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Derek Hall’s report from the Preston Athletic v Hawick Royal Albert game on 16th December

todayDecember 17, 2020


Preston Athletic 3-2 Hawick Royal Albert United
On a pitch which resembled chocolate brownie in places, we were never going to get silky, quality football but what Preston and Hawick produced tonight was a throwback Scottish Cup tie full of commitment, guts and brilliant entertainment for those lucky enough to be present. Within a minute, a long ball down the left flank saw Murray cut in and curl a 25 yarder past the far post, a bright start by the home side. Two minutes later and Jack had a go for Preston down the right flank and his left foot drive was deflected wide for a corner, which Innes played in to the heart of the penalty area and it was O’Connor who got his head on the ball but it drifted over the Hawick crossbar. In the fifth minute, Edmond picked out Innes and he played the ball in to Bathgate who was pushed over by Langford but the resulting free kick was no threat at all to the Hawick goal and drifted harmlessly wide. A minute later a long ball dropped over the head of D Strathdee but Hawick keeper Scott was quickly off his line to beat Edmond to the ball and the long clearance to the other end seemed to present the visitors with their first real chance as Yardley blazed over but the offside flag was already up. In the eighth minute, Innes fed the ball through towards Edmond and this time visiting keeper Scott had to race out of his penalty area to head clear and it was the home side doing most of the pressing. Twelve minutes in and Gillie finally made progress towards the edge of the home penalty area only to be thwarted by an excellent tackle by O’Connor before finally Ford had Hawick’s first real effort on goal with a 25 yard drive which was always going over the top. After seventeen minutes, Murray was fouled on the right flank by Chandler and Murray himself put the cross in and the headed clearance fell to Jack whose shot from the edge of the box was blocked. On 21 minutes, a clumsy challenge in midfield by Bathgate of Preston on Gillie saw the first word of warning handed out by referee McNab but D Strathdee’s free kick into the home penalty area didn’t cause any problems as it went long. Two minutes later an Innes cross was mis headed by Chandler allowing Murray to retrieve the ball almost on the goal line, but rather than looking for a cut back, he tried for goal from a really tight angle and could only find the side net. After 24 minutes, Hawick keeper Scott had a let off when he hammered an attempted clearance off the onrushing Edmond and was relieved when the ball somewhat fortunately came straight back to him and he was able to complete the clearance at the second attempt.
The next Preston attack saw Murray fouled fully 35 yards from goal in a central position and he picked himself up to then fire in a tremendous drive up and over the wall which keeper Scott took no chances with as he fisted the ball over the bar. The corner was dropped short to Innes who then wriggled his way to the goal line before pulling the ball across the face of the Hawick goal area where it was met on the turn by Murray and his effort flashed wide as the momentum continued to be with the home side. On 28 minutes, Hawick moved upfield through Steele but as Gillie attempted to get to the pass, he bowled over Innes and the free kick was given. Three minutes later Preston missed a great chance to make the breakthrough when Jack got to the goal line and his cut back reached the very busy Murray about six yards out but the ball came at him at waist height and he was unable to sort out his feet with the ball looping up off his leg and straight into the grateful arms of keeper Scott. A free kick into the Hawick penalty area after 34 minutes saw Edmond head the ball down to Malloy whose shot from nine yards was impressively blocked by keeper Scott, who wasn’t to know the flag was up for offside. A minute later, Murray fed a pass to Bathgate and he stepped inside his man before curling a lovely 20 yard placed drive which just missed the junction of the Hawick post and bar. Next up was Malloy whose shot from the edge of the visitors box was blocked after Pennycuick and Bathgate had done the spadework and a couple of minutes later the same player sent another drive over the bar after Innes had created the space for him. With 40 minutes gone, Ford of Hawick pulled down Pennycuick 35 yards out slightly left of centre and after his earlier effort, it was no surprise to see Murray step up and fire a rasping drive just over the bar with keeper Scott looking like he was confident the ball was heading over. However after being on the back foot for most of the first half, it was the visitors who stole away to get their noses in front after 42 minutes, as a long ball down the inside right channel saw Gillie gathering the ball before outpacing his marker and from around 20 yards and with the aid of a slight deflection, the striker cooly struck the ball past the advancing home keeper Livie and into the far bottom corner of the net, a really nice finish to stun the home side. A minute from halftime, the first yellow card of the game was handed out to Young of Preston who clipped the heels of Gillie as he again was moving strongly forwards right in front of the dugouts. A Yardley shot for the visitors was blocked before deep into stoppage time Preston forced two corners in succession and the second of these saw keeper Scott punch the ball away under pressure from almost under his crossbar and the ball was met on the edge of the box by Jack whose drive along the ground beat Scott but was hacked away off the line by the hard pressed visiting defence who were then delighted to hear the half time whistle go. Athletic would be leaving the field feeling like they had been mugged after totally dominating the first period, but great credit had to go to a United team who stayed organised, dug in when required and took one of the few chances which came their way with a stylish finish.
Within 30 seconds, the ball reached Murray inside the Hawick penalty area almost on the penalty spot but as he rattled the ball home, the offside flag cut short any planned celebrations. Two minutes later, visiting keeper Scott was quickly off his line to clear from Jack before referee McNab then produced the second yellow card of the evening for Ford of Hawick after an earlier indiscretion. After 49 minutes, a long direct ball from Murray tried to pick out Jack and keeper Scott left his penalty area to clear but he pulled the clearance wide onto the right wing where the ever alert Murray controlled the ball and then from fully 45 yards, he sent a beautifully placed lob over the back tracking keeper and into the net on the first bounce, a magnificent piece of opportunism from the home sides star performer up to now and we were all square in this enthralling cup tie. Jack then got down the flank and his cross flew right across the Hawick goal area but there were no takers as the ball went behind. O’Connor then shepherded the ball back to his keeper with Gillie in attendance and as the Hawick centre forward turned away, he immediately clutched at the back of his right leg with nobody near him, a moment of concern for the visitors. After 53 minutes, a nice one two between Jack and Murray saw the former find the head of Edmond with his cross but from eight yards, the header went over the Hawick crossbar before, from the goal kick, Pennycuick got the ball to Edmond who fed the ball on to Jack and his angled drive from 12 yards was brilliant blocked by the boot of keeper Scott. An Innes cross to the back post saw O’Connor offside but Preston now had their tails up after drawing level and they should have been in front on 56 minutes when Jack fed Malloy to send the ball across to Bathgate who was alone 14 yards out with only Scott to beat but he didn’t open up his body and pulled the ball wide of Scott’s right hand post when a goal looked a certainty. Gillie then went down again but decided to stay on and he immediately broke free down the left wing for Hawick but a superb Bathgate tackle robbed him of the ball before once again Preston produced another golden chance on the hour. Malloy raced down the left wing and put the cross right onto the head of Edmond just inside the goal area but keeper Scott just threw himself in front of the striker and somehow made a miracle block as the ball bulleted goal wards and as the ball was scrambled clear, Edmond was left lying on the ground in disbelief at the save the keeper had just pulled off to keep his side level. At this point Gillie finally admitted defeat and had to leave the field with the visitors replacing him with Hope on the hour mark. After 61 minutes, Bathgate then put forward his entry for most ridiculous yellow card of the season as the Preston no 8 managed to talk himself into referee McNab’s book arguing over a nothing throw in at the halfway line. A minute later, Austin was seeing the ball over the goal line for a goal kick to Preston and substitute Hope, in trying to get to the ball, collided with a perimeter barrier and the Hawick physio immediately signalled that the players game was over after just two minutes on the field, and Scott then replaced him for the borderers. On the restart, Langford tried to find Yardley on the edge of the Preston area but keeper Livie was out smartly to clear and at the other end, a Jack effort bounced through to keeper Scott. Preston then had half hearted claims for a penalty turned down as Murray and Langford tangled on the edge of the box but that’s where referee McNab was too and he wasn’t interested in the shouts. As the ball came away, Langford and Murray again had a coming together and despite the Hawick player claiming to no avail he had been the victim of a stamp, the free kick went to Preston some 40 yards out. After previous sighters for the Preston no 10, Murray again stepped up to drive his free kick up and over the wall and as keeper Scott dived to his left to parry the ball down, he couldn’t get it out of harms way and Jack was first to react to the loose ball, lashing it home under the keeper from around eight yards and putting the home side ahead for the first time with just over 20 minutes remaining.
Hawick tried to respond and Ford worked hard to set up a half chance for Langford but the drive was well off target, before another chance for the visitors ended when Austin was fouled by the aforementioned Langford. With 19 minutes remaining, Preston replaced Bathgate with Williams and Murray was then involved again almost playing in Malloy but keeper Scott was alert to the danger. Ford again found Langford 30 yards out but the Hawick no 6 had a real swing at the ball from 30 yards and the end result wasn’t close. However with twelve minutes remaining, a lovely ball down the inside left channel released the fresh legs of Williams to race into the Hawick box and from around 16 yards on the angle, the Preston substitute hammered the ball past the advancing Scott high into the net to give the home side a two goal cushion which their performance at this stage fully merited. Preston then replaced Malloy with Hamilton shortly before Steele of Hawick was cautioned for pulling down Pennycuick. Steele was then released into the Preston penalty area but his final driven effort was neither a cross or a short and flew well wide and then with four minutes left, Edmond of Preston was next into the referees book for stopping the visitors from taking a quick throw in by standing in front of the thrower to block his path. With two minutes to go it was very much game on again as Hawick showed great character in working the ball into the Preston penalty area and Steele showed real composure in striding forward before firing a lovely low right foot drive past Livie into the far corner and cutting the deficit to a single goal. Right on 90 minutes, Preston tried to slow the game down by bringing off man of the match Murray and replacing him with Jardine. A poor defensive clearance saw Yardley fire in a bouncing half volley which home keeper Livie flopped down on before in the 92nd minute, substitute Scott came forward for Hawick but a heavy first touch saw the player lunge in to try to retrieve the ball, catching Innes heavily with a late challenge and after sorting out the resultant melee, referee McNab produced a straight red card for the Hawick no 13’s contact on the Preston left back. Preston moved upfield and ran the ball into the corner and when Innes went down under pressure from K Strathdee and the foul was awarded, the Hawick players’ protests meant that he too went into referee McNab’s book for verbal dissent. The final whistle then ended what had been a tremendous old fashioned Scottish Cup tie under the lights in the rain on a gluepot pitch and both sides can take only credit for providing fantastic entertainment for those lucky enough to watch this brilliant spectacle. Whilst under the cosh for spells in the game, Hawick showed real dogged determination in hanging in right to the end and scoring two excellent goals but it was to be Preston’s night and, prompted by a terrific performance from the excellent Murray, it would be hard not to acknowledge that on the night, the better team made it through to earn themselves a trip to Ochilview to face Stenhousemuir in the next round of the William Hill Scottish Cup.

Written by: Russell Aitken

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