BLACKRIDGE Vale of Craig took a step towards LEAFA Edinburgh West championship glory with a 2-1 victory over title rivals Heriot-Watt at Riccarton.
Windy conditions made passing football virtually impossible as both sides struggled to find their rhythm, but it was the visitors who emerged with all three points to leapfrog their opponents at the top of the table.
The West Lothian outfit have now moved two points clear at the summit but third-placed Silverknowes Vale are hot on their heels, six points adrift with three games in hand.
The home side started the brighter without offering too much pressure on the Blackridge goal but found themselves behind after 18 minutes.
Defender Alex Snoddy’s dived into a clumsy and unnecessary tackle on Jason Smith inside the area and James Robson made no mistake as he stepped up to send goalkeeper Stephen McCauley the wrong way from the spot.
Heriot-Watt should have restored parity moments later. A long free-kick into the opposition’s box was met by Calum Keenan, and his header back across goal set up Jamie Booth nicely, but he fired wide from two yards.
Keenan was proving inspirational as he tried to rally his team-mates back into contention and his strike from 25 yards wasn’t too far away as it cleared the crossbar.
The home side did grab an equaliser after 31 minutes when Matthew Wilson’s cross was turned into the back of the net by Booth’s well-placed header from an acute angle.
Blackridge’s Smith went in search of restoring his side’s lead after the break and his rasping drive from 20 yards brought out a good block from McCauley.
William Gardiner’s corner from the right was pounced on by defender Alan Watt but once again McCauley in the Watt goal was equal to the task.
The visitors then thought they had seized their advantage once again when goalscorer Robson bundled the ball over the line from two yards, but was adjudged to have infringed the Heriot-Watt No.1 in the process.
Keenan’s defence-splitting pass then put Craig Sutherland through on goal but the striker’s effort just curled the wrong side of the right-hand post as Watt tried to take a foothold of the game. The hosts were then awarded a penalty of their own when Booth was tripped by Blackridge goalkeeper Leonard Van-Nuil, but Nathan Gray couldn’t capitalise as his effort cannoned back off the right post.
Blackridge provided an immediate sucker punch by regaining the lead after a low cross from the left was easily dispatched by the unmarked Smith from a couple of yards out.
The visitors were then reduced to ten men when Van-Nuil was dismissed for handling the ball outside his area, preventing Heriot-Watt substitute Cieran Findley’s net-bound effort from squaring things up.
Watt had one final opportunity to snatch a point when Findley latched on to Elliot Sutherland’s pass, but once again the woodwork came to Blackridge’s rescue.
Blackridge coach Lenny Van-Nuil believes his side have the momentum going into the closing weeks of the season. He said: “Silverknowes are still on a good run but we’re quite confident and still have them to play. This was a massive result though and I think Heriot-Watt have been the best side we’ve played in the league. It was a right battle and we got a couple of breaks but we’ll take them as I think we have been due a bit of luck.”
Heriot-Watt: Stephen McCauley, David Hodges, Alex Snoddy, Matthew Wilson, Fraser McDonald, Michael Gallagher, Nathan Gray, Jamie Booth, Craig Sutherland, Ruaridh Cumming, Scott Danson, Cieran Findley, Lee Campbell, Stuart Goodman, Elliot Sutherland, Calum Keenan.
Blackridge Vale of Craig: Leonard Van-Nuil, Derek Campbell, Kevin Baillie, Greg Marshall, Alan Watt, William Gardiner, Jason Smith, James Robson, Craig Arthur, Scott McCrae, John Tait, Dylan Robertson, Scott Blanche, Stuart Wilson, Tommy Lees, Jordan Moffat.