Vale of Leithen 2
SOUTH REGION CHALLENGE CUP
DAVE RYCE reports from Poltonhall
OUTSIDE of cup finals, the decision to move a Borders derby to Midlothian may seem strange, but this was a pragmatic one.
Already twice postponed, a week of heavy rain had left Victoria Park with no hope of hosting this cup tie and with fixtures piling up for both sides, the all-weather surface at Poltonhall offered the solution to get this game out of the way.
Although it meant underfoot conditions were ideal, that was to say nothing of the overhead ones, with an icy wind that literally howled across the venue, hitting the small band of hardy spectators like a rugby tackle from Lasswade RFC next door and ensuring that the game itself was no classic.
In the event, the misery of the weather was only matched by that of the Selkirk camp.
With victories over Tynecastle and Kelso United in the South Region Cup having offered the Souters some respite from an otherwise dispiriting season, they really found themselves up against it in this one.
Suspensions and unavailability of several players, combined with competition rules forbidding the use of trialists meant that Selkirk could only muster 10 players.
They kicked off into the wind and found themselves a goal down after just five minutes.
Vale’s Scott Devlin picked out a run by Andy Martin, who managed to stay onside and lift the ball over advancing keeper John Dodds and the ball seemed to take an age to roll inside the far post to give Vale another advantage.
Unfortunately for Selkirk, this was just setting the tone for a first half completely dominated by Vale, and they had Dodds to thank for the fact that the first 45 saw no further goals as he got down well to make stops from Jordan Hall and Liam McKenna, before a wind-assisted drive from Ryan McKenzie was superbly tipped over by the keeper.
At the other end, Vale keeper Chris Hill had seen little action, but at the start of the second period, Selkirk midfielder Ryan McManus forced his way into the penalty area and his attempt to guide the ball home was thwarted by Hill’s outstretched leg.
Despite the Souters now having the wind at their backs, this was only a temporary blip and the one-way traffic continued towards Dodds’ goal with Vale creating chance after chance, while Selkirk defended doggedly.
McKenzie slipped a ball through for Scott Moffat, whose shot flew inches past the upright, before a McKenna cross found Martin in front of goal, but his shot sailed over the bar and a Hall drive was gathered at the second attempt by Dodds.
While Vale couldn’t really have been described as ‘hanging on’ to their lead, there still remained the possibility that Selkirk could conjure up something against the run of play to force the game into extra time.
But three minutes from time, Vale’s two substitutes combined to assure their place in the next round when Jamie Lauder sent a ball across for John Ferguson, who composed himself before firing past Dodds from 10 yards out.
Vale of Leithen: C. Hill, S. Sproule, R. McKenzie, J. Paterson, P. Lee, P. Greenhill, L. McKenna, S. Devlin (J. Lauder 70), S. Moffat (J. Ferguson 66), A. Martin, J. Hall.
Selkirk: J. Dodds, L. Stephen, B. Milven, J. Higginbottom, Ross McManus, Ryan McManus, D. Battle, D. Burdett, W. Mercer, D. Boyne.