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Haddington Athletic v Civil Service Strollers on 19th August 2023 (Derek Hall)

todayAugust 22, 2023


Haddington Athletic 2-1 Civil Service Strollers
Another EOS v LL South Challenge cup tie but these teams are getting to know each other in a hurry as Civil Service Strollers arrived at Millfield looking for a wee bit of revenge after losing to Haddington Athletic less than a fortnight ago in the EOS Qualifying Cup. A bright afternoon on a pristine pitch promised much but it was the blustery wind which would prove to be troublesome for everyone. Within a minute Strollers were moving forward as Innes Lawson found Harry Girdwood and his driven cross come shot was turned behind by Lucas McGarry. A central free kick 22 yards out after Gary Windram had impeded Lewis Duffy saw the first direct strike on goal after five minutes but the home defensive wall did its job as it blocked Euan Valentines effort. It took Haddington eight minutes to fashion their first chance as Windram played a one two with Joe Tait before laying the ball off to Ali Simpson whose 22 yard drive was also blocked. Girdwood already looked busy for the visitors and a forcing run saw the ball break back to him on the eighteen yard line but once again there was a defensive body in the way. Mathew Shaw then clipped a nice pass through looking for Girdwood but home keeper Campbell McLellan was alert and out to grab the ball but Strollers were very much the team on the front foot early on. That pressure paid off after twenty minutes as Tom Finlay sprinted down the right flank before getting his head up and cutting a pinpoint low ball in which Girdwood had time to control before planting the ball in the corner past the completely exposed McLellan from ten yards for a deserved early lead. Girdwood was almost in again two minutes later but Keir Russell got back to make the important intervention and then a poor clearance from Corey Robertson allowed Lewis Bushnell through but the shot was tame and home keeper McLellan was able to flop down onto the ball. However Haddington went close to an equaliser after 25 minutes as Joe Tait’s corner dropped at the back post and Dylan Tait showed great technique from eight yards with a cushioned right foot volley on the instep which was certainly on target but which found a body and was blocked. A Conrad Balatoni passback had a wee more pace on it than he intended after 28 minutes and visiting keeper Jacob Pazikas had to sprint back to take possession. Referee Tom Danaher had a quiet word with Strollers Bushnell on 33 minutes after he knocked the ball away following the award of a foul. However the game was level a minute later with an excellent solo goal from Corey Robertson who picked the ball up ten yards inside the Strollers half before beating his man and then driving forward to go through a gap on the edge of the box and he cooly rolled the ball into the corner of the net past the helpless Pazikas, with the full back showing all the composure of a twenty goal a season striker as he finished with a flourish. Riley Haston caught Duffy with a naughty late clip in front of the Strollers dugout after 38 minutes and the occupants of said dugout made their feelings known to the referee who remained impassive. Four minutes from the break, Shaw headed a cross back into the home box and there were somewhat muted claims for a penalty from the visitors as Finlay went down with McGarry directly behind him but let’s just say those claims were a bit optimistic. Just on the break, Ross King swung a dangerous cross into the heart of the Strollers box and keeper Pazikas took the cross confidently before being impeded by the combined efforts of Dylan Tait and Haston to win the free kick. All square at half time as the visitors took control for twenty minutes, but the home side gradually worked their way back into things and this one remained beautifully poised.
Some early indecision in the Haddington defence after 48 minutes allowed Finlay possession on the edge of the box but he didn’t quite catch his left foot drive and keeper McLellan went down to his left to make the save. Four minutes later, Lawson spotted home keeper McLellan off his line and tried to lift the ball over the keeper from forty yards and it didn’t miss the junction of post and bar by too much. However it was Haddington who hit the front a minute later with a very simple goal as a ball played in from Haston found Dylan Tait in acres of space inside the Strollers box and he had plenty of time to pick his spot in the bottom corner past the completely exposed keeper Pazikas from around fourteen yards with the visiting defence having gone missing in action for the first time in the match and paid a heavy price. Windram was starting to influence the play more now for the home side and a driving run looked dangerous until Duffy stepped in to tidy up at the back for the visitors. Joe Tait smacked one off the junction of post and bar on the hour but the flag was already up against the Haddington no10. Two minutes later, the first caution of the game arrived for Strollers Valentine who lifted his leg and caught home keeper McLellan as he tried to clear down field and for a full back to pick up a yellow card eighty yards from his own goals with a completely needless challenge certainly takes some explaining. A minute later, Haddington skipper Gabri Auriemma picked up a loose ball in midfield and decided to have a go from 30 yards but the better ball was to Joe Tait who was completely unmarked on the right with a clear run it and he wasn’t slow to vent his frustration. On 65 minutes, Bushnell got hold of his shot from 25 yards and with home keeper McLellan going to his left, the ball took a big deflection and spun past the right hand post and then McQuaid had another effort for Strollers which was blocked by Simpson as the visitors upped the pace once more looking for a leveller. After Bushnell went into the referees book for a foul in midfield on Keir Russell for the visitors second yellow of the afternoon, Auriemma then picked out Windram and his low left foot drive didn’t miss by all that much. On 70 minutes, Valentine sent in a really testing cross but home keeper McLellan took all the pressure off his defence with an excellent catch despite the close attentions of Shaw. Fifteen minutes from the end, McQuaid pulled down Simpson in midfield and referee Danaher pulled out his yellow card for the Strollers left winger. Lucas McGarry decided to have a go from the resultant free kick from all of 35 yards and the low drive only just missed the base of the post by inches. With 79 minutes gone, it was time for another daft caution and Auriemma stepped up to the plate by knocking the ball away for a bit of less than subtle time wasting which earned him not only a yellow card, but a few choice words from his own manager Scott Bonar. A wonderful piece of play by Windram in the corner left three Strollers defenders in his wake but he just couldn’t finish it off by finding a team mate with the cutback, but the home fans certainly enjoyed the trickery shown by the winger. Seven minutes from time, it was almost all square as Lawson picked out a nice pass to Michael Mbewe who tried to lob McLellan from around sixteen yards but the home keeper stuck up a big right hand and managed to turn the ball past the post for a vital save. Three minutes later, the keeper was at it again as Lawson worked hard across the face of the Haddington penalty area before firing back across the keeper towards the top corner but McLellan dived full length to his left to push the fifteen yard shot wide. Two minutes from time, Simpson took Lawson down 28 yards from goal and was rightly cautioned by the referee but the final effort from Callum Yeats missed by the proverbial mile. The drama wasn’t yet finished and three minutes into stoppage time, Joe Tait looked to catch Ross Clarke near the touchline beside the dugouts but play continued. Once play was stopped the Strollers manager Gary Jardine and a few of his players made their displeasure known to referee Danaher and skipper Conrad Balatoni took his protests too far and was shown a straight red card. That was the final incident in what had been a decent cup tie and Haddington will be absolutely delighted at turning over their higher tier opponents once more, whilst the visitors may feel that one goal during their early domination was a poor return for their good work and may ultimately have been their undoing.


Written by: Russell Aitken

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