2019/20 match # 5 (Conference A fixture # 3)
Saturday 3 August 2019 3pm at John Brydson Arena
Heriot Watt University 1 (Ethan Stevens 45)
Haddington Athletic 0
On the hottest Saturday afternoon in a good while we ventured west of the capital to face Heriot Watt University in our third Conference A fixture, having scored seven goals while accruing four points from our first two outings, both at Millfield. The students, conversely, were playing their first home game after two visits to Fife – they’d kicked off with a 3-0 defeat at St Andrews United before getting their first points on the board in midweek with a 4-1 win at Burntisland Shipyard. There were three changes to our starting eleven, with Jordan Keenan, Ross King and Keiran Grant in for unavailable skipper George Cunningham and Shaun Conlon and Sam Tulloch, named among the substitutes. Our new all sky blue change kit was given its first airing.
Our hosts kicked off shortly after the scheduled 3pm kick off, with the sun beating down on the wide open 4G surface at the John Brydson Arena. They’d the first sight of goal in the second minute when they were awarded a free kick twenty five yards from goal, but the ball soared high over the bar. The first Haddington opportunity came with five minutes played, a good one at that; Joe Hamill’s cross-field ball from the right found Gordon Harris as he neared the bye-line on the left, and his first-time delivery sat up nicely for Ross King around fifteen yards from goal – the midfielder had time to take a touch before shooting, but sent the ball two or three feet too high. Another good chance came our way on fourteen minutes – Harris was dispossessed in the penalty area as he weighed up his options, but Keiran Grant nipped in and forced a worthwhile shot on goal from twelve yards out, though Reid in the home goal saved the low drive with no great difficulty. After these two promising openings, we’d our best chance yet just three minutes later – Gabri Auriemma took possession on the right of the penalty area before threading an inviting ball between Reid and a defender into the feet of Harris – the left back however misjudged things and smashed the ball into the side-netting when he’d time to take a touch and get his shot on target or pick a pass. While our opponents were as fit and well organised as expected from a student team they’d failed to present Dale Cornet with any issues, and so when the referee signalled a break in play midway through the half to allow both sides to hydrate themselves we’d cause to be reasonably satisfied with our progress up to that point. Whether or not the break had an impact on proceedings is a moot point, but it would have to be said we couldn’t maintain our momentum afterwards and, though we’d our fair share of possession, we didn’t really threaten meaningfully again before half-time. Chances were at a premium at both ends as both sides probed to try and break out of the midfield stalemate which evolved after the water break, and it wasn’t until five minutes before the break Stevens came close for the students when his angled shot from the left of the penalty area curled beyond the back post. Potter then put a twenty five yard free kick just past Cornet’s right post on forty three minutes, then shortly before the referee blew for half time we suffered an unexpected blow when Heriot Watt took the lead in controversial fashion. Ali Simpson’s header back to Cornet, out towards the right of his penalty area just in front of the byeline, was firm enough to allow our ‘keeper to grab the ball, but Stevens stuck his foot out and dislodged it from his grasp – the expected referee’s whistle failed to materialise, and so Stevens was more than happy enough to stride into the six yard box and guide the ball over the line from point blank range. The match official took the view the ball hadn’t been fully in Disco’s grasp and allowed the goal to stand, though his was a view not shared by the ‘keeper. If there was consolation to be taken from this setback, at least we’d a full forty five minutes in which to try and overturn things.
Half-time – Heriot Watt University 1 Haddington Athletic 0
Sam Tulloch came on in place of Keiran Grant at the start of the second half, and a second change was made just seven minutes after play resumed – trialist Ross Larner, latterly of Leith Athletic having briefly been on our books early in the 2016/17 campaign, came on for Ali Simpson who’d picked up a knock. The first chance of the half came on fifty six minutes when, from the second of two corners in quick succession, Ryan Hutchison headed over at the back post from Harris’ delivery from the left. A powerful Larner effort from outside the box stung the palms of home ‘keeper Reid just a minute later but he held the ball at the second time of asking. The pattern of play however for the most part resembled that prevalent in the later stages of the first half, with neither side able to penetrate the opposition penalty area – again we’d adequate possession but were found distinctly lacking when it came to any cutting edge in the final third. Not far past the midway point in the half Gabri Auriemma twice went it alone in powering past the home defence – in the first instance he took possession well outside the penalty area before embarking on a strong run into the box, but ultimately ran the ball out of play, then second time round his shot failed to trouble Reid. Hutchison then did well when he was set free on the right of the penalty area, but when it came to hitting his shot on target power was the absent factor and Reid again gathered all too easily. At the other end, Cornet once again was scarcely involved. With seventy six minutes played the referee was the source of Hi Hi’s frustration when he elected to halt play to show the yellow card to a home player, when we’d a promising break in progress deep inside the opposition half – playing advantage looked the correct option, but we’ll never know now if it’d have paid dividends for us. With the clock ticking away we never deviated from the task in hand, but frustration inevitably grew the longer the game went on. Two minutes after the no advantage upset a King free kick into the box invited a Harris header, on target but lacking the power to trouble Reid. A minute later the ref took Gabri Auriemma’s name after our man questioned the timewasting tactics increasingly employed by our hosts. An opening looked to have emerged with four minutes left when Cornet’s long ball forward seemed to sit up nicely for Hamish Law just inside the box but Reid was quickly off his line to beat him to the ball by a whisker. As the game moved towards injury time our ‘keeper had to make his first meaningful save of the afternoon when he got a hand to goal-bound shot from outside the box to push the ball out for a corner – there was still time, just, for one final charge but Law’s shot from the right of the penalty area was hit straight at a grateful Reid.
A highly frustrating afternoon in the end, with the scoring breakthrough eluding us as we suffered our first defeat of 2019/20. We played a lot of good possession football but were found wanting in the final third, where ideally we need to be far more clinical. All credit to coach Bejay Koya and his Heriot Watt team on their win – they know that on another day their goal wouldn’t have been allowed to stand, and Bejay was complimentary afterwards on the way we play the game, though that’s of little consolation in the grand scheme of things.
HWU: 1 Calum Reid, 2 Todd Teviotdale, 3 Scott Munro, 4 Harry Barclay, 18 Aidan Quinn, 6 Lewis Morton, 7 Craig Smith, 8 Justin Hogg, 9 Dan Potter, 10 Gregor MacDonald, 11 Ethan Stevens. Subs: 12 Scott Peggie, 14 Jakub Odolczyk, 16 Arran Singh, 20 Charlie Stewart, 21 Alex McMahon.
Haddington: 1 Dale Cornet, 2 Ali Simpson, (16 Ross Larner S52), 3 Gordon Harris, 4 Joe Hamill, 5 Jordan Keenan, 6 Cammy Watson, 7 Gabri Auriemma, 8 Ross King, 9 Hamish Law, 10 Ryan Hutchison, 11 Keiran Grant, (12 Sam Tulloch S46). Unused subs: 14 Lewis Sives, 15 Shaun Conlon.
Referee: Kevin Lindsay