Longniddry Villa Blues travelled to Dalkeith to play Newtongrange Star, a team similar to us who have picked up a few wins so far this campaign and sit mid-table, with ambitions to push higher up the league.
The conditions for this game right up until kick off where cold but crisp and dry, having looked at recent results I felt we had a very good chance of coming away with all 3 points from this game if the Villa boys could show the same aggression and determination as last week. Being narrowly edged out in a 9 goal thriller by St Bernard’s should give them great confidence in terms of the performance they put on.
Despite all best efforts once again I had to rely in Hamish to take on the role of goalkeeper, A late injury to midfielder Martin left me with only 11 men, and with one player running late I had no room for manoeuvre with team selection. I decided to shuffle the selection a little, arranging my forward players to try and test players in a few different positions, pulling Ross in from left wing to play centre pushing jack up from attacking mid to play as striker. Ben from striker to try and used his blistering pace to exploit the space on the wings – would it back fire? Only time would tell.
As the players gathered just before the 11am kick off, everyone lined up around the centre circle and a minuets silence was observed impeccably as this generation of youth showed respect for the many who had fallen and remember the sacrifices made.
The game kicked off with my plain and simple words ringing in their ears. “Get the ball down and play, don’t be scared to make a pass”. As always my fears of not having the luxury of a substitute or even a recognised goalkeeper were in the back of my mind.
The cold was biting and the wind picking up a little but both sides tried to play some football as Villa began to push forward. On more than one occasion we just could not get the rub of the green as a few though balls and probing passes were just being cut out, but only just!
Jack in his new position as striker was causing the Newtongrange defence some major trouble as his pestering style of play was forcing the home side to run in circles trying to catch him. One shot from just outside the box was on target at least, and was safely gathered by their keeper, but the signs were promising.
The break through finally came midway through the half as Jack collected the ball on the edge of the penalty area. His first touch to keep the ball in the air was superb, and from just inside the box he smashed an unstoppable volley into the roof of the net . A huge cheer came from the away support including mainly myself as a combination of excitement, joy, and relief poured over me. What a finish Jack!
A few more half chances popped up, but again for some reason the Villa boys were lacking that determination to chase a loose ball, which lead to potential chances not being taken up.
Then with utter disbelief, I watch as a scramble in the box lead to the ball breaking to one my Villa boys. I was just about in celebration mode as the ball trundled along the 6 yard line, and with nobody to beat, 2-0 was on the cards. Contact was made with the ball, but it looped over the crossbar! What? Really? No way! Somehow the ball managed to miss the target completely. "It was my weaker right foot Brian". Oh well, I will let you off then.
Half Time: Newtongrange Star 0-1 Longniddry Villa Blues
As the second half began, a few positional changes were needed, and Villa started brightly in the first couple of minutes, but within 5 minutes of the restart the wind had really picked up. What followed however cannot be blamed on the wind as the Villa players lost not only their lead but also their ability to tackle. As with the St Bernard’s game, a lack of willingness to put the foot on the ball or at least put in an honest tackle seen Newtongrange almost walk through the midfield to equaliser, and poor Hamish was left almost as exposed as everyone on the side lines as the striker could not believe his luck. A good finish nonetheless, taking nothing away from the striker. 1-1 now.
It was deja-vu all over again and with the wind acting like a 12 man, it was becoming more and more difficult to clear our lines at the back, and Hamish was struggling to clear the penalty area with goal kicks. By this point I was getting grey hair and frost bite, and Newtongrange were now growing in confidence, using the wind to their advantage and pushing for a winner.
The resilience of Villa soon faltered, and Newtongrange took the lead. A scuffed clearance fell to the feet of their striker, and a sweet volley flew past helpless little Hamish and into the top corner.
Everyone could feel the confidence seep out the players as the high winds dropped so did any and all belief from the villa players. An injury to the right back Gregor forced him off with Murray, a late half time arrival, popping on for the last 10mins or so but it was not to be.
As the cold seeped into the bones of everyone there was a small part of me was glad to hear the final whistle , although the team talk at the end was as cold and biting as the wind. Being on the wrong end of the result is never easy to take but the manner and the drop of performance in the second have was disappointing.Having said that, I cannot take anything away from our gracious hosts they never stopped battling right up to the final whistle and deserved all 3 points. A harsh lesson for our Villa boys.
Full Time: Newtongrange Star 2-1 Longniddry Villa Blues