Haddington Athletic 4 (Scott Moffat 5, Andy Jones 36, Gavin Brown 51, Grant Rose 83)
Edinburgh United 3 (Gabi Auriemma 8 (pen), Kern Hutchison 52, Daniel McKinlay 67)
We went into yesterday's game, the first at Millfield in almost a month, looking to put recent derby disappointments behind us and to get back to winning ways. The occasion was a delayed second round tie in the Alex Jack Cup - the others had all been played on 1 September, but on account of United's first round tie against Inverkeithing Hillfield Swifts having been abandoned first time around we were three weeks behind schedule. Three quarter finals were being contested elsewhere, and the prize for the winner here, logistical challenges and all, was an away tie at Hill Of Beath Hawthorn to be played this coming Wednesday night.
There were four changes to the starting eleven compared with that which started our South Region Challenge Cup tie at Tranent - Sinky Inglis returned in goal, 16 year old Guy McGarry started in the left back role in which he'd performed capably for almost an hour at Foresters Park, Shaun Hill returned in midfield as captain, and Scott Moffat was back too following a foot injury. Still missing from our injury hit squad were Joe Hamill, Pinkie Tufail, George Cunningham and Ross King - Declan Quinn however was named among the substitutes six weeks after suffering a hip injury at Ormiston in the first round of the competition. United, who we'd last encountered at Paties Road in March in what was to prove our final Fife & Lothians Cup outing, lined up mostly as unknowns to Millfield regulars, though it was nice to welcome back their coach Jock McCraw, a Hi Hi's midfielder thirty odd years ago and also for a few months a decade past assistant manager to George Bowmaker.
Millfield was at its best on a day marked mostly by glorious autumn sunshine, and the Hi Hi were first to threaten the opposition goal when in the third minute a corner gained from Hill's strong run into the penalty area was delivered invitingly by Andy Jones on the right - Ali Simpson made the connection but the angle on his header wasn't what he wanted and the ball went a few yards wide of the back post. There wasn't long to wait for the opening goal however - this time Jamie Chapman's good work earned another corner, Jones again delivered superbly, and Scott Moffat claimed his eighth goal of the season, though his first in a month, meeting the ball centrally with a powerful header past Newman in the United goal. The goal leaves our top scorer just one short of the fifty mark in competitive outings. Unfortunately the lead lasted barely three minutes - we might be forgiven for thinking it's almost obligatory these days for referees to award contentious penalty kicks against us, for here we were again penalised for what looked a nothing episode; referee Ryan Lee took the view though Gavin Brown had fouled an opponent inside the box as both tussled for possession, and Auriemma converted for the visitors from the spot. Given the goals we've conceded in recent weeks this was another hard one to take, but at least we'd more than eighty minutes in which to get back on top. Over the course of the subsequent twenty odd minutes neither side was especially dominant, then just after the half hour mark young Grant Rose hit a decent effort wide of target for the Hi Hi - moments later there was a controversial episode when a United man looked to kick out at Darren Leslie in front of the dugouts, after our man had conceded a free kick, but no action was taken by the match official. With nine minutes remaining in the first half we got our noses in front again, with Chapman on the left of the penalty area finding Jones perfectly positioned to fire home from a little outside the six yard box. At the break then the Hi Hi held a 2-1 advantage, though United had shown enough to have most present think they'd every chance of turning things round.
H-T Haddington Athletic 2 Edinburgh United 1
Things looked more encouraging from the Hi Hi's perspective when we extended our lead to two goals in the fifty first minute - Leslie was fouled out on the right touchline, and from the free kick flighted deep into the United penalty area Gavin Brown directed a glancing header into the net near the back post. Ideally that ought to have given the team the confidence required to push on, but our defensive frailties reared their head again barely a minute later, allowing Hutchison to bring United right back into the tie. When yet another episode of hesitant defending at the second half's midway point allowed McKinlay an all too easy equaliser the mood dipped further - was this to be another afternoon of frustration and disappointment? It remained all square when, with ten minutes left, United were awarded their second penalty of the afternoon - Simpson could do little about the ball hitting his hand when it was blasted in his direction from a short distance away, but seemingly it's an offence deserving punishment by presenting the opposition a great opportunity to score. Fate for once smiled on the Hi Hi's goal though, with United substitute Taylor Hendry hitting his spot kick off the face of the post to Sinky Inglis' right, with our 'keeper having guessed the wrong way. Now it had been only three weeks since we'd last tasted victory, winning 2-0 at Blackburn in the League Cup, but events in between times had left us all feeling a little beleaguered - it was tremendous then to see three minutes after United's squandered penalty the ball hit the back of the net at the other end. Jones was the provider with an excellent low ball in from the byeline out towards the left corner, met at the near post by Rose who slammed home his first goal for the club from close range. We'd the chance to make certain of our passage to the third round four minutes later when the ref awarded the afternoon's third penalty in our favour, after sub Quinn was sent flying just inside the United area on the right - up stepped captain Hill with the view of making the score 5-3, but he too struck the post. Shortly after this Liam Edmonston entered the fray for a brief taste of action at this level, the latest of our Under 20s' players to get a run out replacing Simpson who'd been hurt making a strong challenge moments earlier. There was still time for Hill to spurn another clear-cut scoring opportunity, the ball seeming to get stuck under his feet inside the six yard box when scoring seemed inevitable, but in the end it didn't matter as we held on to secure a midweek trip to Fife by the odd goal in seven.
Good to get the win obviously, and well done to everyone for sticking to the task when things weren't going the way we wanted. It goes without saying our top priority at present must be to tighten up at the back, and hopefully that will come sooner rather than later, but let's just be pleased we got the win against a United outfit who are very clearly no mugs. Prefer not to single out players but only fair to recognise Guy McGarry for another steady performance belying his tender years, and it was good to see Brad Hainey and Declan Quinn back in action after their recent absences.
Next up then is a tough third round task on Wednesday night against Hill Of Beath Hawthorn - the fact the Haws were permanent Superleague residents for the sixteen years between its formation and the mass transition from Junior football in the close season tells its own story. We'll travel as underdogs, with nothing really to lose - let's hope we can give a good account of ourselves.
Hi Hi: Sinky Inglis, Chris Cairney, Guy McGarry, Gavin Brown, (Brad Hainey S57), Ali Simpson, (Liam Edmonston S87), Jamie Chapman, (Declan Quinn S79), Darren Leslie, Shaun Hill, Grant Rose, Scott Moffat, Andy Jones. Unused subs: Paul Devlin, Jordan Cropley, Andy McNeill, David Simmonds (SG).
Edinburgh Utd: Jamie Newman, Eddie Mearns, Sean Guiney, Shaun Conlon, Chris Hendrie, James Flynn, Daniel McKinlay, Gabriele Auriemma, Andrew Swanney, Elliot Grieve, Kern Hutchison. Subs: Craig Spalding, Taylor Hendry, Frankie Arthur, Cory Robertson, James Redpath, Liam Ritchie, Cameron Hanratty (SG).