Heriot Vale manager Ali Wilson praised his side’s encouraging performance after they held on to beat Tollcross Thistle 7-5 in an entertaining league encounter at Saughton.
“I think it’s without doubt the best we’ve played so far this season. Hopefully this will act as a springboard for us to move forward from here,” said the 65-year-old.
After a wining four trophies last season, the North Edinburgh outfit lost six players from their first teams over the summer which led to a slow start in the current campaign.
Wilson, however, remained optimistic: “It’s been a transitional period, in that we had lost some key players. We’ve brought some good guys in though and I think they’re beginning to gel. There’s some encouraging signs and it’s something to build on.”
After a feisty opening 20 minutes the game settled down with both sides creating chances in what had become an entertaining end-to-end contest.
Heriot, the visitors, scored the opening goal on the 25th minute and deservedly so. Scott Aitken took on his marker down the right wing before playing the ball back to Ryan D’Angelo on the edge of the area. The No. 9 hit an early shot which sneaked just inside the right-hand post past John Nisbet in the goal.
Tollcross aren’t a side lacking spirit, however, and didn’t take long to react. Michael Yuill was clipped in the box and the referee didn’t hesitate in awarding a penalty. Kyle Hay put the ball on the spot and sent the keeper the wrong way to level.
The hosts were then awarded their second penalty right on half-time. Peter Gilhooley was taken out just inside the area and the award caused uproar from the Heriot players and staff who claimed the ball had been won fairly. Hay took responsibility again and found the opposite corner this time to put his side 2-1 up at the break.
Incensed by the decision, Heriot came out fighting after half-time and pulled the scores level on the 50th minute. A route-one kick from the back found William Mitchell who broke clear of the Tollcross defence to half-volley in past the keeper.
The visitors continued to push bodies forward but it allowed Tollcross to take advantage on the counterattack. Adam Perry galloped forward before laying the ball off to Yuill and he struck a sweet left-footed effort powerfully into the bottom corner of the goal 3-2.
Then, out of nowhere, Heriot managed to score four goals in 20 minutes, leaving the Tollcross back four shell-shocked.
Murray Carnie levelled the scores to make it 3-3, before he and D’Angelo grabbed another. Aitken then outpaced his marker to slot in one on one for 6-3.
It was a ruthless spell and looked to have won Heriot the game. However, Tollcross had other ideas. They put their defensive woes to one side and kept fighting. In another twist they quickly scored twice to put themselves on the brink of a remarkable comeback.
Yuill struck a quickly taken free-kick in off the post to make it 6-4 before Perry burst into the area firing a low shot into the far corner.
Into stoppage time the hosts were increasingly desperate to take a point from the game. A free-kick on the edge of the box gave Hay the chance to score or set up a dramatic equaliser. With all ten of his team-mates including keeper Nisbet in the box the free-kick was fired narrowly over the bar.
Then, in an incredible finish, Christopher Scott in the Heriot goal hastily retrieved the ball and took the goalkick finding Aitken in acres of space unmarked upfield. With Nisbet nowhere to be seen the No. 19 had the simple task of passing the ball into an empty net.
Tollcross Thistle: John Nisbet, John Diver, Greig Hogarth, Graham Nisbet, Faron Gribben, Peter Gilhooley, Jack Richard Norman, Kyle Hay, Adam Perry, Michael Yuill, Gary White, Martin McCann, Keith Harper, Nick Perry, Danny Smith, Connor Kirkland.
Heriot Vale: Darren Aird, Scott Aitken, Rees Allen, Garry Bayne, Patrick Bonthrone, Murray Carnie, Ryan D’angelo, Paul Dunlop, Stuart Johnstone, Graeme Markham, William Mitchell, Stewart O’Neil, Adam Robertson, Marc Robertson, Christopher Scott