LESS affected than most by winter’s widespread postponements, for the third time in recent weeks Dunbar United were the only local club in action on Saturday – their Scottish Junior Cup adventure ended in fourth-round disappointment in North Ayrshire, where Irvine Meadow ran out very comfortable 6-2 winners to bring the Seasiders’ seven-match unbeaten run to an end.

Haddington Athletic had also been due to travel west but their tie at Hurlford United was called off on Friday morning with Hurlford’s Blair Park pitch covered in several inches of snow. Musselburgh Athletic and Tranent Juniors’ Premier League derby at Olive Bank was among the last of Saturday morning’s casualties and, like the Hi Hi’s Ayrshire trip, has been rescheduled for this Saturday. Dunbar are back at New Countess Park, where they will contest league points with Tayport.


Musselburgh Athletic P

Tranent Juniors P

AFTER the lengthy saga surrounding their Scottish Junior Cup third-round tie at Hurlford United, eventually played four weeks behind schedule, Musselburgh had at least enjoyed the minor consolation of playing three scheduled fixtures in succession – their Ayrshire cup exit was followed by a home win over Whitburn Juniors which consolidated their position at the top of the Premier League table, then a fortnight ago came the shock of a first league defeat of the season at the hands of Kirriemuir Thistle.

The weather conditions forecast across the country meant widespread acceptance early in the week that the junior fixture card would once more be decimated, and in the event only five survived nationwide, but Olive Bank’s location allowed a glimmer of hope to those hoping to be involved on and off the field in the first league visit from another county team since as long ago as the 2004/05 season.

Tranent themselves hadn’t visited in a quest for points since Musselburgh escaped the old Division Two in 2000/01, but supporters only had to cast their mind back eight months to their last appearance in the Honest Toun, a Fife & Lothians Cup semi-final in which the Belters claimed victory when Matty Lynch put the shootout’s last penalty over the bar.

With no one required to travel any great distance, there was no grave hurry to have a decision made early on Saturday morning as to whether or not the game could go ahead – at most venues elsewhere snow and frost had put paid to any chance of football being played, but there were genuine hopes the sun might shine sufficiently to thaw Olive Bank’s frozen parts. The sun did shine but not enough to rescue the afternoon for those eager to be there – parts of the playing surface hadn’t seen sufficient light to bring about the required thaw and as the clock moved towards 11.30am the decision had to be taken by an inspecting referee to officially announce the postponement.

This week’s weather forecast being a little more encouraging, it’s hoped the game will go ahead on Saturday at the second time of asking. There should be a good crowd present for a derby throwing up a few questions, primarily whether Burgh can return immediately to winning ways after their Kirriemuir setback and if Tranent’s recent recruitment policy will pay immediate dividends.

Burgh boss Calvin Shand has added to his options by signing 20-year-old midfielder Kai Wilson – on the books of both Celtic and Hearts as a youth player, Wilson has represented Berwick Rangers, Stenhousemuir and Spartans since and spent time with Australian club Wagga City Wanderers. With the recent return of Jackie Myles also bolstering Burgh’s strength in depth, they look forward confidently to interesting challenges in the weeks and months ahead.


Musselburgh Athletic P

Tranent Juniors P

FRUSTRATION was once again the name of the game for all involved with Tranent at the weekend, as they saw their players condemned to yet another Saturday on the sidelines.

Only two fixtures have been fulfilled now over eight weeks but they can only hope for an upturn in the weather conditions.

With snow and ice impacting heavily across the country during the week, many games stood no chance at all but the Belters had hopes they might manage some long-awaited action, scheduled as they were to make the short journey to the Olive Bank home of opponents Musselburgh Athletic.

The venue’s proximity to the sea means it’s renowned as suffering relatively few postponements and all parties were agreed the pitch should be given as long as possible to recover from the frost embedded in the ground – Musselburgh officials and others spent time on Saturday morning taking whatever action they could to enhance the game’s prospects, but in the end a referee’s late-morning pitch inspection was a relatively straightforward procedure, with insufficient sunlight reaching some areas of the playing surface.

The local rivals try again ons Saturday to play their first league derby since 2000/01, with Tranent very much itching to get their 2018 up and running. Since their 5-1 home defeat at home to Dunbar United on the first Saturday of the year, manager Max Christie has recruited notable new faces in Ian Black, Jamie Devlin and Ryan McCallum, and Tranent’s regular followers look forward to seeing them play their part in hopefully improving on the current league position.

Musselburgh’s recent reversal at Kirriemuir Thistle robbed them of a little of their sheen of Premier League invincibility, although naturally they remain firm favourites for the title and a prompt return to the Superleague they exited last May – on the face of things this looks a real opportunity for the new-look Belters to try making a statement of intent.


Hurlford United P

Haddington Athletic P

ALONG with a great many others in Scottish football, the Hi Hi had their anticipation of their scheduled Saturday activities tempered by the all-too-likely reality they would in the end wind up inactive on account of the weather, an all-too-common scenario recently, with the previous week’s 3-2 Premier League win at Glenrothes their only competitive outing since November 25.

They were due to venture to the unfamiliar East Ayrshire home of Hurlford United, having reached the fourth round of the Scottish Junior Cup for the second successive season, and looked forward to the challenge posed by the competition’s 2014 winners when they crossed paths for the first time, but anyone with even the remotest interest in the week’s weather knew winter conditions severe enough to account for the majority of football matches were likely.

Word from opposition officials on Thursday evening consisted mainly of the message things weren’t looking good and notified their Haddington counterparts that Blair Park was set to be looked at on Friday morning. Pictures of the snow-covered pitch posted subsequent to the inspection sent the clearest of messages that there was absolutely no question of the tie going ahead and that recheduling for this Saturday would be required.

Provisional plans were already in place to play a friendly on Whittingehame Drive’s 4G surface at 11.30am on Saturday, the early kick-off allowing participants scope to attend afternoon matches elsewhere if they wished.

Once it became known the Hurlford trip was off, Hi Hi’s management confirmed Craigroyston as the opposition for their sixth outing on the artificial surface inside as many weeks – the Capital outfit, now in their third season in junior football, hadn’t been encountered since a pre-season friendly in 2012.

Under the co-management of 1990s Millfield midfielder Colin Tomassi, they harbour hopes of involvement in the South Division promotion race and, over the course of 90 largely forgettable minutes, showed themselves capably organised and certainly no pushovers – the only goal of the game, by far and away the highlight, came on 58 minutes from Paul Devlin when he cut in from the right not far off 30 yards out and created space for a shot which fairly flew into the top corner.

Other than that, notable incidents were scarce indeed – the Hi Hi enjoyed more possession and passed the ball about effectively enough at times but created little in the final third, a failing shared with the opposition.

The match served its primary purpose of keeping players as close to match fit as possible but these games are a long way removed from the intensity of competitive football and everyone involved at Millfield desires better conditions this week and hopefully fulfilment of their Scottish tie at Hurlford.

Unbeaten in 11 outings, the Hi Hi look to be up against it in their bid to extend the run but, given league rivals Musselburgh ran the Ayrshiremen close in contentious circumstances, it’s not necessarily beyond them to get a result. The last thing needed is an extended delay and the prospect of an increasing fixture backlog.

Like other managers, Haddington boss Joe Hamill is continually assessing his squad with an eye to the future and this week he confirmed the signing until the end of next season of 25-year-old striker Andrew Sinclair, well-known at Millfield having spent almost three years there over two stints since first joining from Musselburgh Athletic early in 2014. Sinclair returned home recently after six months spent working in Dubai and adds to Hamill’s options up front – though obviously not fully fit at this stage, he could come into contention for a place on the bench at Hurlford.


Irvine Meadow 6 Dunbar United 2

WHILE other clubs have had to deal with the dismay of repeated postponements this winter, Dunbar have been considerably more fortunate than most and their good fortune in that respect continued on Saturday with their Scottish Junior Cup fourth-round tie at Irvine Meadow one of just two to survive.

With the authorities late last week warning against unnecessary travel and the West Region’s organisational bodies imposing a blanket ban on domestic fixtures, there was no little wailing and gnashing of teeth in some quarters in the build-up to the tie but club officials weren’t among the complainants.

The Seasiders went into the game in good form, having negotiated seven fixtures unbeaten since losing a last-minute winner to Fauldhouse United in early November and, with Meadow having played just once since November 18, before which their campaign had largely not gone as they would have wished, it didn’t seem unreasonable to think Geoff Jones’ team could present problems to the Ayrshiremen.

Boss Jones recalled John Johnstone in goal in place of Liam McCathie, injured in the 3-1 win against Fauldhouse a week earlier, but otherwise his line-up was unsurprisingly unchanged. Latest loan recruit Jamie Chapman, a local boy currently captaining Berwick Rangers U20 development team and who had come off the bench against Fauldhouse, was ineligible having featured in Haddington Athletic’s second-round tie at Forfar Albion in October.

There was a good crowd present at kick-off inside Meadow Park, one of only five junior venues deemed fit to host football on the day, with many neutrals present. The hosts had overcome Dyce 2-0 a week earlier in Aberdeenshire in their third-round tie, finally played after seven postponements, and, shifting rapidly into high gear, they would have taken a very early lead were it not for Zach Szemis well-placed to clear shot off the line.

Dunbar’s first threat to the home goal came in the third minute, skipper Steven Tait bringing a good save from keeper Newman after Darren Handling forced his way into the box – some felt a penalty award would have been justified when he looked to have been brought down.

Played at a high tempo, the tie saw Meadow presenting problems down the left in particular but Handling was a threat for the visitors, who could have taken the lead in the 17th minute from his delivery but the ball eluded the incoming Dean Ballantyne by a matter of inches.

Four minutes later, Meadow took the lead, a cross from the left landing invitingly for Boyle, who evaded two defensive challenges before hitting a shot low past Johnstone.

Spurred on by their opener, Meadow exerted heavy pressure on the visitors’ defence for a lengthy spell, only poor finishing and solid Dunbar defending keeping them at bay. The Seasiders held out until the 37th minute when Darren Gillon’s attempted clearance fell at the feet of main Meadow threat Black, who didn’t hesitate in blasting the ball into the net.

By now, in the best traditions of Scottish Junior Cup ties, it was evident form and respective league positions were irrelevant – Meadow had their tails up and it looked as if it would take an almighty Dunbar effort to rescue the tie even before proceedings hit the halfway mark. Carnwath almost made it 3-0 in Meadow’s favour shortly before the end of the first half but saw his header come back off the post – the hosts had to be satisfied with a two-goal lead for their first 45 minutes’ effort.

The visitors changed their formation for the second half, with Szemis replaced by Chris King. Minutes after play resumed, Handling set up King to have a shot from the edge of the box but it was blocked by a home defender, a scene repeated not long afterwards but this time with a happy ending, the ball falling to Steven Tait, who made no mistake, reducing the deficit in some style.

Just five minutes later, though, Meadow restored their two-goal lead when Boyle – initially offside, thought the Dunbar-minded – turned his marker inside out before firing low past Johnstone. The referee’s decision to allow Boyle to play on infuriated experienced Dunbar midfielder Kevin Motion to the extent he was booked for his protests.

All Dunbar hope was largely lost when they went 4-1 down just four minutes on from conceding the third – from a corner the unmarked Miller headed in at the back post.

Damage limitation looked to be the Seasiders’ strategy now but on a bad day for their back division they conceded again on 66 minutes when, from another corner, Carson volleyed home. Boyle completed his hat-trick seven minutes later, capitalising on a Grant Thomson slip, and at this stage it didn’t look beyond Meadow to add to their six goals.

As it was, the tie’s final goal came from Ballantyne with nine minutes left, side-footing the ball into the net from a King cross. Sam Young fired just wide as Dunbar sought to give the scoreline a slightly more respectable look and a King free-kick brought a good save from home keeper Boyd but ultimately they were well beaten by opponents simply better on the day.

Attention returns this Saturday to the business of acquiring Premier League points, with Tayport paying their first league visit to New Countess Park. In Dunbar’s third game of the season they were 2-1 up late on at Tayport only to concede twice late on, a bitter lesson as they tried getting to grips with the second tier – things have picked up greatly since then and, with players eager to put Saturday’s disappointment behind them, they will relish the chance to leapfrog their visitors, who sit just one point above the Seasiders in the table having played one game fewer.