Hawick Royal Albert 2
East Kilbride 4
Everything at Albert Park on Saturday pointed to an East Kilbride victory.
High-flying Kilby are topping the table, have been scoring goals in abundance, conceding very few, and are red-hot favourites to become league champions.
On the other hand, Hawick Royal Albert had been struggling to get results and were deep down in the lower half of the Lowland League charts.
As expected, East Kilbride did gain the bragging rights. But, visiting Albert Park for the first time, they had to go all the way to gain full points.
A battling Albert side saw to this by digging in deep throughout and making things difficult for the visitors.
East Kilbride deserved their win and lived up to their status of being a quality outfit.
It was not until they managed a last-gasp goal, however, that they had three points in the bag to take home.
Matters opened at a brisk pace and Jack Smith squandered an opportunity to break the deadlock by shooting straight at Rankin when in the clear.
East Kilbride were doing the bulk of the attacking and duly opened the scoring. Smith made amends for his earlier miss with a top-notch goal, chipping a shot over Rankin’s head from 35 yards.
After McGinley did well to keep out a Ryan Stevenson long-range shot, East Kilbride went further in front.
Rankin made a hash of a clearance and the ball bounced into the path of Adam Strachan, who surged forward to square a pass to Sean Winter, who fired home.
Two minutes later the Albert got into the scoring act.
Morris beat McGinley with a glancing header on meeting a James McPartlin free kick.
Play continued to flow and the woodwork robbed East Kilbride of a third when a Strachan shot rebounded off the post.
Towards the interval, the two keepers excelled.
After Rankin did well to keep his goal intact with fine stops from Declan Hughes and Barry Russell early in the second period, Strachan stuck away a third for East Kilbride.
This could have marked the beginning of the end for the Albert. However, the hosts proved they still had plenty to offer in pulling a goal back.
James McPartlin floated a free kick into the goalmouth which found Thomas Crease.
The sub laid off a pass to Morris and the Albert’s top scorer rifled away a shot for his 22nd goal of the season.
Throwing caution to the wind, Royalists started to go all-out for an equaliser by changing their formation.
East Kilbride, however, held firm and with seconds remaining, put the issue beyond doubt.
In a breakaway raid, Gavin Miller broke clear to thunder a shot against the bar and Winter was on hand to stab the rebound into the net.
Summing up the game, Albert right back Ryan Stevenson said, “We were the outsiders. Nobody really gave us a chance as East Kilbride are a very, very good side who are running away with the league. However, we gave them a game. We were on the back foot for long spells but we defended well. Everybody battled and it was a good team performance and we might have stolen a draw at the end, which would have been a brilliant result for us.”
Hawick Royal Albert: K. Rankin, R. Stevenson, S. Spence, S. Conaghan, A. Sonkur, S. Meikle, G. Pettigrew, J. McPartlin, J. Morris, K. Mitchell, H. Hunter. Subs: T. Crease, T. Aitchison, D. Johnson, E. Robertson (Gk).