dunbar are set to meet in a friendly at the Pennypit with neither having been allocated a competitiv­e fixture.

Tranent 1 Caledonian Braves 1

TRANENT’S 21st Lowland League fixture brought a visit to Foresters Park from a midtable Caledonian Braves outfit sat 14 points behind them in the table.

Having suffered two 1-0 defeats either side of the new year after a long unbeaten run, Ian Little’s men could ill afford to fall further behind leaders East Kilbride, who had a 12-point advantage – past experience, however, told them the Braves would be no pushovers.

When the teams had met in Lanarkshir­e in early November, an injury-time equaliser deprived Tranent of two valuable points.

Little named a strong starting XI for the match, with Kelby Mason recalled in goal.

Conditions were fair for the time of year when play kicked off, and the first scoring chance of the afternoon saw the hosts come close in the sixth minute when Euan Bauld’s header grazed the top of the crossbar from a John Ward corner.

That, however, was that as far as genuine early opportunit­ies went, with the action largely confined to midfield, though both sides managed the odd corner to no great effect.

Kieran Somerville delivered an inviting ball into the Braves box midway through the half but there was no team-mate placed to take advantage – the opening goal, however, was not far away. With 27 minutes showing on the clock, top scorer Cammy Ross did well to get past an opposition defender to the byeline

before delivering the ball into the goalmouth, where among those present was Lennon Walker, who prodded it over the line to claim his second goal inside seven days.

The goal sparked life into Tranent and they had the best of the next 10 minutes or so, probing for another goal to double their advantage – 10 minutes after taking the lead, Broque Watson’s cross invited Kallum Higginboth­am to have a shot but the veteran striker’s effort failed to trouble the Braves keeper.

A big moment followed three minutes later – Ross looked to make the most of a long ball forward as he cut a path through the visitors’ defence but Martins on the line cleared his shot away.

So it was Walker’s goal alone that separated the sides at the break, Tranent’s 1-0 lead a notunfair reflection of the opening 45 minutes’ proceeding­s.

As anticipate­d beforehand, Braves provided dogged opposition. Second-half chances were no more plentiful than beforehand, the first near thing coming shortly before the hour when Tranent very nearly conceded the equaliser – Mason did well in getting down low to make the save initially and was mightily relieved to see the shot from the rebound clear the crossbar when a goal seemed likely.

On 65 minutes, Higginboth­am was denied Tranent’s second by alert goalkeepin­g, while Somerville 12 minutes later brought the visiting keeper into action again.

By and large, Tranent had the edge but the Braves could not be counted out and, with 15 minutes remaining, home supporters had cause to applaud an important save from Mason when a low shot had seemed very possibly bound for the back of the net.

With four minutes to play, a Tranent penalty claim was waved away by the referee, who booked two Braves men in quick succession as the final whistle neared.

The three points looked Tranent’s for the taking but, in a bitterly disappoint­ing re-run of their last meeting with the same opposition, they conceded an equaliser in the second minute of injury time as Gemmell beat Mason with a fine strike.

With 13 league games left, it does now rather look as though Tranent are more than likely to

be playing tier-five football again in 2024/25 – East Kilbride are now 14 points ahead of them and are firm title favourites now. Optimists among Tranent’s support will point to the fact their favourites have still to play the leaders twice, having hammered them in a Scottish Cup tie, but the dropping of eight points inside a month has hit the Belters’ cause hard.

Cup football takes Tranent’s attention this week, as they play host to EOSFL leaders Broxburn Athletic to contest a place in the last eight of the South Challenge Cup. Broxburn have a 13-point lead at the top of the Premier Division table and will be keen to show up well against the 2022 champions – the match has the ingredient­s to be a cracking cup tie.

On the personnel front, two players have departed Foresters Park recently. Ciaran Brian returns to Edinburgh City after a loan spell, while 20-year-old striker Aiden Walsh has joined Musselburg­h Athletic 14 months after his transfer from Penicuik Athletic. most – in any case, it was announced on the Fife club’s social media accounts just before 10.30am on Saturday that the match had been called off due to an unplayable pitch.

Musselburg­h have now had to endure the frustratio­n of three call-offs over the past five Saturdays, so they will be hoping the weather is kind to them this week when they are set to try for a third time to fulfil their Qualifying Cup third-round tie at Harthill.

Their Third Division hosts are enjoying a reasonable campaign as they challenge for promotion to tier eight but suffered defeat at home to Lochgelly Albert at the weekend – if Burgh approach the tie with the correct outlook, they ought to be good enough to claim the prize of a fourth-round tie away to University of Stirling.

Olivebank boss Liam Burns has been busy recently strengthen­ing his playing squad, with three new signings announced this week. Former Whitehill Welfare, Kelty Hearts and Preston Athletic man Ross Jardine, 24, will provide competitio­n for the goalkeeper’s jersey, while Jonny Court and Aiden Walsh boost Burns’ attacking options. EX-SPFL man Court, 27, joins after three years or so with Linlithgow Rose, and Walsh, 20, moves from Tranent, where he had spent the past 14 months after moving from Penicuik Athletic.

 ?? ?? Haddington Athletic (maroon) let slip a two-goal advantage as they lost out to Hill of Beath Hawthorn on Saturday
Haddington Athletic (maroon) let slip a two-goal advantage as they lost out to Hill of Beath Hawthorn on Saturday

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from United Kingdom