Haddington Athletic 3 (Bob Berry 43, Andy Jones 78, 80) Downfield 0
Our seventh league game brought a visit from a Downfield outfit who were, like ourselves, seeking a third straight win. The Spiders, with just one win from their first five games, had come from 3-1 down against Glenrothes a fortnight earlier to win 4-3, with three goals in the last ten minutes, then beaten Dalkeith Thistle 3-1 – in their ranks they’d a few experienced names familiar to Tayside Junior followers, also in striker Shaka Roy, recruited recently from Broughty Athletic, the first Trinidad & Tobago international to grace the Millfield turf. For the Hi Hi there was just one change to the eleven who started against Kinnoull, Paul Devlin starting in place of Gavin Brown, unavailable due to work commitments. As with our Perth visitors the previous week Downfield’s arrival was delayed by bridge traffic approaching the Forth, the majority of their squad reaching the ground just after 1.45 – consequently kick off was delayed though only by five minutes.
We’d a promising break down the left straight from kick off, the ball though was cleared upfield by a visiting defender and Chris Cairney conceded a free kick in a dangerous position, though nothing came of it. It was evident early on that Downfield were a capable outfit, and Roy had the first shooting chance of the game on five minutes, hitting a good strike from the right of the penalty area which Haris Alysandratos did well to save at his near post. Shortly after this some slack play at the back allowed Gallacher in, but Bob Berry did well to get back into the box and dispossess him before he could ready himself to shoot. Great play on the left involving Jamie Hamilton and Andy Jones then saw the latter hit a shot on target, saved on the line by Downfield ‘keeper Clarkson – this with seven minutes on the clock. There weren’t too many scoring chances for a spell after this, but the visitors looked every bit as likely as the Hi Hi to find the net; they took the upper hand as the first half’s midway point approached, after we’d been probing around their penalty area to no avail. We weren’t entirely pinned back in our own half during the visitors’ best spell though, far from it, and a Devlin corner from the right on twenty three minutes found no takers at the back post Shortly afterwards Cairney pushed forward and delivered one of his many good crosses into the box, Scott Moffat though had to stretch to meet the ball with his head and couldn’t find the target.
With the clock showing twenty eight minutes Cairney had his name taken by the referee for catching a Downfield man late deep inside the ‘D’ after a slip from George Cunningham, who for the most part enjoyed a solid afternoon. The free kick was well-struck through the defensive all but Haris Alysandratos was equal to it – the loose ball fell for Hagen, who blasted it into the net from close range, but he was offside and it didn’t count. Five minutes later a positive Haddington move on the left wound up with Moffat’s glancing header going wide of the back post, this though was a rare opening during a spell of Downfield superiority. On the evidence of the first forty minutes or so it seemed safe to forecast any margin of victory would be minimal, however the course of events took an encouraging twist from the Hi Hi’s perspective on forty three minutes. A Jones run down the left touchline was hindered by a Downfield man on his heels, and both men were booked after he reacted to being fouled. Brushing off that minor disappointment, he delivered a great cross into the box and as soon as the ball left Bob Berry’s head it looked a goal all the way, the ‘keeper diving to his left while the ball went to his right. A real boost at the end of what had been a tough forty five minutes.
Re-energised at the start of the second half, we’d a fair bit of possession around the Downfield penalty area early in the second half, with the always-threatening Jones seeing much more of the ball than before the break. A burst down the left by our number eleven on fifty one minutes promised much, but his delivery across the face of goal just eluded Moffat. Our first change five minutes later saw Scott Wright replacing Lewis Temple, and some lovely football just after this almost yielded a goal – Paul Devlin was at the heart of the move, which ended with a defender inadvertently knocking the ball out of play via the outside of the post.
A Cairney cross then invited Moffat to head for goal but the striker couldn’t quite get to it, and the game remained very much in the balance though Downfield weren’t as prominent as in the first half. The visitors did however have a real chance on the hour, but Roy snatched at his initial shot from the edge of the box and then, when the ball came back in his direction, he did so again only this time even more wildly – he really ought to have at least hit the target. Haris Alysandratos then required treatment after falling awkwardly in his pursuit of the ball, but was able to resume. On sixty nine minutes Hagen was allowed too much room to advance on the home goal, but the team-mate he passed to could only hit the side-netting. Shaun Hill replaced Devlin with eighteen minutes left, having missed our previous two games on holiday, then a great chance to make the score 2-0 didn’t quite come to fruition after super link-up play involving Hamilton and Jones.
The crucial second goal did though materialise with twelve minutes left, after more good football in the build-up; Moffat could justifiably have gone it alone from a decent position inside the Downfield penalty area, but unselfishly opted instead to lay it off to Jones coming in on his left – Jones hit a measured shot first time to ‘keeper Clarkson’s left, the ball crossing the line a few inches from the post. Any remaining doubt, not that there could have been much, was removed two minutes later when Jones again beat the ‘keeper from a similar distance and in much the same fashion with his first touch, after Scott Wright put the ball in his path with a lovely chipped ball over the defender between the two. Chris Robertson replaced Moffat for the final ten minutes, but with the contest realistically over now the game was played out with little incident.
Another excellent three points then and some good individual performances contributing to a good team showing. We by no means had things all our own way, and had Downfield scored first as they may well might have it could’ve been an altogether different affair. To these eyes at least Downfield have enough quality in their ranks to avoid a relegation battle, and in our ultra-competitive division they could potentially feature in the top half.
Hi Hi: Alysandratos, Cairney, Hamilton, Wilson, Cunningham, Inglis, Berry, Devlin, (Hill S72), Moffat, (Robertson S80), Temple, (Wright S56), Jones.. Unused subs: Chapman, Cockburn (SG).
Downfield: Clarkson, Mudie, Cargill, Timmons, Duell, Hagan, Roy, Gallacher, Smith, Colquhoun, Garden. Subs: Blackwood, Davidson, Adam.
Referee: Daniel Graves