Vale of Leithen1
Although we’re still at that stage of the season where grass is more prevalent than mud in the goalmouths, it’s hard not to imagine East Kilbride lifting the Lowland League trophy come the end of the season.
Make no mistake, EK are a bit more than just OK – watching the way the team kept their shape, closed their opponents down and attacked in numbers to devastating effect, you could only come to the conclusion that you were watching the eventual champions in action.
Despite the scoreline, Vale looked far from overrun and asked some searching questions of the visiting defence, with keeper Matt McGinley having an exceptional afternoon.
Kilby arrived little more than half-an-hour before kick off, having been snarled up in traffic heading for the Scotland v Italy rugby game at Murrayfield, but they had no such problems getting through the Vale defence, with Barry Russell threading a ball for striker Jack Smith to shoot under Vale keeper Andy McQueen and take the lead with just two minutes on the clock. Vale responded with James Guy teeing up Shaun Stevens, but McGinley produced a great save to deny the young forward. David Gallacher then embarked on a mazy run from midfield to put Guy clear on goal, but his powerful shot was met by another outstanding block by McGinley.
On the half-hour, Kilby doubled their lead, Russell and Smith combining again, and although McQueen got a hand to Smith’s drive, he couldn’t prevent it going in.
With five minutes of the half remaining, Smith notched his hat-trick, knocking Gavin Lachlan’s cross home.
Eight minutes into the second half, Vale had the consolation of scoring the best goal of the afternoon.
Liam McIntosh collected a ball out wide and, with everybody expecting a cross, hit a delightful shot into the far corner of the net.
Vale never gave up and a superb run by Guy into the area ended with him squaring for Ross Brady, but McGinley was again on hand to produce a brilliant stop.
A shame, because a second Vale goal would have made for an interesting final quarter of an hour, but in the event Kilby added to their lead as Smith nodded home his fourth in injury time.
The result, plus Edinburgh City’s loss at Stirling University meant that East Kilbride went top of the league, a position it’s clear they’ll take some shifting from.