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Derek Hall’s report for Bo’ness United v Musselburgh Athletic on Saturday 5th February

todayFebruary 10, 2022


Bo’ness United 3-0 Musselburgh Athletic

An intriguing East of Scotland 4th Round Qualifying Cup tie at Newtown Park saw Lowland League Bo’ness United drawn against EOS Premier side Musselburgh Athletic with both teams looking for a result to perhaps start a run of form to boost the confidence and help find the consistency which has eluded both sides recently. A very moving moment prior to kick off saw a minutes silence observed to remember Bo’ness United chairman Iain Muirhead who tragically passed away last week, and the family members present will hopefully have taken some comfort from an impeccably conducted show of respect for their loved one. Early play was cagey on a cold, blustery evening and it was fully five minutes before Michael Gemmell, Tom Grant and Jamie McCormack combined for the latter to cross to the back post but Ryan Stevenson couldn’t reach the cross. Gregor Nicol then tried to flick the ball into the path of Stevenson on the edge of the Burgh box but a timely interception by player/manager Joe Hamill cleared the danger for the East Lothian side. The same two players combined seconds later as Nicol drove forward and laid the ball into the path of Stevenson, who stepped inside his man before curling his 22 yard right foot drive a yard over the bar. Bo’ness were warming to their task and on eight minutes, McCormack found Gemmell who moved into the Burgh penalty area but he pulled his right foot drive from 14 yards across the face of goal and well wide. It was all United at this point and just a minute later, McCormack fed Grant and he curled a lovely 20 yard left foot effort just wide of Burgh keeper Ben McGinley’s right hand post with the Burgh custodian rooted to the spot. The visitors finally threatened after 12 minutes as Lewis Hawkins was forced to concede a corner and Conor Thomson delivered a good ball to the back post but the United defence held firm. A second corner quickly followed and this time Lewis White saw his shot blocked and the return header from Darren Downie was touched over by United keeper Andy Murphy for a third corner which this time came to nothing. Danny Galbraith had a couple of chances to deliver into the Burgh penalty area but on both occasions, his deliveries went long as he found things difficult to judge with a strong breeze behind his cross balls. However after 19 minutes, the home side missed a glorious opportunity to break the deadlock as Grant again found Stevenson down the left flank and his delivery reached Matty Flynn on the edge of the six yard box and he touched the ball back to Grant who had continued his run, but probably wished he hadn’t as he fired over from no more than seven yards range, much to the frustration of his manager Max Christie on the side lines. After 22 minutes, Burgh’s Lloyd Fiddler went down near the touchline after an innocuous challenge and required some lengthy treatment before continuing and within seconds, Nicol had two efforts from the edge of the Musselburgh penalty area which were both blocked. A minute later, Fiddler found he was unable to shake off the injury and limped off to be replaced by Declan O’Kane. With 28 minutes gone, a foul on Gemmell saw Grant float a lovely free kick to the back post and Stuart Hunter was desperately unlucky to see his downward header smack off the base of the Burgh post before being scrambled to safety. Burgh broke away with a quick counter attack and Thomson took the direct route as he sprinted through the heart of the Bo’ness defence before firing in a low 18 yard left foot drive which Murphy held fairly comfortably down to his left. Back came the home side and Galbraith started a move down the right wing which also involved Gemmell and McCormack and ended with Nicol firing in a 19 yard left foot drive which Burgh keeper McGinley got right behind to make the save. Bo’ness continued to dominate without making the breakthrough and on 32 minutes, a thumping 16 yard angled drive from Grant saw Burgh keeper McGinley throw himself full length to his left to palm the effort away and the visitors were still holding firm under some serious pressure. However with 38 minutes on the clock, the home side finally got the goal their overall play deserved as once again Stevenson picked up the ball on the angle inside the Burgh penalty area and he took a touch to control before then firing low across keeper McGinley from around 15 yards into the far corner for a goal his own performance certainly merited. Burgh tried to respond and a foul on Matthew Sipowicz out wide saw a long ball delivered to the back post and Lewis White took the ball on the half volley but blazed a difficult chance high over from 14 yards. Two minutes from half time, Grant carelessly lost possession in midfield allowing Downie to move forward for Burgh, but Grant came back to redeem himself as he took the ball off the Burgh strikers’ toes and found his keeper. Right on half time, Musselburgh loaded up the box for a final free kick into the Bo’ness box, but O’Kane’s delivery didn’t present a problem for home keeper Murphy. At the break, the scoreline was a pretty fair reflection of how the game had gone and in truth, it could have been more as Bo’ness created a number of decent chances to add to their tally, whilst the visitors attacks had been fairly sporadic and home keeper Murphy had certainly had one of his quieter evenings thus far.
A half time change for the home side saw Galbraith replaced by Kyle Johnston and it was Musselburgh straight onto the attack but Gregor Woods cross into the Bo’ness penalty area only found keeper Murphy. After 48 minutes, Greg Skinner played a ball into the Burgh penalty area and slack defending by Sipowicz saw him robbed by Stevenson but his pass inside to try to find a team mate was off the mark this time. A foul on Flynn in midfield saw the free kick drop for McCormack but he got under his effort from 12 yards and it sailed over the Burgh crossbar. It was almost two on 51 minutes when Grant picked out the excellent Nicol who went into the box but was driven wide by keeper McGinley as he came out to meet him but he managed to turn the ball back inside to half time substitute Kyle Johnston who leant back on his effort from 12 yards and skied it over the bar. Bo’ness had again seized the initiative and another driving run from Nicol saw him feed McCormack who tried to be just too precise with his drive across keeper McGinley, and he dived to his right to push the ball away. However after 54 minutes, all the home sides pressure was almost undone as O’Kane picked up a loose ball in midfield and strode forward before unleashing a thunderous right foot drive from all of 30 yards which Murphy was delighted to see fizz just past the junction of post and crossbar. Musselburgh were at last having something resembling a spell and Downie got into the penalty area before firing in a powerful right foot drive from around 16 yards which home keeper Murphy was forced to beat away before his defence did the rest. After 63 minutes, a foul on Johnston in a central position around 25 yards out presented the home side with an excellent set piece opportunity but a poor free kick cannoned off the wall and Flynn’s return ball into the area saw the flag go up as Bo’ness finally had the ball in the net a second time but it didn’t count. Two minutes later, Stevenson again got forward for United and he found Johnston on the edge of the penalty area but he hesitated on the shot allowing Jackie Myles to get a challenge in and take the pace off the effort. With 68 minutes gone, the home fans finally breathed a collective sigh of relief as Bo’ness struck for a second time and it was McCormack who started the move as he played in Nicol and he drove to the edge of the Burgh penalty area before rolling the ball into the path of Flynn who stroked the ball beautifully with his instep into the far corner of the net across keeper McGinley from around 14 yards for a goal very similar to their opening strike. Shortly afterwards, McCormack himself cut in from the right flank before switching the ball onto his left foot for a 22 yard drive which keeper McGinley turned behind at full stretch. A couple of corners then resulted in Grant clipping the ball to the far post where Nicol brought out another excellent low save at his post by the over worked keeper McGinley. Referee Craig Wilson felt the need to bring in Burgh’s Jackie Myles on 71 minutes for a quiet word after a foul in midfield but a card of any colour had yet to make an appearance. United almost handed Burgh a way back in as Johnston gave the ball away in midfield and Woods found Sipowicz who turned the ball in to Downie in the United penalty area and it took a superb intervention from Hunter to turn the ball behind at the expense of a corner. Fifteen minutes from time, the visitors made a double switch as Ben Reilly and Dean Ballantyne came on for Myles and Thomson and at the same stoppage, Bo’ness replaced Grant with Cody McLeod. Johnston saw a 25 yard drive blocked whilst at the other end, a Downie drive from a similar distance swung wide of the United goals. Ten minutes from time, a handball decision gave O’Kane another chance to deliver into the United penalty area but a poor free kick was little more than catching practice for Murphy. However, the game was put to bed four minutes from time as Johnston played in Nicol who was fouled as he drove towards the Burgh penalty area but referee Wilson played a superb advantage and Nicol was able to find Stevenson who stepped inside and placed a classy right foot curler into the corner from around fifteen yards, game over. At this point, Nicol was withdrawn and replaced by Kyle Wilson and this gave the home fans a chance to applaud the contribution of the young forward, who along with Stevenson had been outstanding for the home side. One last chance fell the way of Reilly for the visitors but his shot was blocked and at the final whistle, it was Bo’ness United who take their place in the next round of the competition after an impressive and dominant performance as they took a grip on proceedings within the first ten minutes of the match and rarely allowed that grip to be loosened during the course of the entire game. For the East Lothian side, it’s now a chance to concentrate on their league form and to start producing again some of the good football and strong results which had moved them up to fourth in the league standings and which for their fans, can’t return soon enough !

Written by: Russell Aitken

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