Bo’ness ran an injury-ravaged Broxburn ragged, winning 6-1 and closing the gap at the top of the Super League to seven points with a vital three games in hand over leaders Newtongrange who were on Scottish Junior Cup duty.
Bo’ness are third, one point behind Linlithgow Rose, who were also involved in the Junior Cup.
For Bo’ness boss Alan McGonigal, the match not only worked out as planned, but kindled belief that this could be a title-winning season for them, especially if Darren Gribben maintains the kind of form that helped him notch a hat-trick in this match.
McGonigal said: “It was important that we won to keep the pressure on the teams above us and we did that. However, if you have players like Darren Gribben in your line up it makes it so much easier. Every time he was on the ball there was danger for Broxburn. The first time he was here, we won the title and the signs are looking good for a repeat.”
Bo’ness won this game comfortably enough but it was Gribben who caught the eye. He, as McGonigal said, was a constant threat to the Broxburn defence. He may not play as consistently well as this throughout the whole campaign but, when he’s on this form, titles can be won. McGonigal’s challenge is to get this type of performance from him week in week out.
Broxburn were always going to find it hard to get a result because of their horrendous injury list. Eight first team players were absent, giving boss Steve Pittman a huge headache.
They started the game well with Scott Pittman continuing to impress, but Bo’ness opened the scoring. Nicky Walker collected a loose ball out wide right, shuffled his way down the line before passing into Gribben on the 18 yard line. His first-time effort took a slight deflection on its way into the net after 20 minutes.
They doubled their lead two minutes later with a simple goal. A Robert Sloan corner from the right found the head of Chris Donnelly who scored easily.
Broxburn came out for the second half more determined and Steven Brisbane had a header just wide of the post with the keeper beaten. A goal then and the game could have had a different finish, but experience told and it was Bo’ness who grabbed the goal.
Gribben was fouled just outside the box in the 50th minute, and he scored the resultant free kick with the aid of a deflection. Another couple of minutes later and they scored again. Nicky Walker chased a ball out wide on the right, wriggled his way down the byeline before drilling a low ball to Zander Miller who side footed home from two yards.
Then, with 15 minutes to go, Gribben scored his third with a wonder solo effort. He collected the ball just inside the Broxburn half leaving the defence trailing. He turned his marker just inside the box before sliding the ball wide of the keeper for a sublime goal.
Broxburn were still trying hard to get their name on the score sheet and only five minutes later they did. A short free kick was played out to Alan Mooney some 30 yards out on the left. He stepped forward and sent a looping volley into the net with the keeper scrambling to get a hand to it.
Bo’ness finished the scoring with five minutes to go. Gribben took a short corner back to himself before sending over a cross for Zander Miller to glance a header into the net.
A comfortable win for Bo’ness with Broxburn struggling to field a side but its three points closer to the leaders for McGonigal’s men and that was the target on Saturday.
Alan McGonigal was full of praise for his players. “To win six one is fantastic for any side. Some really good performances from us, Darren in particular. On his day he is unplayable, the problem is to keep him on this form. He keeps popping up with vital goals and it augurs well for the rest of the season. Overall though we have to be pleased with the result and the way we went about our business. The aim was to close the gap at the top and we did that.”
Broxburn boss Steve Pittman was a dejected man afterwards, saying: “That was sore to take because we started well. The mistakes we made were purely inexperience. The youngsters will have learned a lesson. If we had a bigger squad we would have done better but with so many out we just have to deal with it. We were punished but hopefully the young lads will be better for it.”
Gribben said: “I know we won the title the first time I was here and if we can keep clear of injuries we could do the same again. It’s really enjoyable her just now and if we keep winning then we have a chance in everything.”
Bo’ness: Peat, Miller, Devine, Murphy, Hunter, Nimmo, Walker, Sloan, A Scott, Donnelly, Gribben. Subs: Connolly, Hislop, Jaconelli, C Scott, Wallace.
Broxburn: Flockhart, Locke, Gibson, Mooney, McGurk, Manson, Nimmo, Morrison, Keast, Pittman, Brisbane. Subs: Martindale, Paterson, Duggan, Maley.