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Derek Hall’s report on Musselburgh Athletic v Dunbar United on 16th April

todayApril 20, 2022

Background

Musselburgh Athletic 1-3 Dunbar United

Derby day in East Lothian saw hosts Musselburgh welcoming their fellow seaside visitors from Dunbar, with Kevin Haynes’ side still needing a few more points to haul themselves clear of the relegation play off spot. There was an immediate problem for the home side as Jordan Smith went down within 30 seconds requiring some treatment, but thankfully he was able to continue. After four minutes, Fraser Neave was able to float a free kick in from the right touchline for Dunbar but there was too much on it and the ball beat everyone at the back post. Two minutes later, Jamie Devlin created the space for Andy Jones to fire in a low 20 yard drive which took a nick on its way wide, but this time Neave’s corner didn’t beat the first defender. It was nine minutes before Burgh finally threatened as Jordan Orru and Matthew Knox combined nicely down the left flank but a timely interception from United skipper Grant Thomson from Orru’s pull back snuffed out the danger. A foul on Dean Ballantyne near halfway saw the free kick played in to the same player and when the ball was fed wide to Orru, his low driven cross saw a couple of ricochets inside the United box before the ball was hammered clear. After twelve minutes, Jones played a nice ball to Devlin and his drive was well blocked behind by Burgh’s player manager Joe Hamill. This time Darren Handling took the corner and Bob Berry escaped his marker at the near post to flash a lovely glancing header just wide of the far post. Burgh responded with Lloyd Fiddler winning the ball in midfield before sending Matthew Knox down the right wing and he cut inside and fired in a low left foot twenty yarder which Dunbar keeper Daniel Laing was right behind. With fourteen minutes gone, Devlin of Dunbar was the first recipient of a yellow card as he over stretched in trying to play the ball and caught Jackie Myles a painful one on the instep which had referee Terry Ormiston going to his pocket. On the quarter hour, a long ball saw Smith take his 22 yard half volley early and United keeper Laing did well to get down to his right and make the save before recovering to get to the loose ball. A minute later, Neave finally found his range with a lovely cross from the right wing which picked out the head of Devlin eight yards out and the United strikers reaction suggested he felt he should have done far better than head four yards wide. It was a very open game and Ballantyne sent a good cross into the United box which just evaded Smith but Neave took no chances as the ball dropped and turned it behind for a Burgh corner which came to nothing. Another United corner from Neave this time went to the back post and Dean Whitson rose to head the ball back through the goal area but there was no final touch and Burgh hacked the ball clear. On twenty minutes, Devlin again tried to put Jones away as the two United strikers continued to impress, but Burgh keeper McRae was alert to the danger and was out at the edge of his box to get to the ball. Smith was busy up front for Athletic and he found Knox on the edge of the United box but he seemed caught in two minds and didn’t deliver either a pass or a shot before losing possession. With 23 minutes gone, a throw in landed at the feet of Smith and he didn’t hesitate as he flashed an angled drive across the face of the United goals and wide of the far post. With 26 minutes gone, Burgh’s Orru and Steven Thomson of United both went down in different areas of the park and the game was held up for both to get treatment but both players decided they could carry on. However three minutes later, Thomson decided his race was run and he went off to be replaced by Ben Bathgate. After 31 minutes, Michael McFarlane did well to win a corner for United and when Neave’s cross was cleared to the edge of the box, Jones took the ball on the half volley and brought out a brilliant save from Burgh keeper McRae who was at full stretch to make the tip over almost right under his crossbar. However the opening goal for United wasn’t delayed for much longer and it came after 33 minutes when a McFarlane long throw was flicked on and there was Devlin in splendid isolation about five yards out at the back post to cushion a left foot volley into the roof of the net and the visitors had themselves a deserved lead. Three minutes later, United tried exactly the same move as McFarlane’s long throw got the flick on and this time Bathgate’s glancing header shaved the far post as it slipped wide with keeper McRae a spectator. Two minutes later, Dunbar carved out another glorious chance to extend their lead as Bathgate won the ball in the middle and quickly spread the play wide right to Handling whose excellent delivery into the box saw Devlin arriving on the stretch and he turned the ball over the top from eight yards. At this stoppage, Orru of Musselburgh succumbed to his earlier injury and was replaced by Gregor Woods. When play restarted, Jones worked his way to the edge of the Burgh penalty area and his blocked shot fell perfectly for Devlin but he snatched at his shot from sixteen yards and pulled his low drive well wide of the target. Two minutes from the break, Hamill was a little short with a passback to keeper McRae who just managed to hook the ball away as Devlin closed him down. However, as the seconds ticked down towards the break, United got the second goal which their first half performance fully merited as Devlin fed the ball through to Jones who allowed the ball to bounce before dispatching a crisp left foot half volley in at the post from 16 yards past the hopelessly exposed Burgh keeper McRae. At the break, the scoreline was a pretty fair reflection of the game up to that point with Athletic only threatening sporadically through Smith, but at the other end, Devlin and Jones had really been enjoying themselves with Devlin in particular always involved with a caution, three very presentable chances, a goal and an assist to his name.
Three minutes in and Devlin went looking for Jones again with a nice through ball which had Burgh keeper McRae out of his penalty area to hook the ball clear. Burgh then saw a Woods throw in drop for Ballantyne and his snap shot from around 17 yards was blocked. The home side then won themselves a free kick wide of the United penalty area but Knox had a wee rush of blood to the head and his right foot driven cross cleared everyone and the crossbar by a fair distance. Burgh had started fairly brightly and Ballantyne again worked hard down the right flank before crossing for Woods to head over the United bar from around fifteen yards. After 52 minutes, Myles pulled down Berry near the centre circle but referee Ormiston contented himself with a word of warning to the Athletic midfielder. Jones again tried to slide in Devlin but Lewis White was there with the interception for Burgh as he conceded the corner which reached the head of Whitson at the back post but the home side were able to clear. On 55 minutes, Musselburgh decided they needed to shake things up at the top end of the park and to that end, Ballantyne and Smith departed and were replaced by the experience of Mathu King and Darren Downie. Two minutes later, United had themselves another excellent opportunity when Fiddler took down Bathgate just outside the Burgh penalty area and rightly picked up the games’ second yellow card but Berry found it difficult to get the ball up and down over the wall from 19 yards and clipped his right footed set piece a couple of feet over the bar. However on 59 minutes, Dunbar looked to have put the game to bed when Bathgate worked hard to win the corner and when he took the kick himself, he picked out McFarlane rising highest at the back post and his six yard header beat keeper McRae before finding the back of the net. A needless foul by White on Handling gave Neave another chance to drop his set piece onto the head of McFarlane at the back post but this time, a United corner was the outcome. On 64 minutes, a lovely through ball had Downie racing into the United box and his powerful 17 yard angled drive along the ground saw keeper Laing make an excellent block with his feet. Two minutes later, the impressive Jones set off on a great run which took him past two Burgh defenders before then pulling the ball back onto his left foot but Athletic keeper McRae read the danger and was out off his line quickly to make a great low block from the strikers 16 yard effort. At the other end, Downie chipped a nice ball into the United box and King arrived to thunder in a spectacular right foot volley which didn’t hit the target. On 67 minutes, Musselburgh made a further double switch with Fiddler and Myles making way for Matthew Sipowicz and Ben Reilly. On 70 minutes, Dunbar replaced Jones with Jaciz Baldi and the United striker received a warm round of applause from the away fans present who appreciated an excellent display from the United no11. Two minutes later, Knox clipped a ball into the United box which took a deflection and landed at the feet of Downie and he wasted no time in flashing an angled drive from 14 yards just wide of the far post. United had just got a little careless in possession and this allowed Knox the chance to send another low left foot drive from the edge of the box just wide and the same player had another effort charged down a minute later on the edge of United penalty area. Nine minutes from time, Dunbar’s Bathgate became the games third yellow card after fouling Sipowicz which didn’t go down well with the visiting fans who thought the tackle was clean but they had perhaps missed the drag back of the shirt prior to the tackle, something which clearly hadn’t escaped the notice of referee Ormiston. Dunbar then went to their bench with Kieran Ingram coming on for Berry. Four minutes from time a high, hanging ball into the United penalty area saw hesitation from the United defence but not from Downie whose first touch from around seven yards was sublime as he clipped the ball goalwards but a strong right hand from Laing made the save, only for Downie to react first to the loose ball and he simply ran the ball past the grounded keeper and into the net for what looked likely to be a late consolation goal for the home side. However, Athletic perhaps had other ideas and a minute later, Conor Thomson drove forward and laid the ball into King who superbly backheeled the ball back into the path of Thomson and he didn’t even break stride as he thundered in a sixteen yard left foot strike which brought out the save of the game from Dunbar keeper Laing as he somehow got up to magnificently turn the ball over the top with a quite brilliant tip over. Dunbar broke to the other end and Devlin clipped the ball into the Athletic penalty area looking for Baldi, but keeper McRae was there to dive forward and tip the ball away off his toes. On the final whistle, it was a deserved victory for a Dunbar side who dominated much of the first hour and despite the changes which the home side made up front giving them much more impetus in the latter stages of an exciting game, few would deny the result was about right and keeps the momentum going for a United side who continue to move towards the mid table stability which they are looking for.

Written by: Russell Aitken

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