With the temperatures incomparable to last weekend, it was a return to grass pitch action after a brief and costly couple of weeks on the luxury of the Hallhill 3G. The pitch was heavy after another wet January week but otherwise conditions looked good as Dunbar entertained Bonnyrigg Rose Pumas for their first league encounter. The Pumas were looking for their first league win of the season, having had their win against Tranent Colts removed from the record books with the surprise news that the league division 3 winners from last season had withdrawn from the league.
For the first 5 minutes of the game both teams struggled to find a team-mate with the ball as the players adapted to the heavy underfoot conditions.There was a fair bit of aerial ping-pong with Pickles and Hall in the Dunbar defence comfortably dealing with the high ball.
The first chance of the match saw Twist break free down the left, and with Foggo a better option, unmarked in the box waiting for the cutback, he instead looked to pick out Renton at the back post. The ball took a bobble which accounted for the fact that Renton took a fresh air shot, letting the goal keeper off as the chance passed him by.
Over the next 15 minutes, Bonnyrigg belied their league position as they began to stroke the ball around with real assurance. Sure enough, with 10 minutes on the clock, the Dunbar defence headed the ball out the box but it was returned straight back in where the striker controlled and fired past keeper Purves who was defeated by a wicked bounce. The visitors had taken the lead.
This buoyed the visitors and they looked up for the challenge. On their next attack, the Bonnyrigg striker broke into the box. Pickles ran side by side with the striker and appeared to use his upper body in the right way as the striker bounced off the robust defender and fell to the ground. The referee adjudged that this was a foul and a penalty was awarded to the visitors. The Bonnyrigg player stepped forward and converted the penalty with confidence as the visitors surged into a 2 goal lead.
This served as a shock to the home side but such is their composure and maturity they appeared unflustered. Sure enough, from the kick off, Kinghorn took the ball on the halfway line and delivered a terrific through ball for Renton to chase. The striker collected and opted for the lob rather than a low shot past the keeper. The lob looked good as it cleared the keeper but the ball didn’t drop in time and it went over the bar.
For the first time in the match Dunbar began to play a bit of football with Foggo, Knox and Sutherland beginning to stamp their authority in the match. While the Pumas looked well-drilled and retained their shape well, Dunbar were restricted to long range efforts but for the first time in the match, they were enjoying possession with Ford and Hood pushing forward from full-back, and Kinghorn and Twist offered some freedom down the flanks.
Despite their patient play, it was 10 minutes to the interval before Dunbar reduced the deficit. It was take two with Kinghorn again delivering a great ball over the last defender and this time Renton fine tuning his lob to perfection as he volleyed over the helpless keeper with the home support grateful to see the ball drop under the bar and nestle into the back of the net.
Dunbar now looked dangerous, and their next attack saw the ball fall to Twist in the box – his effort was cleared on the line with some brave Pumas defending though.
Dunbar’s domination then saw a series of corners. From one such Renton delivery, Pickles and Twist rose the highest and the ball found its way into the net. It was difficult to tell exactly who had the last touch but Pickles looked to claim his first goal of the season with suspicions that it came off his back and into the net.
The Pumas were keen to see the half time whistle blow for some respite, but Knox had other ideas. He collected the ball from close on halfway and drove towards the box. Such was his determination, there only looked like one result and sure enough he burst past two defenders and retained composure to curl the ball past the keeper into the far corner of the net to allow Dunbar to take the lead for the first time in the match.
The Pumas had one last opportunity before the half time whistle blew. From the edge of the box, the striker blasted an effort which looked goal bound all the way but for the heroics of home keeper Purves. He turned in a world class save as he dived full stretch and retained sufficient hand strength to tip the effort over the bar. The referee decided that both teams deserved a break and blew for half time.
Half Time: Dunbar United Colts 3-2 Bonnyrigg Rose Pumas
Dunbar were forced into a re-shuffle at the break with Foggo complaining of a sore ankle. Cooper was brought on, having missed the last couple of games himself through injury.
Dunbar began the second half on the front foot this time and stretched their lead within a few minutes. From a throw from the right, Kinghorn came in from the left, controlled and turned inside the penalty box before stabbing home a toe poke into the corner of the net to give the home team some breathing space.
Knox looked hungry for a second goal and he was unlucky to see his first time half-volley from a corner go over the bar. Kinghorn as well was unlucky to see a top corner bound flashing drive from outside the box expertly tipped over by the Pumas stopper.
Dunbar were not having all their own way and Smillie and Pickles were anticipating and blocking everything that came their way. Mclean was introduced for the tiring Twist and he settled into the game well, forming the link between midfield and attack. Brunton also came in and took hold of the midfield, controlling the area and marshalling the players beside him.
The next chance fell to Renton, with Knox sending him through – he took the shot early but his effort was pulled wide of the target. Knox seemed to be involved in every Dunbar attack now and his battling run down the left and cross in to the box saw Mclean header over the bar as Dunbar forced the pressure.
Eventually, the Pumas resistance was worn down as Knox scored an outstanding individual effort. He collected the ball on the left of midfield, burst past his man, and beyond the full back. He cut in from the bye-line and as he waltzed into the box he unleashed a pile driver into the far top corner. Such was the accuracy in finding the postage stamp that the ball rocketed into the stanchion and stuck there. The Goalkeeper had to retrieve the ball wedged in the top corner stanchion – he could not have placed it better and the crowd showed their delight. This was the midfielder’s 16th goal of an increasingly impressive campaign, stretching ahead of his 11 goals he managed in his first 11-a-side campaign.
Dunbar had turned this game around and were now in control of the game. It was no surprise that the home side would score again, perhaps the bigger surprise was the goal-scorer. Over the last few weeks, Ford from right back has increased the attacking options Dunbar possesses, carefully judging when to push forward and linking well with his right winger.
He hasn’t scored a competitive 11-a-side goal, but when it came, it was worth waiting on. He gathered possession on the right, linked with Mclean who returned the pass and with the confidence of a man who looks like he scores these every single day, Ford struck the shot from 20 yards, sending the shot soaring over the helpless keeper into the roof of the net. The celebrations were slightly delayed as he slowly realised what he had just achieved.
At 6-2 Dunbar could relax although the Pumas were gifted a goal when the defenders were well-spread and an errant goal kick was delivered straight to the striker and he dispatched gratefully.
Dunbar added a 7th and again it was a well-worked goal. Brunton does what he does best, breaking up play before feeding Mclean. Mclean delayed the pass as he waited the arrival of the cavalry – Cooper obliged, making a lung-bursting run as Mclean put the ball through and Cooper slotted home. Hood was unlucky not to add his name to the score sheet when a cross from Renton found the lad at full stretch and he narrowly headed wide.
There was still time for both Smillie and Pickles to break from defence as the game became more open. Pickles defied any pre-match injury concerns and a tough morning’s work, with a great run from his penalty box into the opposition half, before being crudely brought to a halt. In a match where Bonnyrigg passed well, and retained their shape throughout, each Dunbar player shone at various times. The goals were of a high calibre but best for Dunbar was Ben Pickles who not only delivered his first goal of the season but was simply a rock at the heart of defence.
Dunbar continues their home run, the region making use of their superb pitches as they entertain league leaders Cavalry Park next weekend. Dunbar are the only side to have defeated the table-toppers this season who are sure to be up for revenge at the home of the Seasiders.
Full Time: Dunbar United Colts 7-3 Bonnyrigg Rose Pumas