Match Reports: Season 2016 – 2017

Season 2016 – 2017: Match 33

East of Scotland League

13th May 2017

COLDSTREAM 2 HERIOT-WATT UNIVERSITY 2

A visit to our old friends and rivals at Coldstream, with whom we have an exactly even record since the turn of the century, with eleven wins apiece and now two draws, brought a fine end to the Watt’s East of Scotland season.

It was a disappointment in the end for the hosts, though, as the Watt managed to rescue a point at the last gasp after the Streamers had led from the fifth minute. Once the immediate frustration had passed, however, fairminded Coldstream supporters would have admitted that the Watt was well worth at least a share of the spoils.

Although there had been heavy rain earlier in the day, Home Park was still rather fiery after a long dry spell, but despite this, the Watt played some fine football in the first half of the match, only to find themselves two goals behind at the interval. The first came after five minutes when a good pass down the right by Robin Brown was squared by Kristian Dixon for Gary Windram to fire the ball high into the net.

Adam Breen was on top form in the Watt midfield and the little maestro executed a superb turn and chip to find Mark McGovern. The ball eventually reached Scott Dargo, who shot past the post.

Breen was in action again a few minutes later, a superb take and turn enabling him to play in McGovern for a run into the left side of the box, but the shot faded just past the post.

McGovern was proving a handful for the home defence and he got in another shot a few minutes later, turning on a throw-in to fire the ball towards goal, but finding Jamie Shiel well placed to save.

Watt should have been on level terms after thirty-two minutes when McGovern held the ball up to feed Dargo, who flighted the ball on to the head of Callum Smith, but with the goal at his mercy, Smith headed upwards instead of downwards and the ball crept just over the bar.

Five minutes later, McGovern played on a throw from the left and Breen, in the middle of the penalty area, met the ball on the volley with a firm shot. There were loud claims for a penalty as the ball rebounded from a defender, but although it was difficult to see from the sidelines exactly what had happened, the ball was struck so hard that it seemed unlikely any defender could have moved an arm towards it.

After all this Watt attacking, Coldstream had another shock in store for the visitors. Des Sutherland, back from Gala Fairydean Rovers for another spell at Home Park, had supplied craft and skill for the Streamers and he now added the striker’s instincts, moving off his marker and collecting a ball played in from the left, then in one movement, turning and driving it firmly into the far corner of the net.

The Watt players trudged off for the interval a minute later wondering what had hit them, but with a firm belief that something could still be extracted from the game.

The second half was less cultured than the first, but was marked by the visitors’ grim determination not to be beaten. Anton Dowds made an excellent run into the box early on, but with Jackson Barker making a run to the far post, Dowds was travelling too fast to find him and Shiel was able to cut out his cross.

Time was ebbing away and we were nearly half-way through the second half before Watt was able to reduce the leeway. It was a bit of an odd goal, but it was all down to the persistence of the players, who wouldn’t give up the chance. Jens Willassen swung the ball in from the left and the gusty breeze kept it away from the hands of Shiel. Barker was second-favourite at the far post, but got enough on the bouncing ball to take it inside. It was awkward for McGovern too, but he managed to work the ball into a position for a strike and drove it conclusively past Shiel into goal.

Almost immediately, there was a desperate scramble in the Watt penalty area which was eventually resolved when Barker played the ball behind. Brown then sent Craig Saunders diving across his goal, but the shot from the edge of the area shaved the outside of the post.

Having survived this hot spell from the Streamers, Watt resumed the offensive and Dowds turned on a throw-in to send in a shot from the edge of the penalty box, missing the post by a yard or two.

As the match entered its final phase, Watt was throwing everything into attack. Barker’s fine cross reached McGovern, but didn’t carry to him at head-height and the ball ran off his foot across goal. Sutherland reminded us he was still a danger by turning on the ball and sending in a shot from all of forty metres which passed the post by inches.

Into stoppage time at the end of the game, and Aidan Quinn rose to send in a fine header from a corner kick. It wasn’t quite clear whether the ball had struck the base of the post or whether it had been blocked by the goalkeeper’s hand or the foot of a defender, but it didn’t go in. Finn Watt was still in attack long after the corner for which he had advanced had been cleared and he got his head to Dargo’s cross, but the ball looped towards goal and Shiel was able to make the catch.

Finally, as Coldstream’s attempt to keep the ball in the corner of the pitch failed and Watt came away with the ball, there was time for one last attack down the right. It seemed to have got bogged down as defenders crowded in, but Chris Lane somehow found room to send in a great cross and McGovern gleefully pounced to send a bullet header into the net and save a point for the Watt.

It was a battling performance to secure a point, but the Watt went back up the road feeling that justice had been done. Jens Willassen and Michael Ward had made their East of Scotland debuts in the match and four of the squad had played for the Under-20s the evening before, including Aiden Quinn, who had come off the Riccarton pitch exhausted after a hard ninety minutes in midfield, yet played the full match the following day, so there was satisfaction in the achievement.

Coldstream:
Shiel, Dixon, Walker, Ainslie, Beasley, Lee, Brown (Howel 91), Strang, Dixon, Sutherland (Johnston 87), Windram. Sub. not used: Hossack.

Heriot-Watt University:
Saunders, Dargo, Willassen, Watt, Quinn, Lane, Smith (Ross 76), Dowds, McGovern, Breen (Ward 67), James (Barker 52). All subs. used.

Referee: Mr Gary McGregor (Easthouses).

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Season 2016 – 2017: Match 32

East of Scotland League Cup – Semi-final

29th April 2017

LEITH ATHLETIC 2 HERIOT-WATT UNIVERSITY 1

Going to the home of the league-leaders and current champions is always a tough prospect and the knowledge that they’d put seven past such a prominent side as Tynecastle in their previous match, in midweek, reinforced Leith’s position as favourites in this cup tie, but although the Watt’s player availability was again far from ideal, such are the strides the club has made this season under Head Coach Banji Koya that there was never any thought in the minds of the players or supporters that this would be anything other than another close game, like the previous three meetings of the sides this season. Watt doesn’t seem to be able to get a win against Athletic these days, but now it can be said that all four games played during the season were closely contested.

Leith almost got off to a flying start, when a through ball by Kerr Allan found a gap in the Watt defence for Daniel McKinlay to run into, but Callum Reid showed fine judgment in timing the run from his line and blocked the ball behind.

It took Watt some time to settle and we were twenty minutes into the game before the visitors created a serious chance. That came when Adam Breen executed a good take and turn to send Anton Dowds away on the right, but Dowds was at full stretch to keep his marker at bay and was driven a little too wide before attempting the shot, making Iain Gordon’s save straightforward.

Two minutes later, Athletic took the lead with a bizarre goal. Kerr Allan‘s corner from the left came in low to the near post area. Dowds, covering the post, decided that it was going past and didn’t play it, but there was just enough pace on the ball to take it beyond the post before it curled in and crossed the line.

Ten minutes later, Watt equalised with an equally unexpected goal. Leith’s Grant Burns played the ball confidently inside to Gordon, but when the goalkeeper tried to sidestep the advancing Breen, the Watt player got his foot to the ball and before Gordon could recover, he prodded it into the unguarded net.

Dowds was ploughing a lone furrow in attack for much of the time, but after nipping the ball away from a defender he almost managed to get into a shooting position before the last man’s tackle took the ball to the edge of the area where it just eluded Ollie Spence.

Neil Laurenson chased down a diagonal cross from a free kick to force Taylor Black to play the ball behind and from the corner which followed, Aidan Quinn’s mid-air back-heel almost found a taker at the far post.

Just on half-time, Scott Dargo was brought down right on the edge of the area on the Watt right. Aaron James drove the free kick in with power and at a good height, but directed it too close to Gordon, who made the catch.

Watt was playing a sensible game for a team away from home against a strong opponent, pressing when not in possession and trying to use the ball quickly when it was secured, and early in the second half came close again when a James corner was headed just past by Quinn.

Five minutes into the second period, Watt thought for a moment they had taken the lead when a free kick was taken short to Chris Lane and Dowds rose to meet his cross to the far side of goal and place a perfect header past the right hand of Gordon, only for the Assistant Referee’s flag to cut short Watt celebrations.

Watt continued to threaten from set pieces and another James corner was narrowly missed by the head of Finn Watt; then, when James returned the ball to the box, Dowds was close to getting his head to it.

Just after this, Dowds took possession, drove forward into the penalty area and came down under a challenge, but the referee turned away from his claim for a penalty kick and four minutes later Leith took the lead again, a deep cross from the right being volleyed by Scott Wilson from just above ground-height past the right hand of Reid.

Leith could have – and probably should have – secured the victory three minutes later. James did well to get back to cover the run of Rhys Craigie, but when the ball ran to James Hainey with the goal at his mercy, we expected to see the clinching goal. Watt supporters breathed a sigh of relief as the striker fired the ball over the bar.

An excellent passing move on the left gave Dowds another shooting chance, but again the angle was too tight for him to beat Gordon; however, the Watt was gradually increasing its attacking intent. Ronnie Napier’s fine tackle and run enabled him to slip the ball through to Dowds, but the striker was caught offside. Rob Service replaced Spence and soon showed his capacity for driving at defences, making a couple of storming runs which caused concern to the home defence.

Hainey, who had previously been cautioned for a rash challenge, fouled Quinn and was promptly replaced by John Ferguson as we entered the last ten minutes. By the end of the match, Watt was committing most of its resources to attack, but found the home defence difficult to breach. In the end, time ran out for the Watt and its cup hopes were over for another season.

Leith Athletic:
Gordon, Black, Fee, Burns, Melvin, Beaton, McKinlay (Wilkie 70), Allan (Martin 70), Hainey (Ferguson 81), Wilson, Craigie. Subs. not used: Combe, Lewis, Tracey, Macpherson.

Heriot-Watt University:
Reid, Dargo, James, Watt, Quinn, Lane, Spence (Service 72), Napier, Dowds, Breen (Imray 86), Laurenson (Smith 79). Sub. not used: Saunders.

Referee: Mr Iain Snedden (Edinburgh).
Assistant Referees: Mr Greig Haynes, Mr Chris Newman.

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Season 2016 – 2017: Match 31

East of Scotland League

22nd April 2017

EYEMOUTH UNITED 1 HERIOT-WATT UNIVERSITY 2

This was still far from a smooth, well-oiled Watt machine and the Fishermen of Eyemouth made the afternoon just as tough for the visitors as had the Streamers of Coldstream the previous Saturday, but the Watt squeezed out another three points for their league campaign at the end of a keenly-contested ninety minutes.

The first half was entertaining and enjoyable, with both sides playing an accurate, high-tempo passing style. Chances arose at both ends, although only one was taken during this period. An early corner from Aaron James found the head of Aidan Quinn, but his header went across goal and behind. A minute later, a low free kick from Jeff Collin was gathered by Callum Reid.

Watt made the breakthrough in nine minutes. Chris Donnelly used the time available to size up the situation as he gathered a ball just outside the penalty area, then floated through a pass to pick out the run of Ronnie Napier, who ran in unchallenged. Adam Mutch got a hand to his shot, but couldn’t take enough pace off it and the ball found the net.

Reid was out just in time to thwart the lively Calum McClure as United responded briskly and his opposite number, Mutch, saved brilliantly when Anton Dowds dragged the ball through a couple of tackles to drive in a powerful shot from the edge of the box. It was well placed, too, just inside the line of the post, and looked all over a scorer until Mutch soared to his right and put out a strong hand to take the ball round the post.

A superb turn and flick pass by Donnelly set Chris Lane away to his left, but Lane, perhaps seeing Mutch off his line, went for a highly-ambitious long-range effort which was well off target. Eyemouth swept to the other end and Sean Campbell surged down the right to lay the ball inside to Connor Lough, but with Reid facing him, the striker shot high over the crossbar.

Lough was involved again a few minutes later, combining with Daniel Blackie to threaten the Watt defence with another pacy move. Finn Watt did well to hold up the momentum and when Blackie struck the shot, he found Reid in prime position.

Harry Barclay had been showing signs of a leg injury for some time and ten minutes before the break he was replaced by the welcome sight of Michael Webster returning to the first eleven.

Watt thought they had added to their lead in the last action of the first half, but when Smith cut inside and rattled the bar with a fierce drive, and then Donnelly headed in the rebound, the referee was in good position to rule that the striker was marginally offside.

For some reason, Watt couldn’t seem to get back into their stride after half-time. The Fishermen re-started the brighter of the sides and Lough was out of luck when his clever hooked shot clipped the top of the bar. Just before the hour, Donnelly had to retire from the fray after jarring his knee, with Adam Breen coming on to replace him. Breen made an immediate impact, threading through a pass for Webster, but the striker had to take the shot first-time and clipped it past the post.

Eyemouth continued to push forward in search of an equaliser and Collin had a shot deflected over the bar. When the resultant corner was played back into the goalmouth after being partially cleared, a header across the face of goal eluded two home players coming in at the far post and slipped past.

After surviving this spell of pressure, Watt came close again when a corner from the left found Dowds, who sent a header just past the post, but two minutes later the visitors scored again. Smith held it up patiently on the left, probing for an opening and eventually playing the ball into the penalty area for Dowds to drive towards the by-line before whipping the ball low past Mutch into the centre of goal for Webster to tap in.

If Watt thought they had done enough with a second goal, Eyemouth immediately disabused them of that idea, launching a sustained attack on the visitors’ goal. Reid blocked at his near post, but when the rebound was played to the far side, a goal looked likely. The Watt defenders, however, threw themselves forward towards the ball and someone managed to get a deflection on it to take it behind. From the resultant corner, there was an even closer call, Reid touching the ball on to the crossbar and a header being cleared off the line before a defender got a boot to the ball to send it out for a throw.

With United exerting so much pressure, Watt Head Coach Banji Koya decided to shore up the defence and brought on Andrew Imray to replace Smith. Shortly after, Andrew Sword came on for Eyemouth to replace the ailing James Turnbull.

The subtle skills of Breen were a big asset for Watt at this stage of the game and his fine pass enabled Webster to break clear, but uncharacteristically the striker got his angles wrong and the ball passed by the far post.

Collin was still energetic in the home cause and came close with a run in from the left, but by the time he tried to clip the ball towards goal, the angle had become too tight and the ball finished in the side netting. A minute later, McClure stepped inside two defenders and sent in a low shot, but found Reid well positioned to dive to his right and catch the ball. United was making most of the running now and Lough came close again, heading Sword’s well-directed corner just past the far post. Two minutes later, though, the game was back in the melting pot. With his mobility and drive, McClure had been a danger throughout the game and he cut in from the right, controlling a bouncing ball and firing a strong drive well out of reach of the right hand of the diving Reid to reduce the deficit to one.

Watt had to endure four minutes of stoppage time, but during that time, United couldn’t manage to exert further serious pressure on the visitors’ rearguard and eventually the welcome sound of the final whistle put an end to anxieties and confirmed another three league points were bound for Riccarton.

Eyemouth United:
Mutch, Turnbull (Sword 78), McInnes, Wilson, Paterson, Gillen, Blackie, Collin, Lough, Campbell, McClure. Sub. not used: Cowe.

Heriot-Watt University:
Reid, Dargo, James, Watt, Quinn, Napier, Smith (Imray 76), Lane, Dowds, Donnelly (Breen 59), Lane, Barclay (Webster 35). Sub. not used: Dawirs.

Referee: Mr Greig Haynes (Tranent).

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Season 2016 – 2017: Match 30

East of Scotland League Cup

15th April 2017

COLDSTREAM 1 HERIOT-WATT UNIVERSITY 1 (1 – 2 after extra time)

The Watt’s continuing player availability problems meant that Head Coach Banji Koya once again had few selection problems – every man who could travel and was fit to pull on a strip was occupying one.

The starting eleven included eight players who had not featured in the pool for the league game against Lothian Thistle Hutchison Vale on the 29th of March and the bench was entirely composed of players not fit to start the game. The back four in front of Under-20 goalkeeper Callum Reid included Scott Dargo, who hadn’t played since the 21st of January; Robert Service, who hadn’t played a full game all season; and Harry Barclay, who had never played in the First Team before – but the defence played magnificently, with Reid in sparkling form behind a resolute and hard-working back line.

Lest it be imagined that the Watt was the only team with player issues, it should be said that Coldstream had only three players on the bench, including veteran coach Phil Johnson. To make things worse for the home side, two of its players had to be replaced due to injury before half-time had been reached.

Watt took the game to their hosts in the early stages, with Chris Donnelly gathering Dargo’s pass to fire across goal, then just falling to put Ollie Spence through the centre. Watt stayed in the ascendancy and half-way through the first half a superb tackle won Service the ball to send a fine pass to Donnelly, who sped clear of his marker but seemed to stumble in his shooting stride and sent the ball high and wide. Donnelly threatened again a minute later, bringing the ball inside from the left past several defenders, but having his shot deflected behind for a corner. Callum Smith’s in-swinger was headed over by Spence.

Coldstream had few efforts on goal before the interval, but on the half-hour Kristian Dixon’s shot from twenty metres passed a yard wide. On another occasion a dangerous cross from the left put Finn Watt in a difficult position, but the Shetlander dealt with the situation brilliantly, diverting the ball to safety with a forward breathing down his neck. Soon the Watt was probing again, Donnelly linking with Anton Dowds, but his pass inside looking for Smith was played behind by a defender.

Spence had switched to the left and a lofted pass almost put him in, but Mark Walters was quickly off his line to fill the horizon as the Watt man tried to steer the ball towards goal. Just after this, the Streamers lost their first starter when Kieran Lee went off with a rib injury, being replaced by Cameron Beesley. A more serious injury occurred in the last minute of the half, Craig Hall sustaining a heavy blow to the head, necessitating a long stoppage in play. Eventually, the player recovered sufficiently to be helped off the pitch and at the start of the second half, Kai Strang came on in his place.

With the wind at their backs in the second forty-five, Watt felt confident of capitalising, but Coldstream worked hard and with captain Robin Brown a constant menace, threatened the Watt goal on a number of occasions. Brown’s shot from twenty metres might have troubled Reid had it not been deflected behind; then, following the breakdown of an attempt from a Watt corner kick, the Streamers switched the ball rapidly upfield, with Dixon moving to the left to keep Watt behind him. Reaching the penalty area, he shot firmly across Reid, but the young goalkeeper brought off a splendid save, getting a firm left hand to the ball to turn it behind.

Donnelly slipped through a pass for Chris Lane just after this, but the midfielder took a touch for which there wasn’t time and Walters was on him in a flash to divert the ball away for a corner kick. Barclay then found Dowds with an astute pass, but the striker’s shot lacked conviction and Walters was there to block again.

Service’s cross-field pass gave Smith a chance to play the ball in from the left, but Walters dived to turn the ball behind in inrushing Donnelly and Dargo shot wildly over the bar.

Reid saved well again from Brown’s shot to keep the scoresheet blank, but the first goal was not far away. Another Watt corner on the left was swung in with pace by Dowds. Walters came forward, but the ball dipped as it reached the goalmouth and the ’keeper’s punch took it off a defender and back into the corner of the net.

Having delivered the corner kick which brought the Watt the lead, Dowds had the chance to provide security to the scoreline a minute later when Smith sped to the by-line and cut the ball back. Dowds had time and space, but failed to control his shot and fired well over the bar.

Smith did well again, reaching a ball which seemed to be heading out of play to find Donnelly, but his attempt to find Dowds was intercepted by a defender, who turned the ball behind. The corner kick reached Watt at the far post, but his drive across goal was reached only by a defender who played it for another corner.

As the game entered its last ten minutes, the Streamers gathered themselves for a last push and with seven minutes remaining on the clock, Dixon found time to turn just inside the box and send an accurate low shot past the left hand of the diving Reid and into the corner of the goal to level the scores.

The home side raised its game to try to clinch victory in the last few minutes. Gary Windram cut inside and played the ball across goal, but there were no takers and the ball went out for a throw on the far side. Leigh Walker got in a shot following the throw-in, but failed to hit the target.

And so the weary players had to line up for an extra half-hour. Early in the first half, Spence worked his way into the penalty area, enabling Donnelly to set up Ross Fraser, but the Watt substitute’s shot was too high. A few minutes later, Donnelly forced the ball between two defenders and found a space between them that didn’t seem to be there, but Walters again timed his run from goal to block the ball and the rebound came to Donnelly at an awkward height.

In the last minute of the first period of extra time, Donnelly accepted the ball from a throw-in on the left, slipped his marker and skipped past another defender. His cutback from the line came out towards Fraser and this time the young man made no mistake, drilling a low, controlled shot into a gap between the defenders close to the line to find the net and put the Watt back in front.

The Streamers were almost level again as soon as the game restarted. From a corner on the left, Windram ran in unchallenged to meet the ball with his head, but he sent it down off the firm ground and on to the bar via the nose of Reid.

Watt had further chances to secure the victory: a free kick played forward was contested by Spence and a defender; Donnelly, realising that neither was going to make contact, backed off and was able to gather the ball, but he sent his shot across goal and out on the far side. Then, a good pass down the wing by Dargo gave Donnelly the chance to cut the ball back for Lane, but his first-time strike was diverted over the bar. Finally, Donnelly picked out Fraser on the left, but after cutting inside he sent a weak shot past the post.

None of this mattered in the end. Coldstream was unable to come back again and the Watt saw out time to secure a semi-final meeting with Leith Athletic. Plenty of chances were missed in this game, but the victory was achieved through determination and application. All the players made their contributions, but in addition to the defence, of which mention has already been made, special plaudits must go to the inspirational Ronnie Napier, who rolled back the years with a performance of immense energy and spirit in the middle of the park and to the drive and enthusiasm of Chris Donnelly, whose commitment to running at defences made this an uncomfortable afternoon for the home rearguard.

Coldstream:
Walters, Hall (Strang 45), Walker, Birkett, Logan, Lee (Beesley 35), Dickson (Johnson 101), Brown, Dixon, Johnston, Windram. All subs. used.

Heriot-Watt University:
Reid, Dargo, Barclay, Watt, Service, Napier, Spence, Lane, Donnelly, Dowds (Quinn 77), Smith (Fraser 74). Subs. not used: Saunders, Laurenson.

Referee: Mr Michael Addy (Edinburgh).

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Season 2016 – 2017: Match 29

King Cup: Quarter-final

1st April 2017

LOTHIAN THISTLE HUTCHISON VALE 1 HERIOT-WATT UNIVERSITY 1 (3 – 1 after extra time)

Watt supporters who thought that after the trials and tribulations of Wednesday, Banji Koya would have a comprehensive complement of players from which to choose for this cup tie were soon disabused of this idea. There were only three seats on the bench occupied and those were filled by Jackson Barker, whose asthma was giving him problems, Robert Service, who hadn’t kicked a ball in earnest this year and Andrew Imray, whose previous first-team experience amounted to one match (curiously, at the same venue, against Tynecastle) plus three very brief substitute appearances lasting five minutes in total.

The hosts were also restricted to a bench of three, which in their case included two of the scorers from the Wednesday game, Jamie Devlin and Liam O’Donnell. The starting line-up featured John Sherlock instead of Paul Crawford in central defence and Benai Alastuey for Anthony Muir in midfield, with James Guy and Scott-Taylor Mackenzie replacing Devlin and O’Donnell. Curiously, both sides had replaced their goalkeeper, with Kevin Swain returning for LTHV to the exclusion of Byron Gibb and Callum Reid preferred to Craig Saunders for Watt.

With Cammy Ross, Anton Dowds and Chris Donnelly in the side, Watt had plenty of firepower, but the match started at a more sedate pace than had been the case on the Wednesday, both teams taking a cagey approach and taking as few risks as possible. Callum Reid saved well from Willis Hare half-way through the first half, but apart from that chance, the main events up to the last minute of the half were physical. Finn Watt and Aidan Quinn were both off for treatment on leg injuries, but recovered. Not so Ollie Spence and Neil Laurenson, who both had to be replaced within three minutes towards half-time, leaving Service as the only remaining substitute available.

Worse was to follow in stoppage time at the end of the half when a corner from the left was played out as far as Alastuey. His shot was well struck, but a deflection inside the box off Hare left Reid without a hope of stopping it and the home side took a lead into the pavilion at the interval.

It took Watt just seven minutes of the second half to get back on level terms. When a foul on Chris Lane produced a free kick half-way inside the visitors’ half, Quinn drove a superb ball out to Donnelly on the left wing. He checked back and sent a good cross into the box. Ross rose high to head the ball down and Barker ran in to stab the ball between Swain and his post.

The rest of normal time provided a fascinating duel between two determined combatants. A good ball by Mackenzie gave Sean Wringe a chance, but Reid was in good position to block and catch the ball. A good spell for Watt followed this, with Ronnie Napier combining with Barker to enable Ross to win a corner, following which Imray’s header from Dowds’ cross was blocked behind. Barker flighted in the second corner kick, but it was just too high for Quinn at the far post.

Reid was in good position to catch further efforts from Wringe and Mackenzie and a free kick from Guy; Watt responded with Donnelly going through for a shot from the edge of the box which went past Swain’s left post.

Watt’s corners were starting to cause trouble for the home defence and another one from the left found Imray, but again his downward header was blocked in front of the line and a shot from the rebound was diverted behind.

As the match entered its final phase, Watt was the side pushing forward more regularly. Attempts by Finn Watt and Service failed to trouble Swain and Donnelly was given offside in a tight call.

With four minutes to go, Lothian was given a golden chance to win the tie when for the second time in four days, a controversial penalty was awarded against the Watt at Saughton. O’Donnell took on Imray inside the box, driving to the line to set up a cutback. Imray stretched his leg to try to divert the ball behind, but went to ground, but was careful to keep a good distance between himself and his opponent. Having failed to find a team-mate with a cut-back, O’Donnell veered inside and tumbled over the outstretched leg of Imray, who by that time had been completely stationary for some time. Mr Doyle is one of our brightest young officials and had a good view of the incident, so the consternation was considerable when he pointed to the spot.

We would suggest there is perhaps a learning point here for both defender and official. Imray, who had an excellent game, may reflect that going to ground in such circumstances gives an opportunity to forwards, who these days are often inclined to look for limbs to fall over. The referee may reflect on the incident by gaining a greater awareness of this tactic and learning to watch for it.

To have such a thing happen so late in an evenly-balanced cup tie was the stuff of despair; but Mackenzie, the scorer of the penalty on Wednesday, saw justice done by sending his shot from the spot against the outside of the post and past.

Having survived this crisis, Watt surged forward in an attempt to snatch the victory themselves. Dowds hooked the ball through to Donnelly, who had just the goalkeeper to beat, but was again the subject of a tight offside call. Two minutes later, Donnelly had a genuine chance when from a quickly-taken free kick, the ball skidded off the head of John Sherlock and on towards the striker. Donnelly aimed his shot low, but the excellent Swain was out of his goal like a shot to get a block on the ball and send it behind.

Their own attacks were a constant danger to the Watt goal, as with all the defenders forward for corners and free kicks, the fast-raiding home forwards frequently broke upfield in numbers at least equal to those which were trying to hold things at the back. Lane, left with two opponents to handle on his own, did really well to delay the advance until reinforcements arrived.

Donnelly had another chance during stoppage time, sent away on the right by Barker, but in seeking to link with Dowds, he waited too long and eventually his pass was intercepted. Service then combined with Dowds, but skied his shot from the edge of the box.

The last effort on goal was at the other end, however, Lane blocking Grant Munro’s header on the line. The full-time whistle sounded shortly after and we were into extra time.

Watt did much of the attacking in the first period. Quinn’s header from Barker’s free-kick was blocked behind, then the same players combined from another free-kick; this time, Quinn had to stoop for the header and when it was blocked on the line, a follow-up shot was diverted behind. In another quick break, Lothian substitutes O’Donnell and Devlin combined, but Devlin’s low centre eluded Kevin Brown.

There were four minutes of the second period of extra time to go when LTHV found a way through. A corner from the left was headed back across goal. Reid got a hand to the ball to help it on, but Munro saw his chance and ran forward to head home from around the edge of the six-yard box. Three minutes later, an attempted clearance from the right-hand side of the Watt box rebounded into the centre straight to O’Donnell. His effort was blocked, but when the ball came to Devlin, he was able to pick his spot to clinch the victory and a Semi-final place against either Coldstream or Burntisland Shipyard.

Lothian Thistle Hutchison Vale:
Swain, Moore, Mungall, Sherlock, Munro, Alastuey, Guy (Devlin 60), Brown, Wringe (Simpson 105), Mackenzie, Hare (O’Donnell 60). All subs. used.

Heriot-Watt University:
Reid, Watt, Laurenson (Imray 38), Quinn, Woolven, Lane, Spence (Barker 35), Napier, Ross (Service 72), Dowds, Donnelly. All subs. used.

Referee: Mr Calum Doyle (Newtongrange)

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Season 2016 – 2017: Match 28

Central Taxis’ East of Scotland League

29th March 2017

LOTHIAN THISTLE HUTCHISON VALE 3 HERIOT-WATT UNIVERSITY 2

There was frustration at the end of this game for a patchwork Watt side which fought with great courage under a severe onslaught, came back to equalise late in the game and appeared to be in with a good chance of winning before ultimately losing the match to a converted penalty, the award of which was certainly self-inflicted but nonetheless debatable.

Seven players in the Watt squad had featured in the game played in the afternoon against the University of Stirling, Scotland’s highest-ranked student side. Finn Watt, who had played two-thirds of the earlier game, played all of this one and Chris Lane played all ninety minutes of both games.

The game began with what must have been one of the earliest goals ever scored in any East of Scotland match. Watt took the centre and as is now customary, the ball was played backwards. Aidan Quinn squared it to Watt, who drove it long downfield. Cammy Ross was on to it like a whippet, reading the flight of the ball perfectly, and as Byron Gibb advanced from his goal he headed it on the first bounce over the goalkeeper into the net.

It was a totally unexpected start to the game, but for some time afterwards, Watt must have been wondering if they had done the right thing by lighting the blue touchpaper so early. The home side responded with a ferocity of attacking that seemed almost irresistible, with both wide men making penetrating runs in behind the visitors’ defence. A free kick on the edge of the area in the fourth minute was touched into goal, but the Assistant raised the flag to signify offside. Five minutes later, Liam O’Donnell got to the by-line and when he played the ball across, it rebounded like a pinball from the thigh of Sean Wringe on to the crossbar. A similar run by Willis Hare on the right ended with the ball being driven across the Watt goalmouth with no-one to apply the finishing touch and when Craig Saunders came quickly off his line to block a shot from Jamie Devlin, it seemed as if an equalising goal must come soon.

Instead, it was the Watt which almost doubled its advantage. A clever free-kick by Ronnie Napier picked out triallist Lumbert Kateleza’s run on the right and when he sidestepped a challenge and played the ball across, it came to Aaron James’ wrong foot, his right, and he skied the shot.

Soon Watt was on the defensive again. Neil Laurenson did really well to run the ball out from the back, but he hung on to it too long; when he was tackled, a shot from distance came in and it took all Saunders’ height and reach to turn it over the bar.

Just when Watt seemed to be weathering the storm and playing with a bit more conviction, the long-awaited equaliser arrived. Saunders made a great stop, but LTHV recovered the ball and kept the attack going. Ultimately, it came to O’Donnell, who smashed an unstoppable shot across the goal into the top corner of the net. It was a superb strike, although there was a suspicion that the scorer had been offside earlier in the move.

The pace and control of Ross were always an issue for the home defence to deal with and a good run infield almost set up a chance for Kateleza, but the through pass was too close to Gibb, who came out speedily to collect. On the half-hour mark, however, Watt came closer to scoring at the end of a fine move. Jackson Barker, who gave a superb midfield performance in this game, sent a disguised pass to Kateleza, who played the ball in to the penalty box. Ross sent in a shot which rebounded off the head of a defender, but Watt recovered the ball and kept the move going. In the end, the ball came in for Kateleza to send in a header which Gibb moved smartly to turn round the post.

Half-time came and went and gradually the pace of the game became less fevered, allowing the Watt to build some passing moves, but on the hour the visitors fell behind for the first time. A silly push ten metres inside the Watt half gave LTHV a free kick and a chance to play the ball down the left to O’Donnell, who came inside at pace and delivered the ball to the far post, where it was tapped in by Devlin.

Thirteen minutes later, Watt restored parity. Watt began the move with a superb tackle to win the ball and a surge forward. He laid the ball off to Barker, who timed his pass perfectly for Ross to take one touch to put the ball in position and with his second, send a crisp low drive across Gibb into the corner of the net.

It was now anyone’s game and there seemed a lot of space within which to work. The idea of the Watt winning seemed fanciful after LTHV had equalised and then gone ahead, but it was a live possibility now. Although for much of the game, Lothian players had seemed to outnumber those of the Watt, now it was the other way round and clearances from the home penalty area were being collected by men in red. Anton Dowds had come into the fray and with Aidan Quinn also pushing forward, Watt was looking for all three points.

That situation lasted for ten minutes after the Watt equaliser. Then a hopeful ball was played in from the LTHV left. Quinn appeared to be in a position to clear it, but Saunders called for him to leave it. It was an over-optimistic call from the goalkeeper, who had too much ground to make up to get to a ball which barely reached the penalty area. He did get to it before the forward who was chasing it, but when he pushed the ball away, it struck the leg of the player, who then fell over the outstretched arm of the goalkeeper. The referee’s decision was a penalty and although Saunders dived the right way to try to reach Scott-Taylor Mackenzie’s kick, the direction and power were enough to find the corner of the goal.

Watt was not finished yet and the players threw off their weariness to besiege the home goal in an effort to regain a share of the spoils. At times, the home defending was desperate, but there were few real chances until stoppage time, when Barker went through on to a bouncing ball and headed it past Gibb, who had run from his penalty area, but there were enough defenders getting back to prevent him from having an opportunity to send the ball towards the unguarded goal. The last chance came through two of the substitutes when Dowds headed the ball on to Harry Warner at the edge of the area. Warner trapped the ball on his thigh, swivelled and sent in a firm shot. He probably made too good a contact, as the ball rose just over the bar to end the last opportunity for the visitors to take something from the game.

Lothian Thistle Hutchison Vale:
Gibb, Moore, Mungall, Crawford, Munro, Muir, Hare, Brown (Sherlock 84), Wringe (Mackenzie 66), Devlin, O’Donnell (Guy 70). Subs. not used: Alastuey, Simpson.

Heriot-Watt University:
Saunders, Maher, Laurenson, Quinn, Watt, Lane, Barker, Napier, Ross (Warner 79), Kateleza (Dowds 64), James (Woolven 70). Subs. not used: Breen, Willassen.

Referee: Mr George Calder (Edinburgh).
Assistant Referees: Mr Steven Wilson, Ms Vikki Allan.

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Season 2016 – 2017: Match 27

King Cup – First Round

18th March 2017

HERIOT-WATT UNIVERSITY 6 EYEMOUTH UNITED 0

Early goals in both halves eased Watt’s passage into the Second Round of the King Cup as Craig Saunders returned in goal after his injury and put on a fine display, saving a penalty from John Crawford and showing good judgment when leaving his line. Watt has had its injury problems of late, but it was clear that the visitors were having even more difficulty with availability; from a squad list of twenty-one, only twelve names appeared on the team lines.

Watt attacked from the kick-off and went in front within two minutes, Harry Warner finding space to accept a pass from the right and drive the ball crisply past Adam Mutch in the visitors’ goal.

Saunders made one of his few mistakes on the day early on, coming out towards a free kick played in from the Fishermen’s left wing but failing to reach the ball. It was deflected to Andrew Sword inside the six-yard box but to the side of the goal. Nevertheless, Sword was cross with himself for failing to steer his header on target.

Sword, a clever player who is very adept at creating the space he needs using deceptive body movement, worked another opportunity in the tenth minute, eluding Adam Woolven and Ollie Spence to fire in a shot from twenty metres, but Saunders had his positioning just right and made the save look easy.

This was important, as Watt doubled its lead three minutes later. From a well-worked short corner move on the left, a cross to the far post found Finn Watt unmarked and he picked his spot with a downward header.

That was the last of the scoring in the first half and by half-time Watt supporters were concerned that half-chances had not been made to count, as United was far from out of the game at that stage.

Amongst the better opportunities were misses by Anton Dowds, who shot into the side netting after being set up by the industrious and skilful Adam Breen; and by Warner, who drove a left-foot shot over the bar after Woolven intercepted and strode forward to find him with a pass. In between, Crawford, so often before Watt’s nemesis, had sent a well-controlled lob over Saunders and off the bar, with the goalkeeper responding well to block the follow-up effort by Sean Campbell.

Watt began the second period mindful of that close shave and set about adding to their lead without delay. A through ball found Dowds in lots of space and he turned and set off towards goal, leaving the Eyemouth defence in his wake, before driving an accurate low shot past the right hand of Mutch and just inside the post. United defenders claimed offside, but your correspondent was right in line when the ball was played and can assure the visitors that at that moment, the furthest-back defender was playing Dowds comfortably onside.

Dowds clearly liked the taste of scoring and went for another two minutes later with a shot from the edge of the area, but Mutch saved well. Callum Smith played the rebound back into the danger area, but Gordon McInnes diverted the ball to safety over his own crossbar.

Watt was in the ascendancy now and further chances followed. Chris Lane shot over from Breen’s pass, then Ryan Higgins made a good interception to give Warner an opportunity, but his first touch was heavy and Mutch sped from his goal to collect.

More subtle work by Sword created a shooting chance at the other end, but the striker pulled his shot wide of Saunders’ left post and instead it was Watt who scored again, Breen neatly gaining possession in midfield, releasing Dowds on the left and continuing his run to slide the return pass past Mutch.

Breen played another good early ball to Dowds a few minutes later, but after cutting into the penalty box, Dowds found the United defence well organised and was unable to find a clear sight of goal, eventually trying a shot which was blocked.

Eyemouth had the best chance of all to pull a goal back when Spence fouled Sword to concede a penalty, but when Crawford struck the kick from the spot, Saunders dived full-length to his left to get a hand to the ball. The danger wasn’t over yet, because the loose ball was turned behind for a corner and from this, a good header from Connor Lough was blocked at the post by Watt.

Old favourite Ronnie Napier had been signed in time for this match for his fourth or fifth spell with the Watt and he replaced Breen half-way through the second half, with Chris Donnelly coming on in place of Dowds shortly afterwards. Spence went on the overlap to take a pass from Warner and play the ball in for Donnelly, but a shot on the turn for his first serious involvement was a tough one for the striker and he didn’t catch the ball as he wanted.

Eyemouth broke forward following this and Saunders made another great close-range save from Campbell.

Jackson Barker replaced Lane in the Watt midfield and two minutes later the nap hand was complete, Donnelly outpacing the United defence down the left and cutting inside to lay the ball in front of Napier, who sent an accurate shot into goal. Donnelly might have got a goal himself when he accelerated to meet a cross from the left in front of goal, but stretching for the ball around seven metres out, he sent it over the bar.

It was unusual to have six goals without Donnelly’s name appearing on the score sheet, but when the final goal arrived two minutes from time, he was again the creator rather than the executor, playing a first-time pass to enable Smith to run clear and roll in the final goal.

Heriot-Watt University:
Saunders, Spence, Laurenson, Watt, Woolven, Lane (Barker 77), Warner, Higgins, Dowds (Donnelly 71), Breen (Napier 66), Smith. Sub. not used: Quinn.

Eyemouth United:
Mutch, Turnbull, McInnes (E Wilson 51), Speirs, Lough, Gillen, Campbell, J Wilson, Crawford, Sword, Lauder. All subs. used.

Referee: Mr Rodney Marshall (Clydebank).

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Season 2016 – 2017: Match 26

East of Scotland League

11th March 2017

HERIOT-WATT UNIVERSITY 2 LEITH ATHLETIC 2

Having beaten both Lothian Thistle Hutchison Vale and Tynecastle at Riccarton during the course of the previous month, the Watt went for the Capital treble against champions and League leaders Leith Athletic.

Never has the contrast been more clearly delineated between the resources available to Watt Head Coach Banji Koya and those at the disposal of his counterparts in other clubs. For this match, Athletic chose from a pool of twenty-four players and stripped eighteen, while Mr Koya had to call on unattached former Watt player Ronald Napier to make the home bench up to three. Of the fourteen players in Watt colours, four had been in the team for the Under-20 match the previous evening, with three playing the full match and the other seventy minutes.

Early exchanges were even, with the most notable event coming when Aidan Quinn’s through ball came off the top of a defender’s head and ran on into the penalty box. Ryan Higgins made a diagonal run and was charged in the back as he came towards the ball. The ball was comfortably taken by Leith goalkeeper Iain Gordon; Higgins wasn’t going to reach it anyway and in such circumstances penalties are seldom awarded, but one wonders why – the defender committed a foul to ensure an opponent couldn’t play the ball, so it shouldn’t matter whether or not he would have reached it.

Higgins was again involved a few minutes later, receiving a pass in midfield under pressure. Unfortunately, his movement was towards his own goal rather than forward and this made the ball available for his opponent to secure and begin to drive forward. Callum Reid saved the first shot, but Daniel McKinlay was on hand to pick up the rebound and drive it firmly into goal to put the visitors ahead.

Leith, with confidence high, began regularly to press the Watt defence and a shot from the edge of the box by Lewis Martin went just past Reid’s left-hand post. Neil Laurenson won a good tackle, but in trying to pick up the loose ball, Chris Lane was too eager and pushed over a Leith player who got in front of him, giving Athletic an opportunity to deliver the ball into the box from a dangerous position, but when Sean Melvin headed high in the air, Reid came out to secure the ball.

The equaliser came out of the blue. Adam Woolven lofted a raking pass down the right. Chris Donnelly made a characteristic wide run to make contact, but instead of gathering the ball for a cross, the little striker struck it first-time on the half-volley over the head of Gordon and into the far corner of the goal. It was a strike which would have thrilled crowds at any level of the game.

Athletic’s talented attacking midfield player, Rhys Craigie, was a constant threat to the Watt defence and he tried to restore the visitors’ lead with a quickly-taken shot from twenty metres which went just wide of the goal, but it was Neil Lowson who came closest, meeting a corner with a firm downward header, only to see the alert Adam Breen clear the ball off the goal line and out of the danger area.

Finn Watt’s fine tackle to rob Craigie set up a Watt attack, but back came Leith, with Melvin going for a spectacular volley from a tight angle outside the far post, but finding only the side netting. Reid dived low to his left to save well from Martin’s shot and a minute later Watt shocked their illustrious opponents again by taking the lead. A free kick on the left was played in to the box and after a spell of head tennis, Breen met the ball on the volley to send it goalwards. It was on target, but Gordon might have got to it but for a deflection taking it out of his reach.

Higgins chased a ball down the right and reached it just before Gordon, taking it past the goalkeeper, but it was too close to the by-line to keep the ball in play and the Watt departed for their half-time break well satisfied with a 2 – 1 lead.

Athletic replaced Robbie Mason with Mark Wilkie at the restart, but early in the second half, McKinlay was perhaps fortunate to remain involved in the game after kicking out at Dowds.

A fine move by Watt brought a shooting chance when Lane found Higgins, who controlled the ball on his chest and moved it to the left. Breen went down the wing and checked back inside his marker, then laid the ball inside, where Higgins had continued his run. Never noted for his goals, Higgins shot accurately but perhaps too carefully and failed to trouble Gordon. Dowds was next to test the goalkeeper, with a shot from fully forty metres which Gordon had to push to the side and then recover.

Watt had settled well on its narrow lead and the visitors were beginning to show some anxiety when they were handed a route back on to level terms with one of those incidents about which we have so often fulminated in the past. Anyone who has read these reports for any length of time will have suffered previous rants about the way in which the interpretation of what is considered deliberate handling these days is having a seriously retrograde effect on the game. Well, it happened again. You can’t keep Higgins out of the action for long and he was again the man involved. As a cross was sent in from the left, he was approaching the action and turned his back as the ball was struck. The cross was mishit too low and struck the Watt player on the arm. Despite the fact that he was facing away from the play and his arms were not waving about, the referee interpreted this as deliberate handling and awarded a penalty to Leith. He also issued a caution to Higgins, but why the offence which appears in the referee’s report is Recklessly Dangerous Play is anyone’s guess.

Scott Wilson accepted the opportunity from the penalty spot and the scores were level again.

With half an hour to play and the momentum again with the champions, there was concern about the capability of the Watt to avoid conceding again and it was not eased when Watt limped off, only for the substitute, Max Allison, to injure himself and have to be replaced in turn a few minutes later. Harry Warner came into the action with Oli Spence moving to right back.

Watt’s final change was made shortly after this, with goal hero Donnelly being replaced by Napier, but by this time the visitors were dominating possession, with the Watt trying to hit on the break.

On just such a break, Dowds found Warner on the right and he took the ball inside his marker to create a shooting position, but pulled his shot wide of the near post. A rare poor clearance by the Watt defence, in the centre of which Quinn and Woolven were outstanding, was picked up by the visitors and home supporters heaved a sigh of relief when James Hainey snatched at his shot and sent the ball high over the crossbar.

With a few minutes left to play, Leith gained a free kick out on the right and there was a severe test for Watt’s young goalkeeper when Craigie sent the ball right into the goalmouth. It would certainly have gone in had Reid failed to deal with it, but he caught the ball cleanly and pulled it down to put an end to the danger.

Deep into stoppage time, there was one last chance for the Watt. Napier did well to skip past a challenge in midfield and play the ball through for Dowds to chase. The pass was well weighted and Gordon was well out of his area when he got to it just ahead of Dowds and scrambled it out of harm’s way as Napier waited for a rebound to come in his direction. This was fine goalkeeping – many ’keepers would have felt it was too far from home to risk, but Gordon had no hesitation.

A draw is never entirely satisfactory to either side, of course, but at the end of this game there was a feeling that both teams were reasonably content with the outcome. Athletic would have felt, perhaps, that the share of play they enjoyed should have brought greater rewards, but the Watt defence, especially in the second half, worked tirelessly to preserve their goal and there were few saves for Reid to make, although he had already fulfilled a good quota during the first forty-five minutes. Having had the lead, Watt was a bit frustrated to be pegged back by what was generally regarded as a spurious penalty award, but looking at the game as a whole, few would have denied Athletic the right to a share of the spoils, especially as the goal which gave Watt the lead came after a dubious free kick. Leith is still well placed to defend its championship title and it all makes for an exciting end to the season.

Heriot-Watt University:
Reid, Watt (Allison 64 [Warner 71]), Laurenson, Quinn, Woolven, Higgins, Spence, Lane, Donnelly (Napier 77), Dowds, Breen. All subs. used.

Leith Athletic:
Gordon, Tracey, Lewis, Lowson, Melvin, Mason (Wilkie 45), Martin, Wilson, Ferguson (Hainey 73), Craigie, McKinlay (Beaton 87). Subs. not used: Allan, Burns, Kneeshaw, Fairnie.

Referee: Mr. Billy Cooper (Glenrothes)
Assistant Referees: Mr Michael Gill, Mr Michael Walsh

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Season 2016 – 2017: Match 25

East of Scotland League

25th February 2017

HERIOT-WATT UNIVERSITY 8 TWEEDMOUTH RANGERS 1

With Lothian Thistle Hutchison Vale’s game postponed, Heriot-Watt returned to the top of the East of Scotland League with this comprehensive victory, but the match was significant for more than the three points which were added to the points total. A serious injury to goalkeeper Craig Saunders, who suffered face and chest damage, and a foot injury sustained by Cammy Ross made the Watt party rather sombre despite the scoreline. The Watt heads both the East of Scotland League and the Development League at present, but the squads that have put the club in these exalted positions are wafer thin and it has been necessary throughout the season for several eligible players to do double duty on Fridays and Saturdays. Head Coach Banji Koya must be hoping that some of the players already on the treatment table will be back in action soon. Scott Dargo is perhaps the most likely to return.

Watt started off at a fast pace in this match and it didn’t take long to find holes in the visitors’ defence. A good pass by Aidan Quinn was played by Anton Dowds into the path of Callum Smith as he cut in from the left. Smith’s shot was too hot for goalkeeper John Patterson to hold and Chris Donnelly was on hand to tap in his ninety-ninth goal for Heriot-Watt. A minute later it was two as Dowds fired a shot across Patterson to find the corner of the net.

Although Tweedmouth has a low goals tally in the League, the Rangers forward players looked bright and threatening and they pulled a goal back after fifteen minutes’ play. Craig Saunders ran from his goal to clear a ball played down the right wing, but Peter McAskill beat him to it, took it round him and fired in accurately off the inside of the post from a narrow angle.

The encouragement was brief, as Watt scored again two minutes later, Smith winning a tackle and continuing into the penalty area to shoot low past the left hand of Patterson. Two more goals followed to put Watt 5 – 1 up after twenty-five minutes’ play. Adam Breen’s pass down the right gave Donnelly the chance to hit the by-line and when his centre was headed up in the air by Smith, Dowds controlled it on his chest, flicked it past a challenging defender and volleyed into goal. Then Smith scored his second of the day with a drive high into the net from the centre of the penalty box.

Nine minutes later came the incident which put a dampener on the Watt’s day. As McAskill chased a pass through the inside-right channel, Saunders came out and grasped the ball sliding sideways. The striker’s lunge forward took him into the goalkeeper with considerable force, his foot striking Saunders’ chest and his knee connecting with his face. The result was a stoppage of some eight minutes and for Saunders a broken nose and suspected cracked ribs which will put an end to his season.

The match eventually restarted with Quinn taking over the goalkeeper’s jersey and Jackson Barker coming into midfield. Before half-time, Watt scored again and it was a goal of substantial significance, Donnelly heading home from a corner to complete his century of goals in the Watt’s colours. This is an achievement which is unlikely to be equalled for many years to come.

In the first minute of the second half, Finn Watt met a corner kick with a solid header which rebounded from the post. Dowds fired in the rebound, but not only did the ball clear the crossbar and the fence behind the goal, it reached the balcony outside the changing rooms, which is a result your correspondent cannot remember seeing before.

Some of the purpose had leaked out of the Watt’s play now and when Breen played in Smith, he tried an extravagant hitch-kick which took the ball high over the bar. Tweedmouth came close to pulling a goal back when Craig Colquhoun brought the ball inside Oliver Spence and drove in a right-foot shot towards the near post, but pulled it slightly and the ball slipped just past.

Cammy Ross replaced Breen half-way through the second half and his pace and skill were the last thing a tiring Rangers defence needed. He had been on the pitch for five minutes when he created another goal, taking the ball down the right and firing it across the goalmouth, giving Smith a tap-in at the far post to complete his hat-trick. Just after this, Ross set up a chance for Barker, but as he came in at pace, the ball arrived just a little behind him. He tried an inventive back-heel shot, but was unable to control it.

Donnelly accelerated into the heart of the Tweedmouth defence, but a challenge took the ball away for a corner. Ross then went down the right again and this time cut into the box, but he hadn’t made quite enough space for his left-foot shot and the ball rebounded off a defender to Donnelly, who had two attempts blocked, the second going behind for another corner on the right. Gordon Wilson came across and worked a short-corner move with Ross, delivering a back-heel pass which put Ross clear to surge into the box and strike a fierce drive across the goalmouth and inside the far post.

This completed the scoring, but a few minutes from time, Ross made a run on the left side and was tackled as he tried to play the ball inside. He took a knock from which he was unable to recover and Watt played out the last few minutes a man short.

Heriot-Watt University:
Saunders (Barker 41), Watt, Wilson, Woolven, Quinn, Higgins, Breen (Ross 68), Spence, Donnelly, Dowds (Warner 57), Smith. Sub. not used: Imray.

Tweedmouth Rangers:
Patterson, McLeod, Gibson (Howard 59), Cromarty, Allan, Jackson (Grieve 29), Rutherford, McGregor, McAskill, Moore, Colquhoun. Subs. not used: Aitchison, Reid.

Referee: Mr. Nicky Marshall (Whitburn)

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Season 2016 – 2017: Match 24

East of Scotland League

18th February 2017

HERIOT-WATT UNIVERSITY 4 TYNECASTLE 1

Having overcome the East of Scotland League’s other Saughton Enclosure tenants Lothian Thistle Hutchison Vale the previous Saturday, Watt completed the capital double in style with a well-merited win over Tynecastle, who had comfortably won the reverse fixture just three weeks before.

Watt didn’t start too well in this one, either, and looked a bit vulnerable in the early stages. In the tenth minute of play, Dean Crabbe held up the ball and laid it off for William Mitchell to shoot, but he was denied by a crucial challenge by Ryan Higgins.

Having survived this threat, Watt then conceded a soft opener after quarter of an hour. An unnecessary free kick (aren’t most of them?) was given away on the Tynecastle left and when the ball was played towards the knot of players at the far post, it seemed to strike the body of Robbie McIntyre and dribble inside the post as Craig Saunders remained in the middle of his line.

This reverse did not upset the Watt, however, and the home side gradually started to get a grip of midfield. Actually, there was an almost immediate opportunity for an equaliser when Saunders launched a clearance downfield. Dayne Robertson headed back towards his own goal, but not far enough for Ross McMullen to come for the ball, so Robertson attempted a clearance on the turn. In so doing, he played the ball against Adam Breen and the ball fell in front of the Watt man. Breen took the opportunity for a first-time strike, but drove the ball over the fence behind the goal.

Breen almost created a chance for Chris Donnelly some time after this, playing the ball into the space between the goalkeeper and the advancing forward, but at full stretch, Donnelly could only get a slight touch and the ball stood up nicely for McMullen to grasp.

Four minutes later, however, Watt drew level. The equaliser had a touch of good fortune about it, as it arose from another misplaced clearance, Mark Leslie’s kick striking Donnelly and rebounding to Anton Dowds in good position on the edge of the penalty box. Dowds accepted the opportunity and gratefully sent the ball past McMullen into goal.

As half-time approached, Watt grew in confidence, displaying some great rapid passing movements. One on the left was particularly effective, but when Neil Laurenson found Aaron James on the touchline and he played a through ball for Higgins to play on to Dowds, the striker achieved direction but not force with his shot and McMullen was able comfortably to gather.

The promise which had been developing during the first half came to fruition in the second, which belonged almost entirely to the Watt. A lovely passing move ended with Dowds playing in Donnelly for a shot into goal, but this was ruled offside. Donnelly then controlled Saunders’ kick-out to fashion a shooting chance, but was unable to generate the required power.

Higgins and Dowds combined on the right to produce a dangerous cross, but Douglas Cunnison was quickly across in front of Laurenson to clear the danger. The pressure was growing, however, and when Chris Lane made a ball-winning intrusion and slipped a pass through to Donnelly, the striker sidestepped a challenge and whipped in a left-foot shot which was deflected just past the post. James’s corner reached Aidan Quinn, whose header was blocked back to him to win another corner on the other side, but this came to nothing.

Louis Swanson’s delicately flighted shot was well placed and required Saunders to lean back to touch it over the bar and when the corner was played low to the near post area, Robertson came in quickly to fire in a shot, but Saunders was alert to this danger, too, and placed his body in the way to concede another corner.

Donnelly’s running was giving real problems to the visitors’ defence and Cunnison was cautioned for hauling him down close to the edge of the penalty area. James curled the free kick towards the top corner, but with a flying leap, McMullen touched the ball over the bar. When James played the corner to the near post, however, Donnelly headed it firmly into the corner of the net to put the Watt in front for the first time.

Tynecastle’s discipline had seemed fragile throughout and at this point it began to give way. Four cautions had already been issued to visiting players when Robertson, who had been substituted, passed a comment to the referee whilst walking close to where treatment was being administered to James, who had pulled up with a hamstring injury whilst on the overlap. Robertson was shown a red card and in the last five minutes of the game there were two further cautions and another sending-off for the visitors.

Before that, however, Watt added two more goals. The first of these was a Donnelly special. The ball was played up to the striker on half-way; turning his marker, he accelerated fiercely, immediately putting clear daylight between himself and the defender. Speeding into the penalty area, Donnelly waited his moment and drilled the ball past McMullen.

Seven minutes later, Dowds repeated the action, also getting clear on the left and cutting into the box to score.

After the victory which brought the long unbeaten run of Lothian Thistle Hutchison Vale to an end the previous Saturday, Watt supporters hardly dared to think the team could play so well again, but this was a fine performance which thoroughly merited the three points. In Donnelly and Dowds, scorers of two goals apiece, they had a potent strike force and after early uncertainty the defence again played well, with Max Allison doing quiet but effective work in opposition to the highly-rated Antonio Brkic, but it was in midfield that the home side took a grip which it gradually tightened throughout the game. Chris Lane grows in stature with every passing week and he was well supported by Laurenson and Breen, but special mention must go to Higgins, who must have been shattered by the end of this match. He was simply everywhere, getting in tackles, making telling runs and keeping the ball circulating. His fearless challenges on players a foot taller are a hallmark of his game, but his contribution to this victory was far more positive than that alone; he is developing a knack of popping up in positions where you don’t really expect to find him and providing vital links to create scoring chances. Right now, he is playing the best football of his Watt career.

It is worth noting that two Watt players, Allison and Quinn, had played ninety minutes for the Under-20 side the previous evening and Lane had played for over an hour. The Watt is fortunate in having such fit and dedicated players.

Heriot-Watt University:
Saunders, Watt, James (Barker 75), Woolven, Quinn, Lane, Breen (Ross 83), Higgins, Donnelly, Dowds (Smith 87), Laurenson. Sub. not used: Imray.

Tynecastle:
McMullan, Cunnison, Catlin (Grant 71), Ferguson, Leslie (Khosrowpour 53), Mitchell, McIntyre, Robertson (Robinson 71), Crabbe, Swanson, Brkic. Subs. not used: Muttitt, Malcolm, Cockburn.

Referee: Mr. Simon Maclean (Edinburgh)

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Season 2016 – 2017: Match 23

East of Scotland League

11th February 2017

HERIOT-WATT UNIVERSITY 3 LOTHIAN THISTLE HUTCHISON VALE 1

This was a fine victory for the Watt over the team which had recently taken over at the top of the East of Scotland League and which had gone over thirty games unbeaten before its visit to Riccarton. The visitors had conceded only nine goals in the league prior to this game, but Watt led 3 – 0 with quarter of an hour left and conceded only in the last minute.

Chris Lane scored ten minutes before half-time to give the Watt the lead, then second-half goals from Chris Donnelly (penalty) and Adam Breen put the home side in control. Scott-Taylor Mackenzie scored LTHV’s late consolation.

Heriot-Watt University:
Saunders, Watt, Laurenson, Quinn, Woolven, Lane, Breen, Higgins, Ross (Donnelly 63), Dowds (Imray 89), James (Allison 83). Sub. not used: Maher.

Lothian Thistle Hutchison Vale:
Swain, Moore, Mackenzie, Crawford, Wishart (Simpson 89), Muir, Guy (Sherlock 63), Brown, Wringe (Munro 63), Devlin, O’Donnell. Subs. not used: Mungall, Moffat, Henriques.

Referee: Mr. Chris Newman (Linlithgow)

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Season 2016 – 2017: Match 22

East of Scotland League

4th February 2017

ORMISTON 1 HERIOT-WATT UNIVERSITY 2

Watt survived a tough challenge from the East Lothian side before halting its recent bad run with a narrow victory.

With Ollie Spence leading the attack and Aaron James back in the Watt side for a third spell with the club, the visitors started brightly and might have had an early penalty kick. A kick-out by Craig Saunders was knocked forward to Spence, who got to the ball before Ormi goalkeeper Daryl Johnston and stabbed it past him. The ’keeper then clearly seemed to take Spence down to prevent an easy tap-in, but to the consternation of the Watt players, the referee took no action.

James had not played for quite some time after sustaining a face injury playing for Forfar Athletic, but his skill is undiminished and he was at the heart of much of the good work being done by the Watt side. His free kick was flighted perfectly for Adam Woolven at the far post, but the header lacked conviction and leaked past the post.

Anton Dowds showed purpose with a forward run and shot from thirty metres and just after this, the Watt took the lead. Dowds, close to the by-line, hooked the ball towards goal and Johnston rose to touch it over the bar. James’s excellent corner was met on the run by Dowds, whose forehead applied power and accuracy to give the goalkeeper no chance.

Ormiston’s Alasdair Simpson had a heading chance which he sent over the bar from around the penalty spot, but soon Heriot-Watt was back on the attack, Chris Donnelly failing to convert another teasing free kick from James.

James was also effective in defence and headed firmly away when Ormiston won a corner. Donnelly tried again with a snap shot which just passed the junction to the right of Johnston and just before half-time the result was the same when he accepted a throw-in from Finn Watt, turned and fired in a shot.

Another fine ball by James sent Ryan Higgins away to win a corner, but Watt couldn’t profit and found themselves back on level terms when a free kick flighted from the left touchline found Zack Walker close to the far post and he headed over Saunders into goal.

Donnelly had another chance when James drifted in off the left wing and slipped a pass through the home defence, but in trying a shot on the turn, Donnelly overdid it slightly and the ball just missed the post to the left of Johnston.

With just eleven minutes left on the clock, Watt found a winner. Again it was a cross from James which did the damage, following a free kick on the right touchline. Spence found room in a crowded box to get his head to the ball and send it into the net.

Ormiston:
Johnston, Fairnie, Malcolm, Walker, A Morgan, J Morgan, O’Neill, Simpson, Hadden, McMillan (Lawson 75), Carr (Law 64). Subs. not used: Malcolm, Amagou, Collinson.

Heriot-Watt University:
Saunders, Watt, Laurenson, Woolven, Quinn, Lane, Donnelly (Ross 75), Higgins, Spence (Smith 85), Dowds (Imray 92), James. Subs. not used: Breen, Warner.

Referee: Mr. Alan Macfadyen (Whifflet)

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Season 2016 – 2017: Match 21

East of Scotland League

28th January 2017

TYNECASTLE 5 HERIOT-WATT UNIVERSITY 1

Tynecastle took an early two-goal lead, both through centre-back Mark Leslie.

In the second half, further goals followed for the home side. Louis Swanson scored from the penalty spot ten minutes after half-time, then Robbie McIntyre and Pieyan Khosrowpour put Tynecastle five up with quarter of an hour to play. In the last minute, a good move by the Watt ended with Chris Donnelly finding the net for a consolation goal.

Tynecastle:
McMullen, Mitchell (Catlin 65), McIntyre, Ferguson, Leslie, Robertson (Mayer 75), Crabbe (Brkic 70), Malcolm, Khosrowpour, Robinson, Swanson. Subs. not used: Kelly, Greig, Cockburn.

Heriot-Watt University:
Saunders, Imray, Wilson, Quinn, Woolven, Watt, Breen (Warner 57), Lane, Dowds, Laurenson (Ross 65), Donnelly. Sub. not used: Smith.

Referee: Mr. Andrew Strang (Stirling)

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Season 2016 – 2017: Match 20

East of Scotland League

21st January 2017

BURNTISLAND SHIPYARD 3 HERIOT-WATT UNIVERSITY 2

What to say about this game? When the Watt played Shipyard at Riccarton in late October, it was the home team’s biggest win of the season. Shippy went on to draw with Coldstream the following week, but that remained the only league point the side had gained prior to this match. Going into the final quarter of an hour of the game, Watt led 2 – 0 and seemed to be heading for a hard-fought but deserved three points – but by the end of the match, the advantage had turned into a 3 – 2 defeat as the home side, which had previously scored just five goals in ten matches, managed three inside fifteen minutes.

And yet the Watt played well in this game. With a very young side in which Scott Dargo was the only graduate, Watt had kept a good shape, controlled the game well and scored two fine goals. All this in a surprisingly hostile atmosphere, generated by a limited but very vociferous home support amongst which the will for Shipyard to improve its barren record for the season was palpable.

On Shippy’s tight, sloping pitch, with a surface which cut up badly, Watt played a surprising amount of good football in a closely-contested first half in which few clear chances were created by either side. Sean Cusick threw himself towards a cross by Ryan Calder but was unable to reach it, then Harry Warner had a shot from Ryan Higgins’ pass, but missed the target by a wide margin. Anton Dowds, leading the Watt line, saw little of the ball before half-time, but came closest with a shot from twenty-five metres which diverted off the toe of Marc Black’s boot on to the outside of the post.

Six minutes into the second half, Higgins picked up a very severe booking when a Shipyard player went down as he challenged and this was to have an influence as the match went on, but two minutes later Watt went in front. Callum Smith delivered a good corner kick to the near post area and Dowds timed his run perfectly to bullet a header into the corner of the net.

Craig Saunders preserved the newly-gained lead with a good save from Calder’s close-range shot, with Higgins on hand to complete the clearance, before the visitors moved two ahead in sixty-five minutes. A good diagonal run by Dowds brought a free kick on the edge of the ‘D’ and the striker took the kick himself, placing an accurate shot past the wall and just inside Marcus Taylor’s right-hand post.

So far, so good, but when Higgins was foolish enough to rush towards the site of a free kick to Shippy close to the touchline in front of the dugouts and the player waiting to take the kick blasted it against him, he received a second caution and the Watt was down to ten men.

Despite this mishap, Watt almost went further ahead four minutes later when Dowds sent Liam Walker scampering down the right and got into good position for Walker’s pinpoint cross, but from the edge of the six-yard box, the striker sent his header back across goal and past the post.

It was a turning point, as two minutes later Shippy reduced the arrears. A diagonal cross from Black didn’t appear too dangerous, but somehow it fell at the feet of Scott Powrie, close to the far post, and he fired the ball high into goal. Five minutes later, the ball arrived at the feet of Cusick, unmarked around the penalty spot, and he drove in the equaliser.

Many of the decisions of referee Mr Bell provoked discussion long after the end of the game, but with five minutes of normal time left came the most controversial of all when he effectively decided the outcome of the match with a penalty award to the home side. Aidan Quinn moved to the edge of the area to face Ben Jenkins and seemed to win the ball with a clean tackle, but when Jenkins went down, Mr Bell, from some distance away, decided that a foul had been committed. Cusick drove the penalty kick straight down the middle as Saunders dived to his left and Burntisland led for the first time.

Three minutes later, Watt came desperately close to salvaging something from the wreck when Smith did well to round the right flank of the Shipyard defence and cut the ball across goal. Quinn, now in attack, sidestepped his marker and struck the ball firmly from close range, but Taylor made a fine save, somehow getting a hand to the ball to keep it out. It wasn’t to be the Watt’s day and it was to have nothing to show for all the effort and good play.

To add considerable injury to the proceedings, Tom Maher was led from the field of play with blood pouring from a gaping wound on his nose, sustained when he fell on to the heel of a retreating opponent.

At the end of the game, it is fair to say that a number of the Watt players failed to maintain a sense of proportion and their sense of grievance at what they understandably regarded as an undeserved outcome caused them to express themselves inadvisedly to the referee. Whilst we can sympathise with their frustration, it will not be acceptable to the Club’s management to have players cautioned in bulk for dissent, simply to enable them to relieve their feelings. Players must learn to control themselves better and to accept what they cannot change.

Burntisland Shipyard:
Taylor, Powrie, McNab, Wilson, Black, Jenkins, Calder, Drury, Halpin, Cusick, Fotheringham. Subs. not used: Ford, Hamilton, Thomson.

Heriot-Watt University:
Saunders, Dargo, Maher, Woolven, Quinn, Lane, Warner, Higgins, Dowds, Barker, Smith. Subs. not used: Breen, Imray, Walker.

Referee: Mr. Jonathan Bell (Kirkcaldy)

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Season 2016 – 2017: Match 19

East of Scotland League

7th January 2017

HERIOT-WATT UNIVERSITY 4 UNIVERSITY OF STIRLING 2

Another three points were added to the Watt total after this game, but the home side had to endure a nervous last quarter of an hour after determined opponents scored twice in five minutes to turn a comfortable-looking three-goal lead into a marginal advantage.

As on their team’s last visit to Riccarton, in the Qualifying League in August, Stirling played good football throughout, but Watt had the cutting edge. The pace and touch of Cammy Ross and Chris Donnelly kept the visitors’ defence alert whenever Watt managed to get the ball forward, although this didn’t happen as often as it might have, due to a well-organised Stirling midfield which often limited the opportunities for Watt defenders seeking to build from the back.

When the first goal arrived in the twentieth minute, it was not the lively Ross who scored it but his Under-20 team-mate Jackson Barker, making his first start for the senior team in this game. A good move off the right wing presented Barker with a shooting chance and although Nathan Brown got a touch on the ball, he was unable to prevent it entering the goal.

Ross had looked in the mood from the first whistle and on three occasions in the next twenty minutes he brought the ball in from the right to threaten danger to the visitors’ goal. On the first two occasions, he took the option of shooting when a pass to a colleague looked the better choice, especially on the latter occasion, when Donnelly was in space in the middle of the penalty area and Ross’s shot found only the side netting, but at the third time of asking, he made no mistake. It was a fine goal, originating from a pass down the touchline by Finn Watt. Ross accelerated inside, gliding past a couple of defenders, and finished with an emphatic shot to the corner of the net.

Just before half-time, Watt lost Jamie Forsyth, who was involved in a tackle with Dom Slattery in which both players were fully committed. Forsyth sustained a worrying injury to the knee which was the cause of a two-year absence from regular football. We wait anxiously for news on the extent of the damage.

With Harry Warner on in place of Forsyth and Barker moving into his accustomed central-midfield position, Watt continued smoothly in the second half and added a third goal after sixty-three minutes’ play when Donnelly’s superb through pass gave Ross the space on which he thrives. Ross easily outpaced the visitors’ defence and although, like Barker in the first half, he gave Brown the chance to get a hand to the ball, once more the shot carried too much power for the goalkeeper to divert it from its journey to the net.

So far, so satisfactory for Watt, but within ten minutes the complexion of the game had begun to alter. Stirling brought on Jack Halley and Lewis McKenzie to replace David Beaton and John McNaught, while Watt sought to solidify the defence by replacing Ross with Liam Hutchison. It was Stirling which appeared to have the better balance, however, and they made the most of a stroke of luck when Neil Laurenson’s fine tackle on the edge of the area carried the ball into the path of Gussie Dey and he promptly drove it past Craig Saunders to pull a goal back.

Further changes were forced on the Watt as Laurenson limped off to be replaced by Elliot Sutherland, with several positional changes resulting, and five minutes after their first goal, Stirling scored again. Following a corner kick, the ball came out to Andrew Macdonald, who was given time and space to flight the ball across a crowded penalty box and pick out McKenzie, unmarked at the far post, to score with a simple header.

The sudden change to the context of the game certainly shook the Watt, although Donnelly was doing everything he could to divert the momentum back in favour of the Riccarton side. Twisting and turning on the left touchline, he committed two defenders and slipped the ball between them for the run of Ryan Higgins, but when Higgins, close to the by-line, sent in a low centre which begged to be tapped in, no player in yellow and navy could reach it. Donnelly then took advantage of a break of the ball in midfield to slip through a fine diagonal pass to give Sutherland, running into the box on the angle, a wonderful opportunity to put the result beyond doubt, but the substitute’s shot seemed casual and went across goal to miss the far post.

Stirling pressed forward at every opportunity, with David McCaughie twice giving anxiety to the Watt support with shots from inside the box, coming particularly close with a low shot which narrowly passed the post to Saunders’ right, but deep into stoppage time the Watt managed to seal the victory. Stirling had won a corner on the left and when it was delivered to the edge of the area, Warner managed to steer the ball away down the right. Donnelly was first to the ball, which meant problems for the visitors’ defence. Playing the ball into space, Donnelly accelerated past the last defender and with what must surely have been the last reserves of his energy after a lung-bursting sprint, drove the ball past Brown into the corner of goal.

No team in the East of Scotland League can be taken for granted and Stirling has shown before that it will battle all the way, so this was another hard-fought victory to keep the Watt in a position towards the top end of the League table. Both sides were short of key players, but the teams delivered a quality spectacle and Watt, whilst awaiting with trepidation the news on the injury to Jamie Forsyth, will look forward to the return of Anton Dowds, Scott Dargo, Adam Breen, Tom Maher and Rob Service; and the return to full fitness of Max Allison and Elliot Sutherland – and in the slightly longer term, Sean Campbell.

In this game, the team generally held its shape well and there were meritorious performances from a number of players. Jackson Barker, in his First Team debut, played with considerable maturity; Ryan Higgins, who is going through a spell of fine form (and long may it continue) produced what may well have been his best display in a Watt shirt: full of energy, but also with an awareness of how his runs could help to link the play and create opportunities for team-mates. In Cammy Ross and Chris Donnelly, Watt had front men who give their opponents no chance to relax. Ross’s acceleration is perhaps the most remarkable of his qualities, but his touch and unpredictability make him particularly awkward to play against. Donnelly’s scoring record speaks for itself, but he is by no means resting on his laurels and continues to set himself personal goals as he contributes goals to the scoresheet for his club.

Heriot-Watt University:
Saunders, Watt, Laurenson (Sutherland 75), Woolven, Quinn, Forsyth (Warner 45), Barker, Higgins, Ross (Hutchison 69), Lane, Donnelly. Sub. not used: Allison.

University of Stirling:
Brown, Macdonald, Greig, Slattery, Gunn, McGuire, McCaughie, Dey, McNaught (McKenzie 69), Beaton (Halley 67), Underhill. Sub. not used: Robb.

Referee: Mr. Lee Pirie (Kirkcaldy)

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Season 2016 – 2017: Match 18

East of Scotland League

10th December 2016

HERIOT-WATT UNIVERSITY 3 EYEMOUTH UNITED 0

At the end of this match, Watt supporters were able to bask in the warm glow of a comfortable winning margin against a team in close proximity in the League table, but the game itself was much less straightforward than the final score makes it look. Eyemouth passed the ball very well and gave a good account of themselves, but Watt took their chances when they arrived at strategically-important times in the game.

The home tempo was brisk from the start and a good shot from Neil Laurenson troubled Adam Mutch a little before he grasped the ball at the second attempt. Soon, however, the visitors were posing problems in attack, with Sean Campbell and Ross Patterson looking particularly threatening and the latter’s quick turn and shot was carefully watched past the post by Craig Saunders.

Cammy Ross tried to shape a shot for the postage-stamp corner but gave the ball a little too much air, then Campbell responded with a shot from distance which went past the post. Laurenson’s good tackle prevented another Eyemouth attack from reaching the danger area just after this, with James Turnbull coming on to the loose ball to drive a shot past the post.

Eyemouth was pressing forward at every opportunity, but the Watt’s pace on the break was a factor. Finn Watt’s clearing header from a corner was collected by Laurenson, who found Elliot Sutherland on the right. Sutherland’s diagonal pass reached Ross, but his first touch took him too far to the left and when he brought the ball back inside, he sent his shot wide of the post.

After a good spell of home pressure, Tom Maher combined with Chris Lane, who sent the ball fizzing across the goalmouth, but with no player able to get a touch, the ball continued over the side line.

As United continued to pose a threat, Aidan Lauder shot just over, then Daniel Blackie’s drive was also too high when Ross Patterson played him in on the right.

The outcome of this match was probably determined during the last three minutes of the first half. A cross from the right went over the Watt defence and was controlled by Campbell, who rifled in a fierce, accurate shot which would certainly have scored but for Saunders’ superb save. It was all the big goalkeeper could do to get any sort of touch on the ball, but he got enough of a glove into contact to take the ball over the bar.

Then, with the last kick of the first half, the Watt went ahead. Adam Breen’s pass gave Ross the chance he had been seeking and he drove the ball low into goal to give the home side a half-time lead.

The goal seemed to give the Watt a fillip when the match got back under way. Ross twice found Sutherland in dangerous territory, but on the first occasion he shot straight at Mutch and on the second, his firm cross failed to pick out a player in a yellow jersey.

Half-way through the second period, the game was still very much in the balance, but at this juncture, Banji Koya made a decisive move. Jamie Forsyth and Chris Donnelly were introduced to the action and from Forsyth’s left-side corner-kick, Donnelly, having moved swiftly to the near post, sent a glancing header into the far corner of the net. It was the first touch for both players, and you can’t get a much better return than that for making substitutions.

Donnelly headed the ball into the net again a couple of minutes later, but this time he was clearly offside. Eyemouth responded to gain a corner on the right, which gave Graham Paterson a good heading opportunity, but he sent the ball wide of the goal.

Laurenson did well to win the ball on the left, but having reached the by-line, his cutback struck the heel of a defender and was cleared. A minute later, however, the Watt sealed the victory with a third goal. Adam Woolven’s pass released Donnelly on the right and he cut across the park, eventually sending in a rasping left-foot shot from twenty metres. Mutch threw himself to his right to block the ball, but Laurenson was alert to the chance and ran in to fire in the rebound.

Liam Walker used his pace to take the ball out of defence and make good ground, linking with Breen, who played in Maher to cut the ball back for Forsyth to shoot, but the ball slipped past the post.

Walker then won the ball in good position and found Donnelly, who cut inside and shot from a tight angle. Ryan Higgins came on to the rebound and sent in a good shot from the edge of the area, but a defender was able to block the ball.

Eyemouth wasn’t finished yet and when, with five minutes to go, Watt challenged Campbell in the penalty box and the forward went down, a penalty was awarded to the Fishermen. When it’s not your day, however, nothing much goes right and when Lauder drove the ball firmly towards goal from the spot, it smacked off the post and returned to the taker, who instinctively played it again, and as no other player had touched the ball, that was the end of the opportunity.

The three points were very welcome for the Watt after the slip-up against Coldstream in the previous home game, but Eyemouth showed that nothing can be taken for granted when the return fixture at Warner Park comes around.

Heriot-Watt University:
Saunders, Dargo, Munro, Watt, Woolven, Forsyth, Donnelly, Higgins (Breen 79), Dowds, Lane, Laurenson (Ross 66). Subs. not used: Walker, Quinn.

Eyemouth United:
Mutch, Turnbull (Collin 67), Strachan, Spiers, Paterson, A Patterson, Blackie, Lough, Campbell, R Patterson, Lauder. All subs. used.

Referee: Mr. Alastair Grieve (Stirling)

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Season 2016 – 2017: Match 17

Football Nation East of Scotland Qualifying Cup – Second Round

5th November 2016

HAWICK ROYAL ALBERT 2 HERIOT-WATT UNIVERSITY 1 (after extra time)

Having beaten Lowland League opposition in Vale of Leithen as long ago as the 13th of August to qualify for this match, the Watt eventually took the field against Hawick Royal Albert at the third time of asking after postponements due to floodlight problems and a frozen pitch. This tie had to be advanced to kick off at 1.30 due to a problem with one of the floodlight pylons, although when the lights were switched on during extra time, the loss of the last pair of bulbs on one side of the pitch did not present a major problem.

The switch to an early kick-off contributed to a situation in which one of the youngest sides ever to represent Heriot-Watt took on a Lowland League side in testing conditions in front of a small but vociferous home support.

The game started at a brisk pace, but was mainly confined to midfield in the early stages. At the end of the first quarter of an hour’s play, a good move on the Watt left saw Scott Munro exchange passes with Anton Dowds and cut into the penalty area, but his low cross was played out by the Hawick defence and when Ryan Higgins arrived to send in a shot from just outside the area, it was charged down.

Watt’s next promising move came when Dowds slipped a pass to his left for the run of Neil Laurenson, but alert defending denied the midfielder a shooting chance.

Albert had plenty of the play in the first half, but the Heriot-Watt pressure on the ball-carrier was such that few chances were created, Josh Morris’s angled drive which passed over the bar seven minutes from half-time being a rare attempt on goal.

Before the interval arrived, however, Watt took the lead. A fine pass by Higgins picked out the run of Dowds on the right and the striker cut into the box and placed a precise shot past Kyle Rankin into the corner of the net.

Laurenson’s header-on gave Liam Walker the opportunity to reach the box a minute later, but two attempts by Walker to send a low cross to a colleague were intercepted by home defenders.

Kris Mitchell found room in the penalty box just before the half-time whistle, but sent his shot high over the bar.

The same player came closer in the first attempt on goal of the second half. A free kick was played into the Watt box and Mitchell’s clever backward header passed inches to the wrong side of the post.

The home side was pressing hard for an equaliser and for a time the Watt was confined to attempts to hit on the break, but Adam Breen came close when found by Dowds, who latched on to a pass by Tom Maher to set up the midfielder for a strike from just outside the box, but his left-foot shot cleared the bar.

Watt goalkeeper Craig Saunders produced the first of a series of outstanding saves to protect the visitors’ lead just after this. A cutback from the right found Shaun Meikle in a central area and he sent an accurate shot towards the corner of goal, but was left clutching his head in disbelief as the big ’keeper went full-length to his left to turn the ball round the post. Saunders saved again a minute later when a Watt attack broke down and Albert countered. Mitchell cut into the box, but Saunders was out to narrow the angle and block with his legs.

Dowds was still full of running and picked up the ball on the right. Rankin blocked his attempted cross, but Dowds reached the rebound to head across goal. Walker was able to reach the ball, but it bounced too high for him to hook it towards goal effectively. Two minutes later, Dowds found Walker again with a header from a right-wing cross, but Walker’s sliced effort came back behind Dowds, who dragged a shot over the bar.

Watt was enjoying a good spell and Higgins went speeding down the right and sent over a good cross, but it was played out for a throw-in on the far side.

Substitutions disrupted the flow of the game for a time as both teams replaced players, but another change was forced on Watt when Dowds was unable to recover after a very late challenge by Ryan Stevenson, who seemed to be wound up to fever pitch by the occasion of a match against his former club, albeit few of the players in the visitors’ ranks would be known to him. When Dowds got back to his feet, there was an angry exchange between the players and both were cautioned. Shortly after this, Cammy Ross replaced the Watt striker.

As the game neared the last ten minutes of regulation time, Saunders made another great save, leaping high to his left to block the ball away. It came back to Thomas Crease at the edge of the area, but although he struck the ball firmly, it was not on target.

Daryl Johnson was the next home player to try a shot, striking a volley from twenty-five metres, but again the direction was lacking.

The Watt had a chance to wrap up the win when Laurenson did sterling work to gather the ball and play it to Ross, who laid off a pass to Elliot Sutherland, racing in on the angle, but the winger’s shot was wild.

As the match entered stoppage time, Hawick won a corner on the right, but when Stevenson sent the ball into the mix, Crease’s header cleared the bar. Watt knew they had only moments to hold out, but when another corner was conceded on the right two minutes later, the ball fell amongst the feet in the box. Two shots were hammered in and valiantly blocked by goalkeeper and defenders, but when the rebound came to Mitchell on the edge of the area, he drove the ball low towards goal a third time. A deflection took it out of the grasp of Saunders and the big man was beaten at the last gasp.

To lose an equaliser so late was a devastating psychological blow and the momentum was now with the home side. Five minutes into extra time, a free kick was played into the Watt box and missed by all the players in the middle. It looked to be heading past, but when it bounced in play, central defender Ayrton Sonkur strode in and picked a spot into which to smash the ball.

Watt had played bravely all day and their courage did not desert them now. Straight from the restart, a good passing move took them towards the penalty area, where Laurenson was pulled down, but Aidan Quinn’s free kick was perhaps the product of too much desire to score and soared high over the top.

Into the second period of extra time we went and Saunders produced a moment to top all his previous heroics. Crease was sure he had made certain when he timed it just right to apply a strong downward header towards the corner of goal from a left-wing corner, but Saunders responded instantly to throw himself full-length and turn the ball round the post – a truly memorable save.

Nor was that the last contribution from the ’keeper, as two minutes later he saved with his legs from Morris, enabling the Watt to push forward in search of an equaliser. Quinn had badly hurt his wrist in an earlier challenge and had been pushed forward into midfield, with Maher deputising in defence, and despite having to carry his arm carefully, he was making an impact. His fine run finished with a pass to give a shooting chance to Sutherland, but the shot struck Rankin.

Crease came close again with a snap shot following a throw-in on the left, his effort rebounding from the base of the post, but the Watt pressed forward again and a cross by Ross was well defended. Ross again threatened just after this, but his low cross was not given a finish and the ball continued through the area. Quinn led the next attack, with Maher in support to play the ball wide to Ross, but this time Rankin was quickly out to catch the cross and soon time had run out on the Watt.

Heriot-Watt has left the Qualifying Cup, but it went with its head held high. This match clearly showed the character that exists within the squad. The only three players with substantial experience at this level – Craig Saunders, Neil Laurenson and Ryan Higgins – all played as though their lives depended on it and the youngsters around them responded accordingly. Aidan Quinn’s injury would have removed many players from the fray, but it was quite clear that it had not occurred to Aidan to withdraw and protect himself. On the contrary, he moved forward and played with passion and determination as the Watt sought an equaliser. Similar courage was in evidence throughout the team in a hard physical match played in a hostile environment and the knowledge that its playing resources contain such qualities is a real consolation in defeat for the Watt management.

Hawick Royal Albert:
Rankin, Stevenson, Spence (Crease 61), Johnson, Sonkur, Conaghan, Pettigrew (Boyd 69), Meikle, Morris, Mitchell, McPartlin. Sub. not used: Hunter.

Heriot-Watt University:
Saunders, Maher, Munro, Quinn, Woolven, Higgins, Breen (Allison 80), Lane, Dowds (Ross 72), Laurenson, Walker (Sutherland 64). Sub. not used: Barker.

Referee: Mr. Richard Murray (Johnstone)
Assistant Referees: Mr Stuart McPhail, Mr Bryan Magill.

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Season 2016 – 2017: Match 16

East of Scotland League

29th October 2016

HERIOT-WATT UNIVERSITY 2 COLDSTREAM 3

Watt management will reflect long and hard on this defeat and how it came about after Coldstream chalked up a fifth consecutive win against Heriot-Watt in East of Scotland competition. The last success against the Streamers came on the first of March 2014 and perhaps it is some encouragement to know that it was achieved at Home Park, where the Watt must go to play an immediate return fixture this coming Saturday.

Watt started this match brightly enough, Chris Donnelly just failing to make contact with Anton Dowds’ cross from Neil Laurenson’s pass. Dowds came close again a couple of minutes later when another good move gave him a chance at the far post, but Mark Walters was out quickly to divert the ball behind.

After this positive start, Watt went behind in five minutes to a simple goal. John Crawford chased a ball from Kris Dixon down the right and when Craig Saunders came out to narrow the angle, Crawford, at full stretch to reach the ball, sent an accurate shot past the goalkeeper to maintain his consistent habit of scoring in this fixture.

The Watt continued to play its passing game, Chris Lane combining with Donnelly to put Scott Dargo in possession on the right and although Dowds was unable to reach his cross, Laurenson turned the ball back to Dowds for him to set up Ryan Higgins, but his shot was deflected into the air for Walters to catch.

Crawford showed his threat again, taking advantage of a break of the ball to turn and fire in a shot from distance which had Saunders moving sharply to his left to ensure it was passing the post, but a minute later, the scores were level. A fine pass by Finn Watt picked out Dowds on the left; he cut inside past a couple of defenders and set the ball back for Laurenson to finish.

Laurenson tested Walters again a couple of minutes later, the goalkeeper saving smartly low to his right; then Dowds headed just past from a right-wing cross.

With thirty-four minutes played, the context of the game was altered. Lane attempted to get the ball from the much taller Robin Brown, Coldstream’s most effective midfielder, but although the referee blew his whistle for a foul to the visitors, Brown recklessly threw his elbow at the head of the Watt player and was sent off.

Watt took little advantage of its numerical superiority up to the break, with the only move of promise resulting in Dowds going through on Donnelly’s pass, but dallying too long, allowing Walters to divert the ball behind.

The second half was an altogether different proposition. A man short, Coldstream prudently decided to sit in deep, but did not discard thoughts of attacking on the break. This meant that the Watt saw plenty of the ball and was presented with the challenge of breaking down a packed defence, but unfortunately the side showed little aptitude for the task.

Watt almost got lucky in the first minute of the half, Sean Dixon’s attempted clearance slicing off his foot and going just past the post, but the home build-up was laboured and a header by Donnelly which went just past was all there was to show for a large share of possession in the early stages of the half.

Dowds went down the left on to a good pass from Lane, but when he drove inside into the box and fired the ball against Walters to gain a corner, his complaint to his team-mates that he had no-one in the box to aim for with a cutback was justified.

Coldstream defended diligently and a good cross by Dargo which looked likely to give Dowds a heading opportunity was well cut out by Paul Hossack. When the resultant corner was played into the middle by Watt, Donnelly was unable to control his shot on the turn and sent the ball high and wide.

Dowds went down the left again on to a good pass from Scott Munro and showed excellent footwork to get past two defenders, but when he cut the ball back into the middle, he chose to chip the pass and it found no-one in particular. Laurenson shot on the turn, but the ball slipped past.

Watt continued to move forward, but found it difficult to create chances against a well-organised defence and Walters was mostly occupied in closing off the space at his post rather than facing shots on goal. Donnelly made another determined run to the by-line on the right side, but all the home players in the box seemed to think there must be someone in a better position to profit from the cutback and they all let the ball run – even Dowds, who was the last man in the area.

With twenty minutes left to play, Coldstream’s concentration at the back was rewarded. Walters had the opportunity to kick from hand and his long punt was flicked by Crawford towards Cameron Beasley. Like Crawford when he scored the first goal, Beasley was at full stretch to reach the ball, but Saunders had run from his goal to try to get to it before him and Beasley was able to send the ball over his head to bounce gently into goal.

With Cammy Ross having joined the attack just before this goal went in, Watt now went all-out for another equaliser, with Donnelly, Dowds and Ross leading the attack, but too often each of these capable strikers seemed intent on becoming a hero by doing it all himself and all of them were coming so deep to pick up the ball that there were many defenders to get past before a sight of goal could be had. With nine minutes left to play, however, they did combine – and a goal resulted. Ross was set free on the right by a fine pass by Adam Breen and his deep cross was played across the face of goal by Dowds for Donnelly to ram it home from close to the line.

This success did not make the penny drop, however, and the players involved reverted to single units rather than an attacking combination, with the result that the visitors’ goal was not seriously threatened again. With a minute of regulation time remaining, however, Coldstream was bold enough to commit players forward and showed the Watt how to do it. Although the home side had plenty of cover, no-one could get close to the ball as the Streamers moved it effectively. When it reached substitute Euan Gray, twenty metres from goal, he took a step to the side and drove a swerving shot past Saunders, who seemed to be deceived by the flight and having started towards his left was unable to get back to his right in time to reach the ball.

It should be a different sort of game at Home Park on Saturday. As the home team and restored to the full complement of eleven, Coldstream can be expected to commit more to attack than was the case in the second half of this match, but whatever the shape of the game, the Watt must do better both in defence and attack if it is to put an end to Coldstream’s growing list of consecutive victories in the fixture.

Heriot-Watt University:
Saunders, Dargo, Munro, Watt, Woolven, Forsyth, Donnelly, Higgins (Breen 79), Dowds, Lane, Laurenson (Ross 66). Subs. not used: Walker, Quinn.

Coldstream:
Walters, Dickson, M Johnston (Steele 66), S Dixon, Hossack, Lee (R Dixon 87), Brown, Beasley, Crawford, Howel, K Dixon (Gray 84). Sub not used: P Johnson.

Referee: Mr. Colin Drummond (Stenhousemuir)

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Season 2016 – 2017: Match 15

East of Scotland League

5th November 2016

LEITH ATHLETIC 2 HERIOT-WATT UNIVERSITY 1

Heriot-Watt’s unbeaten league record ended at Meadowbank, but in the best possible way, with a narrow defeat after a closely-contested match against quality opponents. It was hugely enjoyable to watch and for Watt supporters it is good to know that the team can push the champions so close on a day when so much talent was unavailable to Head Coach Banji Koya. Had Finn Watt and Chris Lane been available as options in midfield; had Koya been able to play his wild card by throwing the unpredictable skill of Cammy Ross into the fray, perhaps the Watt might still be unbeaten.

There are no complaints, however, at the end of this splendid match. Leith answered any doubts about their capabilities and showed that they are still a fine side with an attractive and effective pass-and-move style – in fact, perhaps a better side than before, for in Rhys Craigie they have attracted a player with touch and drive seldom seen at this level. Craigie’s equalising goal was superb and throughout he ensured that the Watt’s defence was fully concentrating. Concentrate they did, though, and can be well pleased with their performance against such a strong attacking unit. From the start of the game, the Watt defenders were quick and alert and although at times the distribution could have been better, that was mainly due to the efficiency of Leith as a pressing force. At times, the Watt players seemed to feel they had to play the ball early even when there was enough time to make a more considered pass.

All five at the back gave good accounts of themselves, but special mention must be made of left-back Scott Munro. This is Scott’s first season as a regular first-team player, but his sharpness from the first whistle was palpable and he is a very difficult player to pass with the ball at feet. His timing in the tackle is excellent; he very seldom commits a foul, waiting until the right moment to win the ball and doing so with great regularity.

The game started at a brisk pace, with Watt guarding against the loss of an early goal which made their last visit to Meadowbank, in August in the Qualifying League, such an uphill struggle. In fact, it was Watt who took the lead in this game, after just nine minutes’ play. A fine goal it was too, with Adam Woolven starting it off with a pass to Elliot Sutherland. His exchange of passes with Scott Dargo gave him a chance to speed down the right and play in a firm, low centre which Chris Donnelly met in the far post area to fire home.

Half-way through the first half, Watt could have gone further ahead with a similar move on the right. A brilliant touch by Adam Breen enabled Anton Dowds to play the ball wide for Donnelly. When Donnelly’s cross came in, Dowds was attacking the near-post area and reached the ball first, but from close range he directed his shot into the side netting.

This let-off seemed to stir the home side to greater efforts and Craig Saunders was tested by Craigie’s shot on the turn from the edge of the area, but the goalkeeper was not found wanting, diving low to his left to get a strong left hand to the ball and recovering quickly to go down bravely at the feet of an incoming forward to secure the ball.

A minute later, however, Craigie showed that he was not to be denied. He collected the ball in midfield and strode forward to strike a powerful and well-directed shot from twenty metres, sending the ball inches inside the post to Saunders’ left to tie the scores.

Four minutes later, Leith completed the turnaround with a second goal. This time, a ball played into the Watt area bounced around amongst the feet before Scott Wilson saw the opportunity to fashion a shot with the inside of his right foot, curling the ball round a defender so that Saunders must have seen the ball late as it headed with the same deadly accuracy into the area just inside his left-hand post.

Saunders was called into action again a minute later, touching over John Ferguson’s header when a Watt attack broke down and Kyle Fee quickly turned defence into attack and sent in a cross from the left.

Watt was hanging on a bit now and Ferguson had another chance when Craigie stabbed the ball into the area to enable him to run in at an angle. He looked likely to score, but Saunders was quickly off his line to spread himself and block the ball away with his leg.

Mr Koya replaced Breen with Rob Service for the start of the second half, but Leith started the half in the ascendancy, with Mark Wilkie twice sending dangerous low crosses across the Watt box without a colleague benefiting. On the hour, however, Watt came desperately close to an equaliser. Dargo found Dowds on the right and he surged past his marker and sent a low centre across the box. The ball passed behind Sutherland, Donnelly and their markers, but Donnelly was first to react and played the ball back inside. Sutherland was still on the goal side of the ball and sent in a shot on the turn from six or seven metres, but he hadn’t got round sufficiently at the point of impact and the ball agonisingly slipped past the post. Had he but recognised it, there was time enough to have made sure the direction was right.

Dowds repeated the move a minute later, but this time, having got past his man, he seemed in two minds. Service was breaking into the area, but Dowds’ cross passed across goal just in front of the goalkeeper and well out of the reach of Service.

Saunders preserved his goal twice more in the middle part of the second half, once with another block with his legs, then diving low to his left to turn away a strong shot after the Watt defence for once made a hash of getting the ball clear.

A foul on Aidan Quinn in the middle of the park gave Watt a chance to attack and when the ball was played wide to Dargo, he sent a teasing ball into the area. Neil Laurenson rose high for the header and goalkeeper Neil Fairnie jumped against him and failed to hold the ball. When Laurenson pursued it on landing, however, the referee blew for an infringement, as Watt supporters muttered about the excessive protection given to goalkeepers. Laurenson had simply headed in the direction of the ball as the ’keeper scrambled to reach it. There seemed to be little contact and what there was did not seem to be at the volition of Laurenson, but attacking players seldom get the decision in such circumstances.

Fee’s free kick was well dealt with by the Watt defence and Dargo cleared his lines, but Watt was under pressure again a few minutes later. A good save by Saunders low to his right left the ball available for James Hainey to knock into goal, but he was offside.

Jamie Forsyth had worked like a man possessed in the Watt midfield and his cross almost found the head of Service, but Fairnie sped from his goal to make a good punch clear just before the ball could reach its target.

The home side seemed edgy in the last few minutes and their dissent level increased, leading to a number of cautions and a word to a member of the technical area, but there were no further clear-cut chances for Watt to level the scores, although the last move of the game came close, Quinn only just being beaten to the ball by Fairnie’s sprint from his line to gather the ball after Donnelly made ground in midfield and flicked it to the left.

Leith Athletic:
Fairnie, Wilkie (Tracey 62), Fee, Lowson, Melvin, Beaton, McKinlay, Allan (Kneeshaw 76), Ferguson, Craigie, Wilson. Subs. not used: Burns, Combe, Mason. Hainey, no. 15, replaced somebody.

Heriot-Watt University:
Saunders, Dargo, Munro, Quinn, Woolven, Forsyth, Sutherland (Maher 70), Higgins (Laurenson 62), Donnelly, Breen (Service 45), Dowds. Subs. not used: Warner, Kerr.

Referee: Mr. Andrew Strang (Stirling)
Assistant Referees: Ms Melissa Cairns, Mr Michael Corner.

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Season 2016 – 2017: Match 14

East of Scotland League

29th October 2016

HERIOT-WATT UNIVERSITY 9 BURNTISLAND SHIPYARD 0

Heriot-Watt recorded its biggest-ever win in the East of Scotland in this match, but it was not a joyful occasion. It was painful to watch the disintegration of the Shippy, potentially a decent side from a club well run by good people.

We knew the recent record of our opponents featured some crushing defeats, but during the first half, there was little evidence to show why things have gone so badly wrong.

Having said that, Watt did have the ball in the net twice in the first ten minutes, but neither stood as a goal. The first occasion came from a diagonal pass through the Burntisland defence. Scott Dargo timed his run to collect the ball and cut inside the area with Adam Breen coming through the middle to his left. As Cammy Lambie advanced, Dargo played the ball past his left hand, but it struck the post and rebounded straight to Breen, who played it into the empty net. Breen, however, had got ahead of Dargo as he shot and was correctly penalised for offside.

A few minutes later, Breen was unlucky rather than careless. A lofted pass found him breaking on the right and he perfectly lobbed the ball on the half-volley over Lambie into goal, but only after hearing the referee’s whistle for a free kick to the Watt for a foul after the pass had been delivered.

Dargo had another opportunity when a cutback from the by-line reached him at the far post, but from close range he made poor contact and Grant Buckley was able to block the ball and bring it away.

Having survived these alarms, Shippy began to take the game to the Watt, with Sean Cusick at the heart of much of the enterprising work. A pass which put David Kerr in trouble gave Cusick a chance to run in on goal, but Callum Reid advanced quickly to block the shot.

On the half-hour, Shippy had a good chance to take the lead when Cusick came into possession on the right and found Yannis Iliopoulos inside him. Iliopoulos moved the ball on to Donald Hyslop, speeding in from the left, but his shot passed just over the junction of post and bar.

Watt finally got off the mark five minutes before half-time. A corner kick from the right was taken by Neil Laurenson and the ever-alert Chris Donnelly read its trajectory early to move back quickly and turn to head down into the far corner of goal. It was a classy piece of work by last season’s League top scorer, who is again featuring regularly on the scoring charts.

Watt brought on Chris Lane for Ryan Higgins at the start of the second half and having heard the trenchant views of Head Coach Banji Koya during the interval, showed a greater sense of purpose and urgency.

A good early attack originating from Dargo ended with Breen laying the ball into the path of Laurenson, who fired into the side netting. Donnelly then came close to adding to his tally when he cut in off the wing and fired in a shot which thumped off the crossbar, with Lambie possibly getting a touch to help take it there.

Jamie Forsyth showed his awareness on the edge of the area by eschewing the obvious option provided by Dargo’s wing run and slipping the ball through for Breen, but the shot was turned behind by Lambie.

It looked likely that Watt would get another goal and it duly arrived in the tenth minute after the restart. A ball played in from the left found Breen, who took a touch and sent a shot past the left side of Lambie to the corner of the net.

The floodgates were opening and Shipyard was showing increasing signs of strain. Lawrenson played the ball across for Donnelly, whose shot was turned round the post by the foot of Lambie. Following Forsyth’s corner, Munro crossed for Donnelly to resist a challenge and drive the ball into goal to make it three.

The introduction of fresh legs in the form of Elliot Sutherland did nothing to relieve the pressure on the creaking Shippy defence. Sutherland’s pace and strength had an immediate effect and he set up Dargo to shoot just past, then tested Lambie with a shot of his own.

Belief was ebbing out of the beleaguered Shipyard side and goals began to arrive regularly. Breen made it four after an exchange of passes on the edge of the area; a well-timed diagonal run by Donnelly enabled him to outpace the defence and complete his hat-trick; a minute later, Sutherland found time and space to score a sixth for Watt.

Burntisland then suffered one of those pieces of bad luck which cling like well-chewed gum to sides which are going through a hard time. Connor Allison, who had earlier been cautioned for a shirt-pull, ran out towards the action as Watt went down the right. As he neared the scene, a cross was played in. Allison, inches from the edge of the penalty box, had his arms raised and the ball struck one of them. The result was a penalty kick and a red card for the unfortunate defender. Breen despatched the kick competently.

There was any amount of space now in wide positons and Anton Dowds went down the right to square the ball and give Breen a tap-in to make it eight before Scott Munro took the chance to get on the score sheet, completing the scoring with a crisp shot.

There was still time for Lambie to further distinguish himself by keeping the score to single figures with two good saves from Forsyth before the referee blew a welcome final whistle. Despite him having to pick the ball out of the net nine times, the performance of the triallist goalie was a bright spot for Shipyard. Early in the game, he timed a run off his line to make an excellent punch clear above the head of Donnelly and throughout the first half he was a calm influence. He had little chance with any of the goals and if the Shippy outfield players can summon greater resolve and keep working hard even if they concede a goal or two, better things may yet be on the way for the Fifers.

Heriot-Watt University:
Saunders, Dargo, Munro, Woolven, Quinn, Watt (Warner 62), Sutherland, Higgins, Dowds (Ross 68), Forsyth, Donnelly (Lane 24). Subs. not used: Laurenson, Allison.

Burntisland Shipyard:
Lambie, Ford, Buckley, J McNab, Allison, McAleavey (Doyle 54), Hyslop, Hynd, Fotheringham, Iliopoulos, Cusick. Sub not used: Kirk.

Referee: Mr. Craig Macrae (Falkirk)

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Season 2016 – 2017: Match 13

East of Scotland League

22nd October 2016

PEEBLES ROVERS 0 HERIOT-WATT UNIVERSITY 0

A point apiece was about right at the end of this tussle which, despite the result, was never a dull affair, but Watt was left to rue missed early chances. Twice in the first five minutes of the game Anton Dowds burst clear of a ponderous Peebles back-line. The first time his shot struck the legs of goalkeeper Ben McGinley; the second time the ball passed McGinley but struck his right-hand post. Nothing came as close in the remaining eighty-five minutes.

Rovers were keen to please a vocal home support and Craig Saunders had to dive to his left after ten minutes to save a fierce drive by Saul Schulz-Keith. Ten minutes later, Peebles should probably have scored when a good pass from James Runciman enabled Schulz-Keith to cross first time to the near post, where David Lindsay was waiting, but his header was not firm enough and flashed across goal and out on the far side.

Watt’s attacking potential was reduced after twenty-four minutes when Chris Donnelly was hurt in a challenge with McGinley and had to go off, with Chris Lane coming on in his place and the team formation reshaped.

Colin Smith’s shot on the turn which passed the post was the closest we came to a goal in the remainder of the first half.

A good break gave Watt a chance ten minutes after half-time, but when Elliot Sutherland laid the ball in front of Dowds on the overlap, he sent his shot across goal and past. Dowds tried again a few minutes later when the ball broke to him on the edge of the box, but although his timing was good enough to generate lots of power, his direction was lacking and the ball passed well over the bar.

After a forward movement by the home side, Saunders touched over a powerful drive from well out on the Peebles right.

Watt and Dowds were replaced by Harry Warner and Cammy Ross as Watt looked for a formula which would provide the breakthrough, but Ross’s finishing lacked its usual polish and he failed to trouble McGinley with the chances that fell to him.

A diagonal ball was chased by both Ross and Sutherland and when Ross brought the ball back inside, he was tripped on the edge of the area. He took the free kick himself, but scuffed it well wide of the post.

Set up again by a pass from Harry Warner, Ross’s next effort was blazed high and wide.

Lee Zavaroni, finding himself isolated near the by-line on the Peebles right, unexpectedly went for goal from an impossible angle and the ball thumped off the post and came back towards him, but as the match ebbed away, the Watt was the side most urgently seeking a winner. A foul on Ross thirty metres from goal on the right side gave Scott Dargo a last chance to play the ball into the danger area, but when the ball came low into the box, Warner had a fresh-air shot before Jamie Forsyth sent his half-volley over the bar.

So the Watt’s hundred-percent League record was ended and there were no complaints, although one strange aspect to this game was the number of cautions issued. The game was played in a good spirit and most of the bookings were for offences for which many referees would have contented themselves with at most a quiet word in the ear of the offender. By issuing early cautions for innocuous challenges, Mr Rennie set a tone he may have come to regret as the game progressed.

Peebles Rovers:
McGinley, Runciman, Cockburn, Brown, Robrertson (Ndiweni 88), Smith, Zavaroni, Lindsay (Marshall 75), Inglis, Rossi, Schulz-Keith. Sub not used: Glass.

Heriot-Watt University:
Saunders, Dargo, Munro, Woolven, Quinn, Watt (Warner 62), Sutherland, Higgins, Dowds (Ross 68), Forsyth, Donnelly (Lane 24). Subs. not used: Laurenson, Allison.

Referee: Mr. Mark Rennie (Edinburgh)

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Season 2016 – 2017: Match 12

East of Scotland League

15th October 2016

TWEEDMOUTH RANGERS 0 HERIOT-WATT UNIVERSITY 2

This was a good, hardworking victory for the Watt against a Tweedmouth side which will surely start to pick up points if it can solve its goalscoring problem.

The first chance of the game fell to the home side when a cross from the left found striker Lee Dodd in good position, but he sent his header just wide.

Watt responded with a good move involving Jamie Forsyth and Chris Donnelly. Elliot Sutherland came in from the right to send in an angled drive which was turned round the post by Graeme Cain. Following a short-corner move, Forsyth sent in a cross which was met perfectly by the head of Aidan Quinn, who sent the ball back across goal and inside the post for his first goal in Watt colours.

On the tight Old Shielfield pitch, Watt settled in to a steady rhythm. Anton Dowds shot just over after picking up a loose ball in midfield, then an intricate, well-constructed move on the right ended with the ball being played across for Chris Lane to fire in a shot which was saved by Cain. Watt came close again when Donnelly played the ball wide for Sutherland to find Dowds, whose shot was blocked by the foot of Cain.

Rangers showed that they could be a threatening force in attack when Dodd broke clear to test Craig Saunders with a strong drive, but the Watt goalkeeper was up to the challenge and made a good save.

Sutherland was ticked off by the referee for a careless challenge on Ross Moore, Tweedmouth’s most effective player, and from the free kick, Keiran Cromarty got his head to the ball, but was unable to generate the power to trouble Saunders.

Watt found themselves in bother again shortly after this when Ryan Higgins’ attempted clearance struck another player and rebounded into the path of Dodd, but a fine tackle by Scott Munro saved the situation.

By half-time, Watt had created a fair number of chances but had failed to shake off their persistent opponents. In the second half, Watt had the benefit of the slope and Higgins made a good run into the box to get on to the ball at the end of a fine passing move, but Cain was off his line quickly to thwart the Watt midfielder.

The additional security of a second goal was required and it arrived six minutes into the half. A corner on the right by Sutherland was headed on to Dowds, who headed towards goal, but a defender headed back out. The ball was returned to the edge of the six-yard box, where Donnelly rose and placed a header carefully into the open area of the goal. It is one of Donnelly’s strengths that he keeps a cool head in goalmouth situations and when he had the room to control his header it was always likely that he would find the net.

Two goals ahead is not a lead which guarantees victory and the Watt had to work diligently for forty minutes more before claiming the points, but the work was done and the points were claimed.

There were opportunities along the way to make the situation more comfortable, but none was accepted. An excellent passing move put Sutherland through in the middle of the pitch, but when he was brought down on the edge of the area and the ball ran to Higgins, the referee allowed play to continue, the move ending with a shot from Dowds which cleared the bar.

Another good attack a couple of minutes later provided an even better chance, but when Dowds took the ball to the line and cut it back for Higgins at the near post, the midfielder scuffed his shot past the post.

A reminder of Tweedmouth’s threat came almost immediately when after a tackle on the edge of the Watt area, the ball squirted to Michael Allan, who turned the ball firmly towards goal. It just cleared the bar, but the quick reactions of Saunders enabled him to cover the trajectory of the shot.

Woolven covered well when the dangerous Moore sent in a low cross to the near post area and when the resultant corner came in tight to the goal, Saunders touched it past for a corner on the other side.

The home side came close from another corner some minutes later when the ball found its way through the crowd in the goalmouth and curled past on the far side.

Donnelly was the next to threaten for the visitors, using Dowds’s run as a decoy and sending in a stinging left-foot shot which Cain blocked and dived to recover as other Watt players closed in.

Harry Warner came on in place of Elliot Sutherland and Cammy Ross, who had scored twice for the Under-20 side the previous evening, replaced Dowds for the last twenty minutes. Ross had an immediate impact, getting on to the ball at the end of a fine passing move on the Watt left and driving the ball across goal. There was too much pace on the ball for Warner to control it, but the ball came back to Neil Laurenson, who shot high and wide from the edge of the area.

Ross won a corner shortly after this and when Forsyth crossed, Donnelly jumped high to send a header thumping against the crossbar. The rebound arrived at the feet of Donnelly as he landed and he couldn’t quite get his feet sorted out in time to turn the ball towards goal.

Dodd did well to bring the ball inside along the by-line, but to his frustration he found when he cut it across the penalty box that only Watt players were to be found there. Quinn, having opened his Watt account, fancied another and controlled a Rangers clearance to move forward. He passed wide and kept moving and when the ball was returned to him in the penalty box, he sent a shot just past the far post.

Ross gave us a last piece of skill to admire, taking and turning from a throw-in to send a superb lofted pass across the pitch over the head of his marker and into the run of Warner, who struck the ball on the volley, but once again Cain was in the right place to block with his feet and a defender was on hand to play the ball away as Donnelly tried to get on to the rebound.

Tweedmouth Rangers:
Cain, McLeod, J Ainslie, K Ainslie, Cromarty, Jackson, Allan, McGregor, Dodd, Moore, Coyle. Subs.: Howard, Rutherford, Dickson, Gibson, Patterson.

Heriot-Watt University:
Saunders, Dargo, Munro, Quinn, Woolven, Higgins, Donnelly, Forsyth, Dowds, Lane, Sutherland (Smith 68). Subs. not used: Breen, Maher.

Referee: Mr. Calum Doyle (Newtongrange)

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Season 2016 – 2017: Match 11

East of Scotland League

8th October 2016

STIRLING UNIVERSITY II 1 HERIOT-WATT UNIVERSITY 3

Stirling had played very well when visiting Riccarton for a Qualifying League tie in August, and were generally regarded as unlucky to lose on that occasion, so the Watt was prepared for another close game when visiting the Gannochy on League business.

As it turned out, this was a different sort of game; much less technical, much more physical and occasionally bad-tempered. It needed all the experience of referee George MacDonald to keep cautions to a minimum.

After a brisk attack from the start of the game, Watt had a lucky escape in the second minute. A well-weighted pass from midfield picked out the run of John McNaught, who rounded Craig Saunders, but at such pace that he failed to control his attempted cutback to the unguarded goal and his shot struck the outside of the post and went past.

After this let-off, the Watt settled into the game and began to create some chances. A shot by Anton Dowds was well saved by Sam MacLean low to his left, then Jamie Forsyth was unlucky when he managed to close down the last defender, but his tackle took the ball into the air and when it eventually came down he was faced by both the goalkeeper and the recovering defender and was crowded out.

A fine pass by Craig Saunders reached Ryan Higgins on half-way and he hooked the ball down the wing for Chris Donnelly, who played it on towards Dowds. Stirling full-back Eric Gilbert was in good position to clear, but allowed the ball to pass him. Dowds was left with just MacLean to beat, but from a tight angle his shot flashed across goal and past.

A minute later, an almost identical move took the ball from Saunders to Scott Dargo, who controlled the ball and placed it into the stride of Dowds, but again the Watt front man shot past the far post.

As the Watt pressure grew, Higgins had an opportunity with a bouncing ball on the edge of the area and lobbed it over MacLean as he advanced, but he got a little too much force into the effort and the ball carried over the bar.

All the pressure being exerted by the visitors paid off in the last five minutes of the half. Donnelly was tripped on the Watt right and when Dargo played the ball low into the crowded area, it worked its way through to Dowds, bouncing up invitingly. Dowds needed no further invitation and applied a firm boot to take the ball into goal.

Two minutes later, it got even better for the Watt. A throw on the left was returned by Dowds to Scott Munro as he moved inside and the full-back delivered a superb cross to the far post where it was met with a very firm header by Donnelly. MacLean got across quickly to make a fine block, but Donnelly reacted quickly to turn the ball into goal from the finest of angles.

Stirling, stung by these reverses, surged forward and a beautifully-timed tackle by Adam Woolven on the edge of the area stopped the dangerous Khan Mitchell from bursting into the Watt box.

The last chance of the half fell to the Watt, who came close to a third goal when Elliot Sutherland was brought down by Dominic Slattery. Dargo’s free kick was headed back to him and he found Aidan Quinn on the right. Quinn moved the ball into the penalty area to Donnelly, who fired in a left-foot shot which MacLean dived to turn round the post.

The second half started with a mishap for the Watt. Dargo attempted to pass back to Saunders from close to the half-way line, but under-hit the pass. He probably hadn’t noticed Burgess lurking in the area. As Saunders advanced, Burgess passed him and went into the box. Quinn recovered his ground and guarded the near post, but Burgess sent an accurate shot into the roof of the net to reduce the deficit.

When a cross by Dowds was stopped by Joe Greig, several Watt players immediately called for a penalty for a handling offence, but the referee did not agree. Stirling had a claim ten minutes later when Gilbert’s run into the box was covered by Dargo, but again the referee declined the invitation, which seemed right. Dargo had made no movement towards player or ball, merely protecting the route to goal. Gilbert had seemed to go down very easily, with any contact being manufactured by the Stirling player and the badgering of the referee smacked of desperation.

Watt restored their two-goal advantage with a well-engineered strike. Dargo, on half-way, applied a forceful chest-trap to a clearance by the home defence and immediately drove forward. Seeing Dowds make a run across the defence, Dargo laid a perfectly directed and weighted pass into his stride, enabling Dowds to clip the ball with his first touch past the right hand of the advancing MacLean and inside the post. Simple, but executed with superb precision.

Stirling battled away, but increasingly in hope rather than expectation as the Watt defence kept its shape and repulsed all threats. In the end, it was a well-earned and satisfying victory which keeps the Watt’s hundred-per cent record in the League this season intact.

Stirling University II:
MacLean, Greig, Gilbert, Ball-Lindsay, Slattery, McCaughie, Dey, McNaught, Burgess, Mitchell, May. Subs.: Collins, Halley, Beaton.

Heriot-Watt University:
Saunders, Dargo, Munro, Quinn, Woolven, Forsyth, Warner (Ross 61), Higgins, Dowds, Lane, Sutherland (Smith 68). Subs. not used: Breen, Maher.

Referee: Mr. George MacDonald (Kirkcaldy)
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Season 2016 – 2017: Match 10

East of Scotland League

1st October 2016

HERIOT-WATT UNIVERSITY 6 ORMISTON 1

This was a comfortable win in the end, but it took the Watt an hour to get a proper grip of this game.

Watt had a good share of possession from the start and fashioned some early chances. Anton Dowds played the ball past goalkeeper Daryl Johnston only for a vigilant defender to make a sliding clearance, then sent in a header from a right-wing cross which was cleared from under the bar.

Half-way through the first half, the Watt broke the deadlock with a fine goal by Scott Dargo. Well found by a Chris Lane pass, the full-back cut inside and sent a left-foot drive high into the corner of the net.

Four minutes later, however, Watt gave back the advantage. A free kick on the Ormiston left was played into the penalty box. Craig Saunders was unable to reach the ball and it struck Jamie Forsyth and trickled over the line.

Harry Warner set up an opportunity, cutting inside and playing the ball to the left, from where Dowds sent in a good effort, but Johnston was up to the challenge, rising to tip the ball over the bar.

Elliot Sutherland restored the Watt’s lead seven minutes from half-time. Early in the second period of play, the home side established a breathing space when Dowds scored another, following up to ease the ball over Johnston and into the far corner after the goalkeeper had saved his first effort.

Dargo’s excellent interception and pass then put Dowds in on the right, but his early shot passed inches wide of the far post.

Just after the hour, Watt replaced Warner with Cammy Ross and the new arrival lost no time in making his presence felt. He received the ball for the first time on the left side and moved inside across the pitch, accelerating past defenders as he went. When he rounded the last man, Ross turned and fired a powerful shot across Johnston into the corner of the goal.

Despite the mounting score, Johnston had performed splendidly in the Ormiston goal and the ’keeper made yet another fine save when Dowds tried to chip the ball over him. Johnston reached up to hook the ball away to the side, then gathered it in.

A cross into the Watt area had the defence in some disarray, Saunders punching the ball off the head of an Ormiston player and following the ball out of the box to make another challenge. The referee stopped play and cautioned the Watt goalkeeper, though for what offence was unclear to your correspondent. The resultant free kick passed just over the bar.

In appearances for the Development Team and the First Team, Ross had now scored three times over the weekend, but he wasn’t finished yet. A precise passing movement in the Watt midfield enabled Lane to slide the ball through to Ross, unmarked in the centre of the pitch, though well onside. Ross turned and slotted home with the minimum of fuss.

After an exchange of passes with Rob Service a few minutes later, Ross was heading into the box again, but was halted by a challenge by Alan Morgan. The foul seemed clumsy rather than malicious, but it was hard to deny that had Ross not been stopped he was likely to score again and for that reason, the referee dismissed Morgan.

Ross took the free kick himself and fired the ball in low and accurately, but once again Johnston was smart and agile, turning the ball round the post for a corner. When the ball was played in towards the goal, Johnston rose again to make it his.

Unfortunately for the visiting goalkeeper, his tiring defence was unable to give him enough protection against the pace of the Watt forwards and when Callum Smith went down the left, he found himself able to approach the goal unchallenged. Ross, on a hat-trick, waited hopefully for a cut-back, but Smith had the time and space to pick his spot and complete the scoring.

Heriot-Watt University:
Saunders, Dargo, Munro, Quinn, Woolven, Forsyth, Warner (Ross 61), Higgins, Dowds, Lane, Sutherland (Smith 68). Subs. not used: Breen, Maher.

Ormiston:
Johnston, Cowan, Millard, Ferguson (Fairnie 67), A Morgan, Simpson, Malcolm, Burdett, Edmond, O’Neill, Amagou (Cairns 56). Subs. not used: Carr, Bernawi.

Referee: Mr. Paul Hanlon (Edinburgh)

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Season 2016 – 2017: Match 9

Alex Jack Cup: Semi-final

24th September 2016

TYNECASTLE 4 HERIOT-WATT UNIVERSITY 2

Watt came agonisingly close to reaching the Final of the Alex Jack Cup at long last, but eventually lost out after a tight struggle at Saughton Enclosure. The final score was made to look more clear-cut by a late goal scored on the break two minutes into stoppage time as Watt committed everyone to attack in an unavailing effort to get the equaliser.

In the end, Watt was left to rue failing to sustain the momentum that created a two-goal lead inside twenty minutes as the visitors dominated the early play against a Tynecastle side which made a strangely sluggish start to the game, despite coming close in the fifth minute. Watt goalkeeper Craig Saunders, having come out to the left side of his penalty box to gather a through ball, was barged over by a forward before he could secure it. Strangely, this was not seen as a foul by the referee and as play went on with the goalkeeper out of position, a shot struck the bar before Saunders, having recovered his position, saved a low shot from the right side of the area.

Three minutes later, Watt went ahead. Chris Lane flighted the ball just over the head of Tynie right-back William Mitchell to find Neil Laurenson on the left. Laurenson quickly spotted the diagonal run of Chris Donnelly and played the ball inside to meet it. Donnelly got there just ahead of Craig Cockburn as he ran from his line and flicked the ball past the goalkeeper into the net.

On the quarter-hour, Watt was given a chance to increase its lead from the penalty spot. Laurenson’s free kick from the right curled in towards goal and Cockburn did well to turn the ball over the bar, but in an incident almost identical to that in which the Watt Under-20 side had conceded a penalty the previous evening, the referee spotted an infringement whilst the ball was in the air. The perpetrator, whoever it was, must have reflected that as the course of the ball was beyond the reach of all the outfield players, there was no need for any interference, but it seems clear that referees have been instructed to be stricter on set-piece offences this season and more penalty awards can be expected.

Unfortunately for Watt, the award was not converted on this occasion, as after a long delay, Anton Dowds slammed his kick against the crossbar.

Within a minute, Watt came close again, Laurenson’s excellent cross being headed firmly down by Elliot Sutherland, but Cockburn made a splendid save, diving to turn the ball round the post.

Dowds tried to make up for his penalty miss, creating a shooting chance on the edge of the area with a quick shuffle, but his drive, though not lacking in power, was too straight and Cockburn was again able to save low to his left.

Dowds was not long to be denied, however. A minute later, Donnelly did well to secure the ball just inside the Tynecastle half and as Dowds came up on his left, he released a well-timed pass into his path, enabling him to run clear of the home defence and slip the ball past Cockburn into goal.

It was all looking good for the Watt, but only eighteen minutes had been played and it was far too soon to be thinking about the finishing line. Instead of driving home its advantage, the visitors relaxed their grip and allowed their opponents to get back into the match. Tynecastle accepted the opportunity gladly, attacking with increased physicality and putting the Watt defence under increasing pressure. Pieyan Khosrowpour was particularly threatening and began to make life difficult for the Watt’s central defenders, and was ably supported by Martyn Robinson and Steven Manson.

It was good linking between Khosrowpour and Manson which produced Tynie’s first goal eleven minutes from the interval. An exchange of passes on the left side of the penalty area enabled Khosrowpour to burst clear and as he ran in from an angle, his accurate shot across Saunders found the net just inside the far post.

Manson had a chance to score on his own account four minutes later when Khosrowpour bullied Adam Woolven out of the ball and lobbed it across the area to meet Manson’s run, but with only Saunders to beat he shot past.

Tom Maher, the latest player to graduate to the First Team from the Watt’s Under-20 side, tried to set his team back on track with a fine run on the right. HIs pass inside was played on by Dowds to Donnelly, but the first-time shot on the turn was heading past when cleared at the far post.

A lovely touch by Dowds found Donnelly again just after this, but a defender was in quickly to concede a corner. Jamie Forsyth came short and crossed to the far post, where Cockburn turned the ball behind for another corner kick, but this came to nothing.

The following minute was crucial in determining the outcome of the game. Manson’s diagonal ball into the Watt area was collected by a striker and Aidan Quinn moved across to cover. The forward manufactured a slight contact and went down, but when the penalty was awarded it was the softest of awards. Quinn was incandescent and Woolven did well to shepherd him away from the referee until his fury had abated somewhat. Dayne Robertson coolly found the corner of the net to bring the scores level.

In the next minute of play, the ball reached Saunders, who launched a huge clearance which bounced once on its way into the Tynecastle area. Donnelly leapt high to contest the ball along with a defender and goalkeeper Cockburn. The ball fell at the feet of Donnelly as he faced away from goal. He tried to turn to create a shooting position, but the goalkeeper was all over him. Eventually Donnelly was reduced to back-heeling the ball towards goal, but by that time defenders had covered in behind and mopped up easily. In the view of your correspondent – admittedly not an impartial one – the interference with Donnelly was much more worthy of a penalty award than the one just given against Quinn, but the Watt had had its penalty kick for the day.

Tynecastle brought on Ryan Malcolm for Mark Leslie at the start of the second half and changed to three at the backbut it was the Watt which had the better of the play and created most of the chances in the twenty minutes before the home side broke clear to take the lead.

Superb work by Dowds on the left, who showed excellent control in moving down the touchline and getting away from Michael Catlin, enabled him to reach the by-line and cut the ball back for Donnelly, but from around eight metres, the striker’s first-time shot was directed just wide of the far post. Then, when Maher was fouled near the right touchline, Laurenson’s free kick fell amongst the feet in the penalty area, eventually coming to Woolven, whose cross was just too high for Quinn to reach. Scott Munro did well to retrieve the ball on the left and find Donnelly, but his lofted pass was collected by Cockburn.

Max Allison replaced Laurenson with Dowds switching to the left as Watt sought a way to penetrate the home rearguard. Maher drove in towards the box again and was brought down for a free kick taken by Dowds and turned behind for a corner which gave a heading chance to Quinn, who timed his run well but met the ball whilst leaning back and sent it over the bar.

Watt was doing the pressing, but when a goal arrived, it was as the result of a quick Tynecastle break-out. Stewart Adams went down the right and moved the ball inside for Khosrowpour, who rounded Saunders and slipped the ball into goal, despite a valiant attempt by Maher to keep it out.

Dowds was hurt in a challenge just after this and was replaced by Adam Breen. The Watt’s play became less cohesive as a touch of panic or despair began to set in and the midfield saw less of the ball. Forsyth continued to work like a man possessed, but some others seemed to have lost belief and became less involved.

Now Tynecastle, for the first time, was the dominant force in the game and Quinn had to be alert to repel Khosrowpour. Manson collected the loose ball and drove it across goal where it was diverted behind.

Maher was the next Watt player to succumb to injury and Harry Warner came into the action, but his first contribution was to concede a silly foul in a dangerous area, although the free kick was driven straight at Saunders.

Allison’s well-judged tackle prevented Adams setting up Khosrowpour, but a couple of minutes later he made another challenge which appeared to win the ball cleanly, only for the referee to decide otherwise. The free kick was played in at waist-height and at high velocity. It was deflected just in front of Saunders and flashed across goal and past. It must have been a Watt player who provided the touch, as a corner kick was the result.

Following the corner, Saunders made a fine save from Khosrowpour’s fierce angled drive, but the game was fast ebbing to its close and the Watt had very little time left to try to conjure up an equaliser. The ball presented itself to Sutherland on the half-volley and he sent in a shot from around forty metres, ignoring Donnelly’s plea for a pass, but Cockburn did not have to move to make the catch.

With the game deep into stoppage time, the Watt threw everything forward, with Quinn and Woolven joining the attack and Forsyth as the only man left in defence. The inevitable happened, as Tynecastle broke clear and Khosrowpour, rounding Saunders near the half-way line, ran on to roll the ball in for a clinching goal, eluding Forsyth’s brave attempt to prevent him.

The impression left at the end of the game was of Tynecastle overcoming the Watt’s early dominance and going on to control the remainder of the match, but in fact, both the second-half goals came from break-outs at times when the Watt was heavily committed to attack. The decisive stage in the match was just before half-time, when there were two penalty-kick judgments to be made within a minute, one at each end, and both calls went against the Watt.

Tynecastle:
Cockburn, Mitchell, Catlin, Ferguson, Leslie (Malcolm 46), Robertson, Manson, Robinson, Adams, Khosrowpour (Kelly 92), McIntyre. Subs. not used: Greig, Muttitt, S Swanson.

Heriot-Watt University:
Saunders, Maher (Warner 75), Munro, Quinn, Woolven, Forsyth, Sutherland, Lane, Donnelly, Dowds (Breen 68), Laurenson (Allison 56). Subs. not used: Smith, Walker.

Referee: Mr. Craig Ferguson (Dalkeith)
Assistant Referees: Mr Fraser Butterfield, Mr Gary Callachan

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Season 2016 – 2017: Match 8

SFA South Region Challenge Cup: First Round

17th September 2016

HERIOT-WATT UNIVERSITY 2 BSC GLASGOW 4

This was an absorbing cup-tie, contested by sides which were both intent on playing a passing game, but it had as bizarre a conclusion as we have seen in a long time.

For the Watt, the game could hardly have started better. With three minutes played, Anton Dowds showed strength and persistence to carry the ball along the by-line and lay it in front of Chris Donnelly for him to tap into goal and give the home side the lead.

Much of the first half was a fascinating duel between the dangerous forward movement of BSC’s mobile midfield and forward players and the Watt’s tenacious and well-organised defence, but it had the added spice of some really well-constructed Watt counter-attacks. Dowds was on fine form, as were his midfield partners, Neil Laurenson and Chris Lane, and together they created a number of chances for a second goal which would have made things really interesting.

BSC striker Robert Jones was a real handful throughout this game. Even taller than Aidan Quinn, he is also athletic and skilful. Jones came close twice in quick succession around the quarter of an hour point, firstly with a superbly-executed bicycle kick from close range which brought an outstanding save from Craig Saunders, diving to his left to get a firm hand to the ball; then, following a corner on the left, heading firmly just over the bar from close range.

Laurenson’s wonderful through ball gave Liam Walker a chance to run clear on the left side of the visitors’ defence, but Walker, who scored freely in the early part of last season, seems unwilling to trust his shooting nowadays and he slowed to take the ball inside and square it for Elliot Sutherland to try a snap shot under pressure. It was a more difficult chance than the one Walker had turned down and the ball went just past.

BSC’s tricky midfielder Aidan Ferris was proving difficult to pin down and he got clear on the right as the Watt defence stopped, waiting for an offside call which didn’t arrive. As Ferris drove inside, Saunders stood tall at his near post and caught the shot which Ferris fired towards goal.

Watt survived a spell of fierce pressure to break again with an excellent move on the right. Tom Maher linked with Sutherland, who crossed low into the box. The ball made its way through to Walker, whose subtle chip almost succeeded in putting in Donnelly, but the striker couldn’t quite get his boot high enough to pull the ball down and it bounced through to goalkeeper Joe Wilton.

In another fine Watt move just after this, Laurenson flighted the ball out to Maher; his first-time cross on the half-volley was aimed at Sutherland, attacking the near post, but a vigilant defender got in just in time to turn the ball behind.

Watt finished the half on the ascendancy, winning a series of corners, but there was no further scoring.

From the start of the second period, the game had a different appearance. The BSC management had clearly given their squad fresh momentum and Watt was under pressure from the start. Conversely to the extra drive from the visitors, the Watt players seemed less energetic. There was a corresponding reduction in the cohesion of the Watt play and Head Coach Banji Koya soon started to turn to his bench. Lane, Laurenson and Dowds, whose work in the first half had been outstanding and who had so often set the Watt on the front foot, no longer looked able to create penetrating attacks.

Given this change to the balance of play, it was no surprise when BSC drew level six minutes into the second half, but the nature of the goal was somewhat frustrating. Maher got back well to make a good challenge on Gary Redpath as he drove into the Watt penalty box, but when the ball ran loose, no Watt player stepped in to clear it and it was turned back to Tom Woods, who drove it unerringly past the left hand of the diving Saunders into the corner of goal.

There was little relief for the Watt defence after the equaliser. The defence held firm as BSC gained a succession of corner kicks, but eventually the ability of Jones imposed itself as he cut in from the right, took the ball past Scott Munro and Harry Warner and placed a precise shot across Saunders and inside the far post.

Watt’s young full-backs, Maher and Munro, had together been the most encouraging aspect of the match from a home point of view. Both were full of endeavour and determination and it was Munro who tried to get Watt moving again, combining with Donnelly to give Warner a chance to run through on the left, but the shot which resulted gave no trouble to Wilton.

Adam Woolven caused a moment of anxiety, tripping Ferris on the edge of the ‘D’, but Ferris drove the free kick well over.

Max Allison, Watt’s all-purpose player, replaced Donnelly as striker and almost immediately created a chance for Sutherland, but a poor first touch caused the opportunity to be lost. BSC counterattacked swiftly and a low cross from the right seemed to pass right through Redpath at the far post. Another piece of brilliance gave Jones a chance when he reached back to deflect a loose ball into a shooting position, but he had to turn and fire in one movement and the ball went just past.

As the game went into its last ten minutes, there was still only one goal in it. Watt had survived its rocky patch without further damage and the substitutions had put life back into the side. The method was a bit more direct now, looking for the pace of Allison and Sutherland, but there was still hope.

Then came a last ten-minute spell which no-one could have envisaged. One man in particular, Watt central defender Woolven, will find it hard to forget. It began with a scramble in the Watt box. This had gone on for some time when Woolven was involved in a challenge with a BSC player and the referee’s whistle sounded. It took a little time for everyone to realise that a penalty had been awarded, but no-one seemed to know the cause. The explanation was a shirt-pull by Woolven, although this meant that the offence must have occurred some time before play was stopped and the referee must have allowed it to continue to give BSC a chance to score in open play.

Woolven had sustained a leg injury in the challenge which had ended the episode and had to be helped off. It didn’t look as if he was likely to return and the Watt contemplated finishing the game with ten men, as all three substitutes had already been committed. Ferris drove the penalty kick into goal to make the score 3 – 1 to the visitors.

Two minutes later, the Watt’s altered formation paid off. Allison was an unorthodox striker, but he was making some intelligent runs and Dowds slipped the ball through for him to chase into the box. Wilton sprinted from his line, but Allison was too quick for him and nipped the ball past his hands. Wilton was unable to put on the brakes and felled Allison for a clear penalty. Dowds stepped forward to slam the ball into the net to again reduce the deficit to one.

Woolven, having limped round the perimeter of the pitch, reached the technical area and declared himself fit to resume. He returned to the field of play and eased anxieties with a calm and accurate pass out of defence. He seemed to have shaken off the injury and to be back in the groove. Then, with two minutes of stoppage time played, he was adjudged to have clipped a BSC player as he ran into the penalty box and conceded a second penalty within little more than ten minutes. This time it was Jones who scored and shortly after that the game was over.

Woolven must have felt that the fates were against him as he trudged off the pitch – two penalties against and a painful injury, all in the last few minutes of a match, is the stuff of nightmares. But although he was perhaps harshly dealt with here, as both penalties fell into the ‘soft’ category, Woolven, who has admirably fought his way back to fitness after missing months of last season, has recently shown something of a willingness to play the man if the ball is not available and he may reflect that his defending is becoming a little lazy at times.

The other player who may feel there is a lesson to be learned is goalkeeper Saunders. A goalkeeper is never expected to save a penalty, but Saunders may reflect on how often he is going the opposite way to the ball when facing kicks from the spot. Is he giving too much of a clue to the taker about the direction in which he will move? Perhaps he needs to hold on a fraction of a second longer – or to move on the spot – before showing which way he intends to dive.

BSC is a fine side and they were worthy winners, but the Watt put up a decent performance. Banji Koya has made a good start to his tenure as Head Coach and his enthusiasm is infectious. With all his commitment to stylish play and a constructive passing game, however, he will know better than anyone that when fitness is not up to scratch, the quality goes rapidly downhill. Accordingly, he may feel that to be able to maintain throughout the game the level of performance of which it is capable, his squad needs to be even fitter than it already is.

Heriot-Watt University:
Saunders, Maher, Munro, Quinn, Woolven, Lane (Forsyth 76), Sutherland, Laurenson, Donnelly (Allison 70), Dowds, Walker (Warner 49). Subs. not used: Smith, McGovern, Imray.

BSC Glasgow:
Wilton, Bowers, Keys, Kasongo, Bell, Redpath, Ferris, Dryden (Cunningham 68), Jones, Woods (Watupa 90), Traynor (Beckett 56). Subs. not used: Barr, Toner.

Referee: Mr. Alan Macfadyen (Whifflet)

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Season 2016 – 2017: Match 7

East of Scotland League

10th September 2016

HERIOT-WATT UNIVERSITY 3 PEEBLES ROVERS 1

Heriot-Watt got its East of Scotland League season off to a successful start with this home win against a young Peebles Rovers side. Since last season, Rovers has undergone another of its periodic reinventions and has emerged with Ger Rossi, its enthusiastic Chairman, as player-manager of a predominantly local side which aspires to playing an attractive passing game. A five-minute spell in the first half in which the Watt scored three times settled the game, but there was never much between the sides in terms of quality play.

The Watt management team professed themselves satisfied with the first half performance, but rather less so with a second half in which the only goal counted for the visitors. Certainly, after a sluggish start, the Watt had plenty of possession in the first period, but although three goals were scored and a few other half-chances were created, it was not the Watt at its most fluent. The running off the ball was somewhat lacking and Watt’s chief attribute was that most important of footballing virtues, the ability to finish the best of the chances that came along.

The first opportunity of note came the way of Liam Walker when his well-timed run was picked out by a fine pass from Neil Laurenson, but with just the goalkeeper to beat, Walker delayed and had to take the ball behind a defender to get in his shot, by which time the ’keeper was close enough to turn the ball behind.

Around the half-hour point, Watt struck three times in quick succession to take a decisive advantage. The first two goals were very similar, Elliot Sutherland both times running through on to angled passes to beat Ben McGinley with powerful drives. The third goal also came from the Watt right, struck on the volley by the right foot of Laurenson from Walker’s tempting cross to an area just beyond the far post.

After half-time, Watt found it even harder to build attacks with any pace as the movement tailed off even further and play became rather dull, with the ball frequently played sideways and backwards due to the lack of good options for forward passes and Rovers’ willingness to ‘sit in’ and keep a good defensive shape. Just after the hour mark, Ryan Higgins was penalised for a foul near Peebles’ left touchline and when the ball was played into the box by Colin Smith, it bounced around the penalty spot and ended up in the net. No-one appeared to have touched it as it came through, but the referee decided that Watt goalkeeper Craig Saunders had played it and it went down in his records as an own-goal.

Adam Woolven had the opportunity to restore Watt’s three-goal cushion when Laurenson dropped a corner right on his head close to goal; but, in a scene reminiscent of Anton Dowds’ header from a corner the previous week, Woolven allowed the ball to slide off his head and go past the post.

This, however, was the start of a better spell for the Watt, who mounted a number of enterprising attacks in the next few minutes. Sutherland and Laurenson combined to put the former into the box with a shooting opportunity, but the angle was a tight one for the pace at which Sutherland was moving and his shot passed across the face of goal. Then a good pass by Chris Lane enabled Walker to send across a low centre for Higgins at the far post, but the midfielder took a touch for which he didn’t have time and McGinley was quickly on the spot to smother his shot.

In another good move, Lane, who seemed now to be at the heart of most of the Watt’s good work, combined with Aidan Quinn to give possession to Scott Munro, who sent a delightful crossfield pass into the path of Walker on the right, but when he crossed, Callum Smith was caught offside. Watt was well in the ascendancy now and in another good move, Chris Donnelly cut the ball back from the by-line on the left for Jackson Barker to fire a first-time drive just past. Watt immediately mounted another attack, this time on the right, with Tom Maher, who had started a First Team match for the first time and had played splendidly, cutting inside and flicking a pass out to Walker, whose cutback from the line just failed to find Maher’s run with Donnelly also in good position. A Peebles defender blocked the ball behind, and from the subsequent corner kick, the ball was played towards goal and cleared off the line.

There was still a need for the Watt defence to be alert and when the ball was sent long downfield, Saunders proved he was still paying attention by running far out of his goal area to kick the ball away from a Rovers player who was leading the chase.

Despite the series of late chances, the Watt failed to add to their score and had to be content with the product of their first-half purple patch.

Heriot-Watt University:
Saunders, Maher, Munro, Quinn, Woolven, Lane, Sutherland (Barker 78), Higgins, Dowds (Donnelly 55), Laurenson (Smith 82), Walker. Subs. not used: Warner, Hutchison.

Peebles Rovers:
McGinley, Mackay, Zavaroni, Brown (Cockburn 45), Newell, Rossi, Schulz-Keith, Runciman, Lindsay (Robertson 81), Smith, Ndiweni (Inglis 56). Sub. not used: McDonald.

Referee: Mr. Steven Wilson (Edinburgh)

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Season 2016 – 2017: Match 6

Alex Jack Cup – First Round

3rd September 2016

HERIOT-WATT UNIVERSITY 4 TWEEDMOUTH RANGERS 1

Watt gained revenge for the previous week’s defeat at Old Shielfield, but despite the convincing score line, Head Coach Banji Koya was far from satisfied with the performance, feeling that in many ways the side had played better in the game they’d lost.

In unfamiliar white kit, Watt began the game in the ascendancy, winning a series of corners without coming close to using any of them productively. It took twenty minutes to create a significant opportunity and that arose when Anton Dowds did well to intercept a pass and find Liam Walker on the left. Walker, perhaps Watt’s best player on the day, sent in an inviting cross, but before Harry Warner could reach it as he came in from the right, it was turned behind for yet another corner.

This time, however, the kick did produce results. Neil Laurenson played it shorter than previously and Walker timed his run to the near post to head the ball down and into goal to give the Watt the lead.

Dowds might have doubled the advantage five minutes later when the Watt’s umpteenth corner found him in the middle of the goal, but just as in the previous week’s game at Berwick, his header was much too fine and it slipped past the post.

Laurenson began to dominate in midfield and in a series of penetrating runs, he created opportunities for both Dowds and Walker, but neither was able to find the net.

Dowds got the break of the ball in a position tight to the by-line, but his shot was blocked by the leg of goalkeeper John Patterson. When Watt recovered possession, Dowds found Jamie Forsyth in good position, but his side-foot shot was straight at Patterson.

Aidan Quinn’s pass gave another chance to Forsyth and when his shot struck the goalkeeper, he steered the rebound to Warner, who blazed his shot against the bar and over.

Having sustained a lot of pressure, Tweedmouth mounted an attack and Shane Macgregor drove the ball just over the bar.

A minute from the interval, Scott Munro cleverly took the ball past the Tweedmouth defence on the Watt left and cut the ball inside to Dowds at the near post. Dowds executed a neat shuffle to his left and drove the ball into goal to give the Watt a two-goal lead at half-time.

Rangers changed their shape at the start of the second half, bringing on striker Lee Dodd to replace defender Jordan Ainslie, and this move almost brought immediate dividends when a misplaced pass gave Regan Graham the chance to cross low into the danger area. The ball came abruptly to Dodd, however, and he was unable to make contact.

Watt soon resumed the offensive, Ryan Higgins making good ground to set up Walker, who cut inside and shaped a right-foot shot, missing the far post by inches. Tweedmouth was much more in the game now, however, and Michael Robinson sent in a fierce drive which Craig Saunders was obliged to touch over the bar. From the resultant corner, Ben Jackson headed the ball down towards the corner of goal, but Forsyth was well placed to clear in front of the goal line and Walker turned the ball behind for another corner kick.

This time, when the ball came in, Watt launched a lightning counter-attack. Adam Woolven’s challenge took the ball to the right, where Walker collected. He made ground and found Higgins on the left. At the edge of the penalty area, Higgins tried to take the ball round Patterson, who had advanced from his goal. Higgins managed to get the ball past the goalkeeper, but was driven wide of the target and his attempt to cross the ball to a supporting colleague found only a retreating defender.

Perhaps the best move of the game came on the hour mark, just after Chris Donnelly had joined the party. Dowds nipped in to win the ball and found Donnelly, who moved it on to Walker. Walker brought the ball inside and laid it ahead of Laurenson on the edge of the penalty area. Although he had made the run to be there, Laurenson did not seem quite to have expected the pass and he strode on to it and despatched the ball over the fence at the back of the goal.

Suddenly, a few minutes after this, the match was back in the melting pot. A beautifully-judged cross from the Tweedmouth right bisected the Watt defenders and Dodd launched himself forward to send a powerful header over Saunders into the roof of the net.

The deficit was only one now and for some time the Watt defence looked edgy, with only a good intervention by Laurenson preventing an equaliser as the visitors sensed an opportunity.

Having survived the Rangers onslaught, however, Watt got a grip of things again. Warner hammered a shot towards goal following a free kick, but his angle was too tight and Patterson blocked the ball. Five minutes later, another free kick enabled Watt to restore their two-goal cushion. Walker’s excellent kick was perfect for the head of Donnelly, who connected perhaps too well. The ball came back hard from the face of the crossbar and Dowds, around the penalty spot, picked his spot with his header to make it 3 – 1.

The belief seemed to ebb out of the visitors after this goal and there were further chances for the Watt. Max Allison, playing his second game in twenty hours, made a run on the right, linked with Warner and overlapped to take the ball to the by-line. He looked up and picked out Dowds, but the cutback was a firm one and in trying to strike it first time, Dowds allowed the ball to slice off his foot and past the post.

Despite their two-goal lead, the uneasiness of the Watt players as the game neared its end was illustrated by two more players adding to Dowds’ earlier entry in the Idiotic Booking of the Year competition.

All three of the second-half cautions were strong contenders. Dowds had gone first; having been denied a foul he thought he was due, he launched himself, with the sole of his boot raised, into a petulant challenge on an innocent player who happened to receive the ball near him. He then remonstrated with the referee as though the latter’s failure to agree with him about the earlier incident had somehow justified his assault on another player.

This looked likely to be the clear winner for the daftest caution of the day and a strong challenger for the annual award, but Laurenson had other ideas. Robinson was advancing towards the Watt goal, but was still twenty-five metres from goal with the defence in good shape in front of him. He still had plenty to do to create a shooting opportunity, but Laurenson decided that his colleagues were not to be trusted and volunteered for a card by bringing down Robinson, thus ensuring that there would be a chance for Tweedmouth to go for goal from a promising position.

Surely that was the list of contenders complete – but not so, for in stoppage time at the end of the game, Callum Smith, having already been warned twice for delaying the restart of play in the course of a brief appearance as substitute, blatantly kicked the ball away after it had crossed the sideline. The previous two entries were sufficiently stupid to have had a great chance of winning on any normal Saturday, but this one surely topped the lot.

The game finished on a more positive note for the Watt, with the scoring of a fourth goal. It came in the most direct and simple fashion. Saunders, kicking from hand, sent a huge kick deep into Tweedmouth territory. Donnelly back-headed it on and Warner ran on to the ball to drive it hard and straight towards goal. Patterson threw up his arms and parried, but the force of the shot was considerable and the ball continued over the goalkeeper’s head and into the corner of the net. This goal was probably just about justified on the balance of play, but Watt will remember the edgy ten minutes they endured after Dodd’s goal had brought Rangers within touching distance.

Heriot-Watt University:
Saunders, Allison, Munro, Quinn, Woolven, Forsyth, Warner, Higgins (Donnelly 56), Dowds (Bain 77), Laurenson, Walker (Smith 77). Subs. not used: Ross, Imray.

Tweedmouth Rangers:
Patterson, Turnbull, Howard, K Ainslie, J Ainslie (Dodd 46), Jackson, Antcliff (Rutherford 53), McGregor, Robinson, Moore, Graham (McLeod 73). All subs. used.

Referee: Mr. Laurie MacKinnon (Bathgate)

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Season 2016 – 2017: Match 5

East of Scotland Qualifying League – Section B 27th August 2016

TWEEDMOUTH RANGERS 2 HERIOT-WATT UNIVERSITY 1

There are times when it is a joy to write a report on a Heriot-Watt match; and then there are times like this, when it is sheer aggravation to remember the details of the match. If ever the old inversion of the adage – “snatching defeat out of the jaws of victory” – could be rightly applied to a match, this was that match. Having contrived to lose it, however, Watt must now wait until the visit of Leith Athletic to Old Shielfield (should that ever occur) to find out whether the Club will for the first time progress to the League Cup by way of the Qualifying League or whether it will be the usual outcome and no place in the League Cup competition.

Watt played some fine football in the early stages, but in fact, Tweedmouth might well have taken an early lead, when after four minutes’ play, a tempting cross from the right found Stuart Coyle running in unchallenged to head across goal and just past. Having survived this scare, however, the Watt began to pass the ball well and mounted a series of dangerous raids. In one such move, Jamie Forsyth nipped in to sweep the ball out to Liam Walker on the left. Walker, who was in fine form, sent in a cross which just asked for a firm touch to send it into goal, but Anton Dowds tried to apply a glancing header and barely touched the ball, sending it past the post.

Chris Lane stepped in to win the ball and Harry Warner seized on the chance to fire in a shot from distance which passed just over the bar, but with twenty-one minutes played, Watt took the lead they had long threatened. Several players broke through on the right and Dowds drove in a shot to the near post. John Patterson blocked the ball, but Dowds chipped the rebound across goal and Forsyth slammed it into the roof of the net.

It was all going according to plan, but just five minutes later things began to go all wrong. Liam Hutchison, making his first start in the First Team, had looked comfortable in possession alongside his frequent partner Aidan Quinn, but a long ball down the Rangers left had him in two minds as Craig Saunders advanced from his goal. Hutchison could have applied a glancing header to take the ball back to Saunders or a firm one to take it across the penalty area to Quinn, but he fell between the two and an indecisive header landed at the feet of Ross Moore as he ran in. All that was required of the striker was to stroke the ball past the left hand of Saunders and into the corner of the net and Moore did that competently.

It was a hard lesson for Hutchison, but to his credit the young man did not let the mishap affect him and continued to show a willingness to get on to the ball and take his part in building the play.

Watt surged forward again and Walker’s pass inside found Lane, who was brought down twenty-five metres from goal. Dowds struck the free kick accurately for the corner of the goal, but his shot lacked the power to beat Patterson, who dived to push the ball away.

Towards half-time, Watt’s passing game deteriorated somewhat as the balance in the middle of the park became less evident. Empty spaces began to appear, making it hard for the players coming from the back to pick constructive passes. This situation continued after half-time and eventually Banji Koya turned to his substitutes, bringing Jackson Barker, Cammy Ross and Elliot Sutherland into the action. For the anxious Watt support, these substitutions seemed overdue, but in fact the first came on the hour mark and all three players were on the pitch with around twenty minutes left to play.

Ross’s clever footwork drew a foul just outside the penalty box and he took the kick himself, striking it well but missing the far post by inches. Set up by Neil Laurenson, Warner sent a close-range shot across goal and just past the other post. Then, with five minutes left to play, the unthinkable (but what we’d all been trying not to think about) happened. Rangers won perhaps their first corner of the match and when it came in from the left, it was well struck. Kieran Ainslie, left unmarked towards the far post, did what he has done so often before, rising to send a firm header back across goal and into the corner of the net.

In the remaining few minutes, Watt poured forward in desperation to equalise, but the better chances went to the home side on the break, Saunders making a fine double save to keep the deficit to one. The final action was at the other end, however, when Dowds turned his man on the right and swept the ball across the goalmouth from the by-line, but no Watt player had read the script and the ball was turned behind for a corner which produced nothing.

Tweedmouth Rangers:
Patterson, McLeod, Howard, K Ainslie, J Ainslie (Cromarty 83), Jackson, Rutherford (Dodd 80), McGregor, Coyle, Moore, Graham. Sub. not used: Cain.

Heriot-Watt University:
Saunders, Allison, Laurenson, Hutchison, Quinn, Forsyth, Warner, Higgins (Barker 60), Dowds, Lane (Sutherland 71), Walker (Ross 66). Sub. not used: Kerr.

Referee: Mr. Simon McLean (Edinburgh)

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Season 2016 – 2017: Match 4

East of Scotland Qualifying League – Section B 20th August 2016

HERIOT-WATT UNIVERSITY 1 STIRLING UNIVERSITY II 0

Paradoxically, it must be pleasing for a coach when the team plays poorly but wins. Without impeding the success of the side, it delivers a sobering lesson to players who may be starting to feel they can achieve success the easy way. Surely none of the Watt players involved in this match could have had any doubt that the form shown was well below that of other victories achieved so far this season and that only competent defending and some good saves by the goalkeeper kept them in a position to steal the points with a late winner.

In the first half, Watt showed only sporadically the stylish play that has brought rewards in previous games. Anton Dowds should perhaps have done better with an early chance, pulling his shot wide of the near post after being set up by a pass by Mark McGovern, but the visitors soon began to assert themselves, with crisper passing and more inventive movement creating moments of danger for the Watt defence.

Just after the half-hour, Stirling came close to scoring when David McCaughie made a good run across the home defence and sent in a fierce shot. Craig Saunders saved, diving to his right, but was unable to push the ball to safety in an area wide of the goal. The rebound went straight to David Collins and had his first touch been better, he would surely have scored. When the ball bounced away to Collins’ right, Saunders was quick to get back to his feet, get closer to the striker and spread himself, blocking the shot when it eventually came in.

Ten minutes later, the Watt had an even better chance at the end of one of the best home moves of the half. Harry Warner went away down the left and moved it inside. Dowds relayed it on to McGovern, in space in the middle of goal, but with the target at his mercy he shot straight at goalkeeper Sean Quinn.

We looked for improvement from the Watt after half-time, but it was Stirling who exerted an increasingly strong grip on the game. A drive by Gussie Dey gave the visiting supporters hope, but with Saunders covering his post, the ball found only the side net.

Cammy Ross, having replaced McGovern ten minutes into the second period, had a couple of free kicks on target, but neither had the power to trouble Quinn and it was to Stirling substitute Malcolm Burgess that the best chances of the second half fell.

The first of these arose from a simple move on the right and a low centre, which presented Burgess with a chance similar to the one given to McGowan in the first half. He dealt with it in exactly the same way: as Saunders stood tall, he saved above his head as Burgess fired the ball straight towards him.

Liam Hutchison came on for the last quarter of an hour in place of Dowds as Aidan Quinn moved forward into midfield, but Burgess had two more chances in quick succession. A lofted crossfield pass was just too high for Adam Woolven to reach with his head and Burgess, moving off to the left, drove the ball firmly towards the corner of goal, but Saunders, reading the situation correctly, made the save of the match, diving to turn the ball round the post.

Within a minute, Burgess was presented with yet another opportunity, a ball from the right making its way across the box to his position left of centre. He took careful aim and drove the ball back across goal, looking for the area inside the far post, but he got his angles completely wrong and the ball went well wide.

Greg Benson replaced Warner for the concluding phase of the match and was instrumental in winning a corner on the left. Following the kick, Ross came into possession on the edge of the box and tried an inventive flick for the top corner, but as Quinn scurried across his goal, the ball faded just past.

It looked like stalemate, but with Ross around, there is always the chance of something unexpected. With two minutes left to play, a long ball from defence by Max Allison was perfect for the run of Ross, who found himself up against the last defender. It looked as if he would outpace him and shoot with his right foot, but Ross cleverly cut across to find space on his left side and curled a controlled shot round Quinn for the winning goal.

Although in many ways this seemed an unmerited victory for Heriot-Watt, it must be said that the defence, which kept its second clean sheet in four games and has a miserly average of less than a goal a game conceded, again looked strong and compact. The midfield tended to play too narrowly and its passing wasn’t at its best, but will play better in other matches. The attack is still an area of the side which provokes much debate, but the enigmatic Cammy Ross is always a danger if he can be provided with the ammunition. There is no doubting his skill and if he can apply himself more consistently, he has the capability to succeed Chris Donnelly as the chief source of goals for the side.

Heriot-Watt University:
Saunders, Allison, Munro, Quinn, Woolven, Higgins, Warner (Benson 80), Forsyth, McGovern (Ross 54), Dowds (Hutchison 75), Smith. Subs. not used: Sellar, Walker.

Stirling University II:
Quinn, Greig, Mooney, Monro, Corrin, Robertson (Gilbert 46), McCaughie, McGuire (McKenzie 72), MacDonald, Collins (Burgess 65), Dey. Subs. not used: Shiells, Bernardo.

Referee: Mr. Paul Hanlon (Edinburgh)

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Season 2016 – 2017: Match 3

East of Scotland Qualifying Cup – First Round

13th August 2016

VALE OF LEITHEN 1 HERIOT-WATT UNIVERSITY 2

This was another excellent win for the developing Watt side, continuing its promising start to the season. A win at the ground of a Lowland League club is a notable achievement at any time for an East of Scotland team and this was an especially pleasing result for the young Watt squad.

From the start of the game, it was clear that the defence, which had played so well in the win over Tynecastle, would have to put in another good shift for anything to be achieved in this match – and how they responded to the challenge. Adam Woolven and Aidan Quinn have already established themselves as a formidable barrier in the pivotal area and they surpassed even the previous heights they had achieved in this outstanding performance. In the first two minutes of the game, Woolven made two vital intrusions to prevent dangerous moves from developing and this set the tone for a superb performance. Quinn also had a good first half, but he really came into his own in the second, dominating in the air and calm in possession; and on one occasion showed a willingness to assist the attack when given the space to drive forward. Quinn made two direct contributions to the victory during the second period: winning the penalty to enable Watt to open the scoring and covering behind his goalkeeper to make a match-winning block deep into stoppage time.

The central defenders were well supported by Scott Dargo and Scott Munro in the full-back positions and (a lapse for Vale’s goal excepted) by Craig Saunders in goal. Tigerish in the tackle and willing to move forward when the opportunity was there, the full-backs stayed full of determination to the end of the game and although the Watt defence ensured the Vale was limited to just a few shots on goal, Saunders made a superb save towards the end of the game to keep his side ahead.

There were no goals in the first half, but Watt would have gone in happy at the interval, having held Vale at bay for the most part and created just as many shooting chances as the home side. Max Allison fired just over in twelve minutes and later Jamie Forsyth (who it is delightful to report is quickly getting back towards his previous standards of fitness and effectiveness) had an effort from the edge of the box saved by Jamie Shiel in the home goal. Allison might have had a clear run on goal six minutes from half-time had he not been felled by James Elliot, but the Watt was unable to make the free kick count. For Vale, an angled shot by Matthew Underhill which was saved low at his post by Saunders was the best of their few attempts on goal during a half which must have puzzled the home management team.

The second half almost started badly for the Watt as Underhill broke clear and shot for the corner of the goal, but Saunders responded well, getting a touch on the ball to take it round the post. The corner was an inswinger and the goalkeeper had to be quick to grasp it as it curled in towards goal.

Two minutes later, Watt gained a free kick on the left and brought the big men up from the back as Dargo prepared to play the ball in. Surprisingly, the free kick didn’t get above waist-height, but this confused the Vale defenders, who failed to clear. Quinn collected and was about to shoot when he was taken down from behind, giving the referee a simple decision in the award of a penalty. Anton Dowds made an efficient job of giving Watt the lead, striking the ball firmly into the opposite corner from the one towards which Shiel was diving.

A minute later, Watt was in wonderland. A fine move down the right ended with Callum Smith bursting clear of the defence to fire past Shiel’s right hand and double the visitors’ lead.

Both sides made substitutions shortly after this, Harry Warner replacing Cammy Ross for the Watt and Kevin Motion replacing Ben McGregor for the Vale. Five minutes later, the tie was back in the melting pot. A simple cross from the left reached Saunders, but in trying to bring it down to catch on the bounce, the ’keeper seemed to get his angles wrong and he ended up depositing the ball at the feet of Underhill. The striker gratefully tapped it into goal to give the Watt a nervous half-hour to get through.

Watt might have restored their two-goal advantage six minutes later, when a free kick into the box from half-way was well judged by Neil Laurenson, who back-headed the ball past Shiel as he advanced from his goal, but there wasn’t enough pace on the ball to carry it into goal before a defender could reach it to turn it behind.

Saunders redeemed himself for his error a few minutes later, diving full-length to his right to punch the ball away for a throw when a cross-shot from the right was heading for the far corner of the goal. Watt was soaking up more and more pressure as the game neared its conclusion and Forsyth headed away from close to the line when a corner was curled in on the breeze.

One-time Watt favourite Robbie Manson had moved into the Vale midfield and he sent in a snap shot from the edge of the area which Saunders was able to palm away, but there were no other real concerns for the Watt defence until that incident well into stoppage time. Saunders had come well off his line towards the side of the penalty box but hadn’t reached the ball. It was played past him and was heading for the goal, but Quinn wasn’t about to accept a sad ending to the Watt’s show and recovered superbly to slide in and divert the ball behind.

Vale of Leithen:
Shiel, Manson (Lynch 84), Paterson, Boyes, Elliot, McGregor (Motion 54), Stevens, Stewart, Underhill (Scott-Mercer 69), Atkinson, McIntosh. Subs. not used: Common, McQueen.

Heriot-Watt University:
Saunders, Dargo, Munro, Woolven, Quinn, Forsyth, Smith (Sellar 66), Laurenson, Ross (Warner 54), Dowds, Allison (Walker 81). Subs. not used: Kerr, Hutchison.

Referee: Mr. Derek Crothers (Burnbank)

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Season 2016 – 2017: Match 2

East of Scotland Qualifying League – Section B

2nd August 2016

LEITH ATHLETIC 2 HERIOT-WATT UNIVERSITY 0

The excellent win against Tynecastle had left two players with injury problems which kept them out of the visit to the current champions: Scott Dargo, who had performed well until having to come off with a hamstring strain; and Greg Benson, one of the young players who have arrived at Riccarton from Currie Star this year through the Community Club pathway, and who gave us a glimpse of his exciting talent in a short substitute performance.

Also unavailable for other reasons were goalkeeper Alin Roman, strikers Chris Donnelly, Callum Smith and Chris Sellar and midfielder Anton Dowds. Joining the squad, we had Liam Walker, Mark McGovern and David Kerr.

The game could not have started worse for the Watt. A diagonal ball in the second minute of play put Taylor Black in behind Scott Munro and his cross to the far side of the goal was contested indecisively before a home forward played it into the air. It fell into the stride of the incoming Lewis Tracey and he volleyed it past Craig Saunders to put the home side ahead.

This was bad news against the champions, but the Watt players dug in and gradually began to get a toehold in the game. Despite some fairly intense pressure from the champions at times, the Watt defensive carapace was solid and Saunders had few other occasions in the first half to be involved.

Indeed, things might have improved for Watt with ten minutes of the half left. Neil Laurenson flighted a pass over the Athletic defence to find Ryan Higgins, who was making a run on the blind side of a defender. Higgins missed the ball as it dropped, but Kyle Fee, covering behind him, did not anticipate this and the ball rebounded from his leg past Neil Fairnie, slipping just past the goalkeeper’s right-hand post.

The second half started in exactly the same way as the first. Watt had returned to the fray with a determination to press Leith further up the pitch, but when the home side moved the ball to Scott Wilson on the left, too many of the visitors were left stranded too far up the field. Wilson’s low centre was deflected by John Ferguson at the near post and went in off the inside of the far post.

Saunders leaped high to his left ten minutes later to prevent Ferguson adding to his tally, but the hard-working Watt side confined their illustrious opponents to relatively few chances. The players worked just as hard to try to create opportunities of their own and although it must be admitted that genuine scoring chances were few in number, there were several good movements which only needed the final link to put a player through for a shot.

Substitute Fraser Wilson was a lively figure and showed good touch and pace for one who has yet to do much training this season. His excellent layoff set up an incisive move which broke down on the edge of the area. Then a fine ball by Higgins picked out Neil Robb on the left and he cut inside to lay a pass in front of the inrushing Jamie Forsyth, whose shot with the inside of the right foot just missed Fairnie’s left-hand post.

Robb epitomises the all-out effort which Banji Koya is drawing from his players and he did well to reach a bouncing ball and play it through the middle beyond the Leith defence, but the alert Fairnie was out to clear before Robb could reclaim the ball.

Adam Woolven, recently returned from a long injury lay-off, was in the wars during this game, taking several knocks, but he showed excellent positioning to close off the chance for a Leith forward who seemed to have found space for a shot. A loose pass across the Watt box almost gifted Athletic a goal shortly after this, but Saunders, who had claimed everything close to his goal during the second half, reacted superbly, advancing quickly to spread himself and form a barrier that the Leith striker could not pass.

Fears that the fit young Leith side, whose game on Saturday had been called off, would dominate the closing stages were unfounded and the Watt ended the game with some determined attacking football. Max Allison, who had steadily improved throughout the game, was a driving force, using his pace and making sharp interventions on the right which led to a corner for the Watt. When the ball was delivered to the back post area, two Watt players rose close to goal and seemed to impede each other. The ball went back across goal, where Liam Walker tried an overhead kick, but the ball slipped past.

All in all, this was a most encouraging display from a determined Watt side which was set on removing the stain left by the hammering suffered on the last visit to this ground.

Leith Athletic:
Fairnie, Black, Fee, Simpson, Glynn, Beaton, Tracey, Wilson, Ferguson, Allan, McKinlay. Subs. not used: Combe, Hainey, Kneeshaw, Mason, MacPherson, Craigie.

Heriot-Watt University:
Saunders, Allison, Munro, Quinn, Woolven, Lynch, Robb, Higgins, Warner, Forsyth, Laurenson. Sub. not used: Kerr.

Referee: Mr. Ryan Lee (Edinburgh)

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Season 2016 – 2017: Match 1

East of Scotland Qualifying League – Section B

30th July 2016

HERIOT-WATT UNIVERSITY 2 TYNECASTLE 0

The Qualifying League has not been fertile territory for Heriot-Watt in past seasons and as usual it was regarded by the Watt camp rather as an opportunity to work on preparations for the league programme ahead than as a chance to progress to the League Cup later in the season, but that view all changed with a fine win over highly-rated Tynecastle at Riccarton.

The foundation for the victory was a tight and composed display by the youthful back four, with 17-year-old Aidan Quinn particularly impressive on his debut alongside Adam Woolven in central defence. The pair have instantly struck up a good partnership and were ably supported by Scott Dargo and Scott Munro in the full-back positions and by good backtracking from the midfielders.

Watt enjoyed a good share of possession in the early stages, gaining a number of corners, from one of which Harry Warner headed the ball back across goal without finding a team-mate to knock it home. A good pass by Jamie Forsyth sent Chris Donnelly scampering away on the left, but although he brought the ball past Ryan Ferguson along the by-line, he was unable to pick out a cut-back target and the chance was lost.

Half-way through the first half, a lofted pass from Anton Dowds gave another chance to Donnelly as he moved off his marker to the right. His first touch on the dropping ball was excellent, setting up the chance to shoot, and he proceeded to take full advantage of the opportunity with an accurate drive high into the net.

The Watt remained comfortable in possession for the remainder of the half and went two goals ahead eight minutes after the interval. The goal was created by a fine move on the left at the end of which Munro found Warner on the touchline. Warner brought the ball back on to his right foot and put his cross right on the head of Donnelly at the near post. From the edge of the six-yard box, Donnelly would have expected to score, but Craig Cockburn blocked his firm header. It was to no avail for the visiting goalkeeper, though, as Neil Robb was in quickly to clip the rebound into goal.

Watt continued to look dangerous going forward and when, following a corner kick, Dargo received the ball twenty metres from goal, he improvised a chip pass which Dowds collected and crossed into the goalmouth. From close range, Warner headed firmly towards the corner of goal and when the ball was blocked, all the Watt players in the vicinity rose to claim for a handling offence, but the crowd in the penalty area obscured the view of spectators and the referee rejected the appeals.

A number of substitutions disrupted the flow of the game over the next period, but as it entered its final phase there was little change to the pattern of play, although Alin Roman was called upon to make a couple of saves, turning a shot from substitute Martyn Robinson round the post and diverting a drive from distance by Dean Crabbe over the bar.

Another young player made his debut in the last quarter of an hour, Greg Benson replacing Robb, with Warner switching to the right. In a sparkling cameo appearance, Benson showed skill, pace and composure, surely making certain that we will see him again before long.

Watt continued to seek a third goal to consolidate its position and Ryan Higgins tried a shot from twenty metres following a throw-in, but having seemed to get over the ball, he struck it high over the bar. No matter – Higgins had made his contribution with a good performance, protecting his defence with well-judged interventions and playing the ball out of the danger area simply and accurately.

In another attempt to seal the victory two minutes later, a break-out from the back gave possession to Donnelly around half-way. He shook off the attentions of his marker, sped down the left to reach the penalty area, then deceived the last defender to create a shooting chance on his left side. It would have been the perfect end to the game for the striker had he been on target, but his shot slipped past the post to the right of Cockburn.

Tynecastle had a chance to grab a goal back just after this when Louis Swanson was brought down as he approached the left side of the penalty area. Swanson took the free kick himself, but curled the ball past the near post.

Close to the end of the game there was a bizarre and unfortunate incident when Robinson was sent off for addressing an abusive remark to Donnelly.

Heriot-Watt University:
Roman, Dargo (Allison 71), Munro, Quinn, Woolven, Higgins, Robb (Benson 80), Forsyth, Donnelly, Dowds (Lynch 68), Warner. Subs. not used: Sellar, Smith, Saunders.

Tynecastle:
Cockburn, Ferguson, McIntyre, Cunnison (Muttitt 59), Leslie, Robertson (Robinson 68), Malcolm, Crabbe, Cowan (Greig 65), Manson, L Swanson. Subs. not used: Catlin.

Referee: Mr. Chris Newman (Linlithgow)