Hawick Royal Albert 4, Cumbernauld Colts 3
There was a double cause for celebration at the end of this Lowland League encounter at Albert Park.
For, apart from chalking up their first home win of the year, Hawick Royal Albert registered their first victory under the wing of recently-appointed managerial team, Kevin Milne and Grant Scott.
Following a run of dismal results, the Albert gave their best performance for some time in what turned out to be an entertaining clash and, in doing so, grabbed three points that helped ease their relegation concerns.
Afterwards, assistant manager Grant Scott said: “It’s a bit of a relief for Kevin and myself to get our first win with Hawick. Our guys were positive and direct throughout the game and they got their rewards.”
Hawick got off to a dream start by opening the scoring with just two minutes gone.
Kris Mitchell beat Colts keeper Chris Fahey with a header after meeting a well-flighted Hamish Hunter cross.
Minutes later, Hunter sprayed a pass to the feet of Josh Morris, who shook off two challenges before rattling in a shot that Fahey did well to block.
Cumbernauld came rallying back and were denied a goal by the woodwork when Sean Brown headed a Jonathan Black cross against the upright.
Fahey then prevented the Albert from going further ahead by tipping a rasping Jon McInally free kick over the bar.
Showing plenty of commitment and drive, Royalists kept their foot on the gas and, following good play involving Ryan Stevenson and Mitchell, Daryl Johnson had a shot kept out by Fahey.
After Jamie Broadfoot had squandered a chance to level the scores, a slick passing move involving O’Neil and Daniel McFarlane ended in Broadfoot having a well-struck effort blocked by Shaun Spence.
Within minutes, recent Hawick signing David McKenzie almost got his first goal for the club with a cross-cum-shot that hit the bar.
In the 42 nd minute Cumbernauld equalised after the home men had lost possession in midfield. Craig Murray broke upfield and whipped a low cross over the face of the goalmouth which was stuck away by Black.
A minute into the second period, Black dented the home defence by cutting in from the left to rattle in a shot that Albert number one Andy Jack diverted away with an outstretched leg.
Royalists replied with a spell of pressure that brought about a goal in the 53rd minute, when Morris found the top corner of the net with a thundering angled drive.
In the 66th minute, the visitors got on a level pegging when substitute Jeff Fergus blasted home a cross from the left.
The action continued to flow and Colts hit the woodwork for a second time when O’Neil drove a Brown cross against the bar.
Following some end to end play, the Albert regained their lead in the 74th minute. Latching on to a McInally pass, Hunter produced a spot-on finish in leaving Fahey helpless with a sweetly-hit shot from a difficult angle.
Spurred on by this, the Albert soon added to their tally – Hunter notched his second goal in a matter of minutes by polishing off a move he had sparked off himself.
Time was running out but the game was far from over and, in the 87th minute, Cumbernauld reduced the leeway through a well-taken counter from O’Neil, who chipped a shot over the head of Jack.
Seconds from the finish, Brown fluffed a golden opportunity to square matters up in missing an easy opportunity.
Albert striker Josh Morris, who notched his 26th goal of the season, later commented: “It was a close game but we deserved our win and it has been coming for a while. Everybody fought hard for each other and it was a good team performance. Getting three points is a big bonus, as we were in real need of them.”
Hawick Royal Albert – A. Jack, R. Stevenson, S. Spence, S. Conaghan, D. Johnson, J. McPartlin, H. Hunter, J. McInally, J. Morris, K. Mitchell, D. McKenzie. Subs: Y. Bernawi, S. Campbell, D. Aitkin.