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Derek Hall’s report for Leith Athletic v Whitehill Welfare on 30th April

todayMay 1, 2022


Leith Athletic 1-3 Whitehill Welfare

League Cup business to be settled at Peffermill with Conference A challengers Leith Athletic welcoming a Whitehill Welfare side who, despite relegation from the top flight, were on an eight game unbeaten run. On three minutes, Ben Wardlaw got down the right flank for Leith before turning the ball inside to Wayne Sproule who took a touch before trying to place his eighteen yard effort right in the corner, but Welfare keeper Musa Dibaga dived to his left to hold the ball. Whitehill responded and Bryan Wilson found Ewan McKinlay on the edge of the Leith box, but he lost out through force of numbers. However within seconds, Welfare captain Josh Walker tried a half volley from fully 30 yards which didn’t miss by much. Welfare continued their bright start and took the lead after eight minutes when McKinlay fed Ryan Weir who drove straight through the heart of the Leith defence before drawing keeper Campbell McLellan and then cooly rolling the ball past him into the corner of the net from around fifteen yards and the visitors were off to a flyer. On ten minutes, a corner into the Leith box saw an unconvincing punch from keeper McLellan but he gathered at the second attempt despite pressure from Jordon Burrows. Sproule tried to pick out Ben Bookbinder on the edge of the Welfare box after twelve minutes but there was just too much on the pass and it ran behind. After sixteen minutes, Finn Thomson wanted too much time on the ball in midfield for Welfare and he was robbed by Cammy Stewart who quickly drove forward to fire in a 22 yard drive which keeper Dibaga saved low to his left. However, Welfare immediately broke forward and referee Ryan Lee played an advantage after a foul in midfield by Leith’s Kerr Allan which allowed Ewan McKinlay to burst forward before hammering an unstoppable right foot pile driver from fully 30 yards into the corner of the net past the despairing dive of home keeper McLellan to double the visitors lead in spectacular style, with Allan then picking up a caution for the original foul. Three minutes later, it could have been three as Fyn Connor sent a lovely cross over from the right wing and straight onto the head of McKinlay but the header just couldn’t find the target. Less than a minute later, the same player saw a sixteen yard right foot curler shave the far post and at this juncture, it was all Whitehill. However, on 25 minutes, Leith hauled themselves back into the match as Sproule controlled the ball nicely on the edge of the Whitehill box before slipping a deft pass through to Bookbinder who got his shot on the angle away from 13 yards which keeper Dibaga could only parry straight into the path of Wardlaw and he made no mistake from close range as he knocked the ball home. A minute later, Michael Barfoot of Leith went into referee Lee’s book after a heavy challenge on Weir and there were few complaints as the card was shown. Connor swung the set piece over and Ricky Miller got up at the back post to power an eight yard header off the post and Weir knocked the rebound into the net only to see the offside flag rule the goal out. Blair Tolmie then found Weir with another excellent pass and when he was fouled, McKinlay delivered another excellent cross which Weir met around eight yards out completely unchallenged but could only send his header straight into the hands of home keeper McLellan. On 33 minutes, Weir sent Liam Ireland to the goal line and he tried to cheekily slip the ball in at the near post from an almost impossible angle but the right foot of home keeper McLellan turned the ball behind. Another Barfoot foul on Weir saw the Leith midfielder receive a quiet reminder from the referee that he was already carrying a yellow but Walker sent a disappointing 28 yard set piece well over the home crossbar. The visitors continued to dominate and Wilson sent Ireland down the left flank and his cut back was dummied before being met by McKinlay who saw his effort from twelve yards instinctively parried away high to his right by keeper McLellan who showed brilliant reactions to reach the ball. However, the ball was never fully cleared and Ireland picked up the ball before delivering an inch perfect near post cross and this time Weir escaped his marker to bullet home a six yard header which went in just inside the post and restore the visitors two goal lead with 37 minutes on the clock. Sproule almost found Wardlaw on the edge of the Whitehill box but keeper Dibaga was alert and out to hammer the ball clear. Two minutes from the break, Weir sent Ireland down the left wing again where he won a corner and the ball across saw Weir have a header blocked by keeper McLellan who then saved the follow up header from the same player. A minute from the break, a strong run cutting in from the left flank saw Bookbinder drift past a couple of Welfare defenders before rifling in a right foot drive from the edge of the box which drifted a couple of yards wide of Dibaga’s right hand post. However at the break, the visitors were deservedly two goals up after a dominant first period which might just have seen a couple more goals on another day. A weakened Leith side had hung in doggedly and would doubtless be feeling that if they could notch the next goal, this cup tie would still be very much up for grabs.
The first 90 seconds of the second half started in frantic fashion and had visiting keeper Dibaga’s name all over them. A long ball saw the keeper come out to the edge of his box to beat Bookbinder to the ball, with the keeper then setting out for a wee excursion to the left touchline before eventually putting the ball out. From the throw in, James Redpath seemed to spot Dibaga was slightly off his line and had a snap shot for the home side from fully 40 yards which the keeper gathered as he moved backwards. The keeper then rolled the ball to a team mate who played it back to him but the keeper slipped and fell making his clearance which went straight to Sproule and his looping 25 yard effort saw Dibaga get off the ground and somehow get back to tip the ball over from almost under his crossbar, quite a sequence of events for the visiting goalkeeper. Sproule took the corner and found Wardlaw but he shot tamely wide on the angle to end the mayhem. On 49 minutes, Weir went down the right flank and turned Redpath before clipping a lovely cross to the back post which Burrows headed straight at home keeper McLellan who saved at the second attempt. Bookbinder sent another long range effort wide for Leith and then the same player twice had crosses from the left wing blocked by Tolmie within seconds. A foul on Bookbinder by Thomson saw Sproule send a nice ball into the Welfare box and when it was cleared out to Allan, his return ball saw Stewart arrive at pace, only to send his ten yard half volley just over the top, a great chance for the home side. Leith were showing much more urgency now and on 55 minutes, a brilliant inswinging corner from Redpath somehow went straight through a crowded Leith six yard box without anyone getting a touch. Two minutes later, Bookbinder had another right foot drive blocked by Miller before at the other end, McKinlay picked out Burrows with a back post cross but the Whitehill no9 got his contact all wrong and the ball actually came away from goal. On the hour, McKinlay and Burrows carved out another chance for Weir but his eighteen yard drive was plucked out of the air by home keeper McLellan. Connor then dispossessed Redpath and found McKinlay but his 25 yard left foot drive went high and wide of the Leith goals. Stewart then sent Wardlaw to the goal line but Dibaga was right there to field the cut back. Thomson, Weir and Ireland then combined nicely after 63 minutes to set up McKinlay for Welfare but again the left foot drive was off target and at this stoppage, the games first change took place as the home side replaced Barfoot with Dylan Greatorex. A brilliant pass from Miller saw Burrows flash a great cross ball right across goal just before Welfare made their first change on 68 minutes with Ryan Hodge replacing Thomson. Miller then floated a free kick forward and Weir had a shot blocked by Murray Hand of Leith and Ireland’s follow up effort also didn’t get through. A pass from home keeper McLellan found Redpath and he delivered a superb back post cross which Sproule clipped back into the Welfare goal area and keeper Dibaga did well to gather under pressure from Wardlaw. Another excellent Miller pass after 72 minutes saw Burrows go into the Leith penalty area only for keeper McLellan to dive at his feet and save brilliantly on the ground at full stretch as the Whitehill centre forward tried to round him. Leith then replaced Hand with Matteo Crolla and just after this, Hodge became the first Whitehill player into referee Lee’s book after 73 minutes for a fairly blatant pull back on Stewart who had robbed him of the ball but Redpath’s set piece went straight out of play. With a quarter of an hour to play, Redpath picked out Bookbinder and he cut in before sending a 25 yard left foot drive a yard over the bar. With ten minutes remaining, Leith made a double switch as Stewart and Sproule gave way for James O’Hara and Blair Houston and Whitehill also went to their bench with Jacob Shyngle replacing Burrows which meant Miller was pushed forward into a more advanced position for the visitors. Wardlaw sent a 25 yarder wide for Leith before a wonderful 45 yard diagonal pass from Weir picked out Connor who played the ball into the Leith box and McKinlay managed to get past keeper McLellan but he was off balance and dragged his shot into the side netting as he fell to the ground. Five minutes from time, Welfare’s Ireland got himself needlessly cautioned for a silly pull back on O’Hara in midfield. Ireland was much more effective three minutes from time as he raced clear into the Leith box and slipped the ball wide of the onrushing McLellan, only to see his angled effort also just drift wide of the far post. A minute later, a wonderful pass from Miller sent McKinlay through and his left foot drive from 20 yards brought out a superb block with his left foot by Leith keeper McLellan and he was quickly up off the ground to grab the ball and complete the save. A minute into stoppage time, Redpath clipped the ball to Greatorex and his 24 yard drive was somewhat awkwardly shovelled behind by Welfare keeper Dibaga and Redpath’s corner saw the keeper flap at the cross as it came into the goal area but when a further cross came in from Allan, the keeper dealt far more comfortably with Redpath’s header. With 93 minutes on the clock, Weir carelessly lost possession allowing Greatorex in again but the 23 yard drive was pulled across the face of goal and wide. This allowed Welfare to make their final change with McKinlay being replaced by Murray Wilson and he trotted on into position just in time to trot back off again as the final whistle ended the game. In the end, a comfortable and deserved win for Whitehill who did all their damage in a very impressive first half and can now look forward to a home quarter final against Broxburn on Friday 20th May. A much changed Leith side were just a bit too passive in a first half where they couldn’t get a foothold in the match, but a much improved second period at least restored some pride for the Edinburgh side who still harbour hopes of a historic end to what has overall been an excellent season.

Written by: Russell Aitken

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