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Saturday Sport on 6th July, Derek Hall’s report on Arniston Rangers v Leith Athletic game

todayAugust 7, 2022


Arniston Rangers 2-3 Leith Athletic

An interesting Alex Jack Cup tie at Newbyres Park, Gorebridge as Arniston Rangers, buoyed by the midweek signing of John McManus from Musselburgh, welcomed last seasons finalists in this competition, Leith Athletic. A fiery park and a blustery breeze saw a number of early passes go astray although on five minutes, Leith skipper Wayne Sproule almost had Stephen Scott interested just inside the Arniston box but McManus was back to tidy things up for the home side. Two minutes later, Michael Barfoot tried to find Sproule but Dan Greig was over with a solid challenge to again deny the visitors and when the ball was returned, Sproule was offside. After nine minutes, Arniston captain Ryan Moore made progress down the inside left channel but his shot from the edge of the box saw Barfoot take the pace off it, allowing Leith keeper Jamie Smith to pick the ball up. A Sproule corner kick after ten minutes saw a Ricky Miller header cleared off the Arniston goal line by Liam McCardle but Leith were pressing hard and the opening goal arrived a minute later as a lovely ball sent Scott down the right flank and his early cross to the near post had Kayne Paterson losing his marker before clipping the ball crisply home along the ground from six yards past the helpless Jim McQueen in the Arniston goals. The home side responded with McCardle playing a couple of nice one twos down the left wing but his final delivery didn’t match the lead up play. On the quarter hour, a nice combination passing move begun by Scott Waterston in midfield had Tom Davies finding Moore and then McCardle and his cut back saw Arran Laidlaw get an angled low drive away from eight yards which Leith keeper Smith managed to block at his near post. McManus then sent Davies down the left wing but Miller’s tackle resulted in Arnistons first corner with eighteen minutes gone and Ewan Graham’s set piece dropped for Davies who saw his shot on goal blocked on the ground by a Leith defender who didn’t know anything other than he had been hit by the ball. However, the home side had shown a spirited response to losing the early goal and after nineteen minutes, they were back on level terms when Moore slipped a nice pass through to Laidlaw who took one touch before then calmly slotting the ball home left footed from around sixteen yards just inside Smith’s right hand post, with the keeper rooted to the spot, a really composed finish. It all got a bit scrappy for a few minutes as both teams tried to assert themselves, before a free kick on 26 minutes gave Sproule the chance to deliver into the Arniston box but he chose to go short to Louis Swanson who saw his shot from the edge of the box blocked. It was Swanson who was first to attract the attention of referee Dale Kerr after 29 minutes as he was warned for disputing a decision on the edge of the home penalty area. On 32 minutes, a head knock to Barfoot saw the Leith man have to leave the field on the far side but he was able to continue after treatment. Graham delivered a free kick into the Leith box which was cleared out to Leon Bell and he fired in a powerful 28 yard left foot drive which was watched carefully by keeper Smith as it found the side netting. Five minutes from the break, Graham played a long ball forward which briefly had Laidlaw one on one with Craig Hume, but the big Leith defender timed his intercepting tackle well to concede the corner and McCardle’s inswinging corner saw Miller taking no chances as he was up to head clear from right in front of his own keeper. A Bell free kick saw Leith keeper Smith with a confident take before launching a quick counter attack which almost had Paterson in again but Greig read the situation and was able to find his keeper with the headed back pass. Swanson and Paterson then worked the ball nicely out to Sproule for the visitors and although his first cross didn’t find any takers, Arniston couldn’t get the ball clear and Ewan Howie moved into the home penalty area before slipping the pass to Paterson who looked up and then curled a beautiful right foot strike past keeper McQueen and in off the inside of the far post from around sixteen yards for a goal of real quality. Just into stoppage time, Arniston tried to level in similar fashion to their first as Moore again looked for Laidlaw with the pass but Miller was able to shepherd the ball out and at half time it was still anybodys cup tie with the visitors having more of the ball and probably shading the half, but Arniston had shown real determination to hang in there and then force some really presentable chances of their own.
Two minutes into the second half, Scott released Paterson but the striker was adjudged offside and the Leith mood wasn’t improved thirty seconds later when Swanson’s pass to Scott also brought a whistle for offside. Paterson was then brought down by Waterston around 35 yards out as he moved through midfield and the Arniston man was brought in by referee Kerr for a warning. Barfoot decided to have a go from range but his powerful set piece came off the wall and back to him and as he again moved forwards, he was impeded once more and this time the Leith free kick was central and around 21 yards from goal. Swanson claimed the set piece this time and showed exactly why as he bent a beauty with his right foot past the four man Arniston wall and high up into the top corner with keeper McQueen no more than a spectator as the ball ripped into the net and with 52 minutes gone, Leith had given themselves a bit of breathing space. Arniston went immediately to their bench and brought on Elliot Greive and Dale Miller for Stephen Anderson and Laidlaw. Four minutes later, referee Kerr produced the first yellow card of the afternoon as Barfoot was taken down by Waterston and the Arniston man could have no complaints, having been spoken to barely five minutes earlier. Barfoot was unable to continue and the visitors brought on Cammy Stewart as his replacement. Miller found Sproule with a nice pass out wide on the hour and Bell was across with a good challenge for the home side but it was the visitors who were very much on top at this stage. However on 62 minutes, McCardle did brilliantly to hook the ball back from the goal line and Moore managed to touch the ball on to Graham who took the ball on the half volley and smashed the ball just wide of the Leith goal from fifteen yards. A minute later, Waterston was replaced for the home side by Michael Kennedy as they looked to add more threat up front. Some very uncharacteristically slack play at the back from Miller gifted Arniston possession and eventually resulted in a free kick to the home side 23 yards out which Bell tried to fire under the Leith wall as it jumped but the ball came off a boot and went behind. Bell took the corner which was cleared out to McManus and his pass back to Bell saw the Arniston no3 fire in a left foot drive from 20 yards which keeper Smith dived to grab low down to his left. After 67 minutes, Leith made a double change which saw Swanson and Scott withdrawn for James Scobie and Rhys McMurdo. McMurdo was involved right away and almost played in Paterson but keeper McQueen was alert to the danger and picked off the pass, but he then made a mess of his quick throw and returned it straight to McMurdo whose pass inside saw Scobie pull his shot wide from the edge of the Arniston box. Leith continued to press and on 72 minutes, Miller found Sproule down the left but he lost out to McCardle who then played a dreadful clearance straight to McMurdo and he laid the ball back for Paterson to curl a beautiful right foot effort wide of keeper McQueen, only to see the ball smack off the face of the far post and bounce clear, denying the Leith striker his hat trick. Arniston weren’t done and Kennedy put Tom Davies in down the inside right channel and it took a superb blocking tackle from Stewart to thwart the twelve yard drive from the Arniston no10. The home side went even closer a minute later as McManus found McCardle and he sent Davies down the left who then rolled the ball back across for McCardle, who had continued his run, but he leant back on his drive from 15 yards and shot over the top when he should certainly have been working keeper Smith. At the other end, home keeper McQueen then kept his side in it twice in a minute as he first stuck out his right leg to once again deny Paterson from around fourteen yards and then did well to beat away a dipping 25 yard drive from McMurdo. Moffat then tried to place the ball into the corner of McQueens net along the ground from around 23 yards but the ball slipped past the base of the post. Twelve minutes from time, home keeper McQueen was cautioned for dissent by referee Kerr after making his point to the official a bit too forcefully. A Leith corner then dropped for Miller who got plenty behind his twelve yard drive but it was blocked behind. Ten minutes from time, Stewart slipped a pass to Howie who moved past a couple of Arniston players inside the box but as he shot from around fourteen yards, he was off balance and falling back and the ball went a yard over the junction of post and bar. Referee Kerr handed out another warning on 81 minutes to Arniston’s Miller before his team mate Grieve did find his way into the referees book a minute later for clattering into Howie. At this stoppage in play, Leith made their final switch as Dean Burgess replaced Rory Smith. However with six minutes remaining the home side dug deep and dragged themselves right back into this cup tie when Davies beat his man 25 yards out and then got a break of the ball which allowed him to get his head up and slide a lovely pass through to McCardle and he took one touch before hammering a low sixteen yard left foot drive past keeper Smith who could do nothing to keep this one out and it was very much game on. Three minutes from time, Leith’s Farmer went into the referees book after having a couple of attempts at bringing down Moore before he finally succeeded. McCardle’s resultant free kick was initially cleared by the Leith defence but ended up back at the feet of McCardle and the Arniston no11 smashed in a 25 yard left foot drive which Leith keeper Smith beat down from above his head and grabbed at the second attempt. Three minutes into stoppage time, a Greig long throw in was launched into the Leith penalty area, Moore flicked the ball on but Kennedy couldn’t get any power as he tried to hook the ball in from eight yards and as visiting keeper Smith flopped gratefully onto the ball, the final whistle sounded after an excellent cup tie. Leith went into this game as favourites and will be delighted to have come through a tricky cup tie, having played some nice stuff at times, particularly in the second period. However, Arniston showed character and organisation and look to be a team heading in the right direction and they won’t have to look too hard to find positives to take from this one.

Written by: Russell Aitken

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