Vale of Leithen 2
EOS PREMIER DIVISION
Dave Ryce reports from Victoria Park
NEW Vale manager Fraser Ogilvie got off to the best of starts with a win over the league leaders as Vale rediscovered their early-season form.
The new gaffer introduced former East Fife player Jack Blaikie to a squad missing seven players, but it wasn’t just about new faces, with the return of an old one proving significant as midfielder Scott Devlin made his first appearance in a month to notch the winning goal.
Quite often, the first match under a new manager inspires a revival of a side that have been under-performing. Right from the kick-off Vale looked a different team, with the sort of self-assurance that had been missing recently.
In an evenly matched first half, Spartans keeper Chris Flockhart blocked an early attempt by Andy Martin and although further chances fell to both sides, the opening 45 finished with the scoreline blank.
In the first minute of the second, Spartans went ahead with a superb strike as Gavin Malin wheeled to hit an unstoppable volley from just inside area.
It may sound odd to say that there was something pleasing about going behind but in comparison with recent games, there was. Not a single Vale head dropped and nobody lost their discipline – the Innerleithen side simply knuckled down and continued to play the football that had taken them behind the Spartans defence, in the belief that it would bring its reward – and in the 61st minute, it did.
Captain for the day Paul Greenhill stole possession in midfield and burst forward to slip a pass through to Jordan Hall. Spartans had retreated quickly and Hall’s centre was into a crowded goalmouth, where the ball bobbled around before Moffat forced a strike home.
Despite Vale being by now the better side and subjecting the Spartans defence to some severe pressure, they arguably would have settled for a draw at this point.
Not so comeback-man Devlin. With five minutes remaining, Vale were awarded a free kick a couple of yards outside the area. A quarter of an hour previously, the dead-ball specialist had disappointingly sent a chance from a similar distance against the Spartans wall, but this time Devlin went for accuracy over power and brilliantly curled the ball round the wall and beyond the despairing dive of Flockhart to find the net.
Vale of Leithen: C. Weir, S. Devlin, J. Blaikie, R. Miller, P. Greenhill, J. Lauder, W. Sproule, S. Radzynski, S. Moffat, J. Hall, A. Martin.