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Derek Hall’s report for Preston Athletic v Lochgelly Albert on 28th May 2022

todayMay 30, 2022


Preston Athletic 3-1 Lochgelly Albert

A three way last Saturday shootout at the top of EOS Conference B saw Oakley, Glenrothes and Preston all in with a chance of the title, so the game at Pennypitt between Preston Athletic and their visitors from Fife, Lochgelly Albert, attracted a very decent crowd. The early stages were very cagey with much of the play confined to midfield and after five minutes, a completely accidental arm caught Albert’s Lucas Reilly across the face and he required some treatment before continuing. It took fully ten minutes before the first real chance as Preston’s Mikey Hamilton got down the left flank and his pull back into the box went just behind Marc Malloy. A minute later, Conner Murdoch got to the goal line for Albert and his low driven cross saw Athletic keeper Cameron McConachie dive on the ball on his six yard line right in front of Albert’s Stephen Stark. With thirteen minutes gone, Preston captain Craig Innes and Malloy created the opportunity for Jonny Grotlin to drive over a back post cross which was turned into the net by Hamilton, but the offside flag had gone up during the build up. However a minute later, Malloy did manage to spring the visitors offside trap and his drive from sixteen yards was brilliantly turned behind by a strong right hand at full stretch by Albert keeper Darren Kaye. On the quarter hour, Innes threw a nice cross to the back post and Matty O’Connor was convinced his header had come off a defender, but a Lochgelly goal kick was the outcome. Two minutes later, O’Connor had another go from distance but his low drive was blocked behind by Craig Anderson. Preston were pressing now and Kyle Somers released Hamilton down the middle but Anderson was there once more with another vital interception. Albert right back Anthony Couper then showed real calmness as he found his keeper with a headed pass back under pressure from Innes. With 22 minutes gone, Albert’s Anderson and Grotlin of Preston were brought in by referee Scott Downie for a bit of off the ball verbals which the official took exception to. Malloy then tried to pick out Grotlin with a through ball, but the Albert defence was proving a tough nut to crack and this time it was Stephen Young who was there to tidy up. On the half hour, a Preston short corner routine saw Grotlin pick out Tam Prior at the back post but he just couldn’t direct his angled header on target. Hamilton was looking lively down the flank for the home side and he tried to fire over a driven cross after 31 minutes, but once again Young managed to take the pace off the effort and keeper Kaye completed the save low down at his near post. However, the best chance of the afternoon by far arrived on 34 minutes as Hamilton turned his man beautifully before racing into the box and his cut back arrived perfectly at the feet of Malloy nine yards out right in front of goal but the normally deadly Athletic striker somehow managed to turn the ball wide of the target with the goal at his mercy. The striker was almost on the end of a Grotlin pass a minute later but visiting keeper Kaye was smartly out of his box to hook clear. Murdoch sent a long range effort wide for Lochgelly but in truth the men from Fife were not offering too much in the way of a threat. Seven minutes from the break, Anderson of Lochgelly went into referee Downie’s book after a foul from behind on Grotlin near halfway and then Preston’s Nathan Stokes took it upon himself to get somewhat needlessly involved in a shoving match and he too picked up a yellow card. On 41 minutes, casual play saw Anderson dispossessed near the edge of the Albert box by Hamilton who then tried to float the ball under the crossbar from around 20 yards, but keeper Kaye was alert and back pedalled to take the high ball almost under his crossbar. A minute into stoppage time, Hamilton fed Innes and his ball into the middle found Grotlin but he couldn’t get the contact he wanted and keeper Kaye took the ball as the half time whistle sounded. A pretty frustrating afternoon for the home side who had dominated both possession and chances created but had failed to make the breakthrough against a resolute visiting defence who had stuck to their task and been pretty well organised when put under pressure.
Both sides made a half time change as Preston brought on Steven McCole for Stokes, whilst the visitors replaced Liam Woods with Martin Woods. The home side were right onto the front foot and a lovely ball into the box saw Somers fail to get the ball under control in a very good position and McCole was unable to prevent the ball going over for an Albert goal kick. However a minute later, the home side should have broken the deadlock as Albert’s Grant Allan was robbed in midfield by Paul Currie and he raced into the box one on one with keeper Kaye, and Currie could only look on in disbelief as the keeper brought off a fantastic block with his right leg to turn the ball over the crossbar from the Preston no8’s low drive. However, the stalemate was finally broken after 50 minutes as the home side hit the front with a well constructed goal which saw Innes clip a nice ball to the edge of the box and Grotlin cleverly head flicked the ball on to Hamilton who pulled the ball down before stroking the ball into the corner of the net past keeper Kaye from around fourteen yards. Soon after, Innes played a one two with Hamilton on the edge of the box and when Albert keeper Kaye dived to turn away the drive from Innes, Malloy was unable to turn the rebound home. A challenge in front of the visiting dugout saw Stark of Lochgelly and Preston’s Currie hit the deck and the referee quickly stopped the game, but both were able to continue without treatment. However, Lochgelly’s afternoon got considerably more difficult after 53 minutes when a through ball to Malloy saw the striker hauled to the ground by Anderson and referee Downie had no hesitation in showing the Albert centre half his second yellow of the day and the red card swiftly followed to leave the visitors a man down. After 57 minutes, Somers went for the spectacular with an overhead kick but the Preston midfielder was flagged offside. On the hour, Lochgelly made a triple switch as Calum Dignan, Lee Kirby and Gregg Clarke came on and they replaced Young, Stark and Allan. After 61 minutes, a cross into the Albert box eventually dropped for Currie and his 12 yard drive beat keeper Kaye and was turned home almost on the line by Grotlin who was immediately flagged offside and the Preston no7 seemed to know right away that if he had left the ball, the goal would have stood. Preston then went to their bench after 65 minutes as Grotlin and Malloy made way for Byron Archibald and Daniel Garvey. Archibald was involved almost right away and set up a chance for Hamilton who saw his fourteen yard drive deflected wide. Another long range Murdoch effort went well wide for Lochgelly after 72 minutes as the visitors struggled to make any impact on proceedings and Preston chose this stoppage to replaced Innes with Cameron Laidlaw. An Archibald corner dropped for Somers but he caught his shot all wrong and the ball spiralled over the Lochgelly bar. With 77 minutes gone, Sean Johnstone did well to win a foot race with O’Connor but his cross into the Preston box over shot everyone and went out for a throw in on the far side. Two minutes later, Archibald fired in a decent near post cross looking for Garvey and Dignan did just enough for the visitors to snuff out the danger. With ten minutes remaining, Archibald fired another drive wide and the home side then brought on Andrew McNeill for Somers. Eight minutes from time, Archibald fired over on the half volley from around fifteen yards as Preston continued to frustrate both themselves and their fans in front of goal. A couple of Archibald corners resulted in the second of these being punched clear to the edge of the Albert box by keeper Kaye and Hamilton returned the ball with a header from sixteen yards which the keeper held fairly comfortably. Two minutes from time, Woods of Albert brought down Laidlaw and the Preston substitute got up to swing the free kick in himself to the back post where Hamilton was once again up highest but couldn’t direct his header on target. However with 89 minutes gone, McCole put over a lovely deep cross and Garvey escaped his marker to arrive late at the back post and he had the simplest of tasks to nod home from around five yards and finally put the game to bed for the home side. A minute into stoppage time, Athletic underlined their overall authority as Archibald slid a lovely pass down the inside left channel and Garvey was there with a composed finish from 14 yards as he drew keeper Kaye before slotting the ball calmly into the far corner. However we weren’t done yet and three minutes into stoppage time at the end of the league season, we were treated to one of the goals of the season as Johnstone chased a ball down the left flank for Lochgelly and cut inside and worked his way along the edge of the Preston penalty area before then swivelling and rifling in an unstoppable rocket of a drive from 18 yards which smashed off the underside of the crossbar and in for a truly spectacular strike, leaving keeper McConachie clutching at thin air. In the end, a thoroughly deserved victory for a Preston side who ultimately came up just short, as victories for both the other title contenders sees Oakley win EOS Conference B by a single point and Preston finish third behind Glenrothes on goal difference. However the East Lothian side have had an excellent season and undoubtedly have the nucleus of a side who should be once again fighting it out with the other title contenders next season, and the experience gained in this seasons tough campaign should spur Jack Lynch’s side on to even greater heights.

Written by: Russell Aitken

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