Heriot-Watt University 1
Preston Athletic 1
Phil HOBBINS was the Preston hero as the 37-year-old striker came off the substitutes’ bench and within four minutes had scored the goal which ensured the Prestonpans club promotion to the Central Taxis Premier Division.
The script could not have been written any better for the hit-man whose goals throughout his career with Spartans saw the Ainslie Park outfit lift numerous trophies and help knock-out SFL clubs in the Scottish Cup.
However, Hobbins admitted after this goal: “I’ve scored many an important goal in my career but there’s nothing more sweet than seeing the team I have been part of before I went to America for five years and for part of this season since Stevie Myatt [the previous Preston manager] asked me in January to come and help out, get promotion. There are certainly no more important goals than to score the goal that brings your club promotion. Preston Athletic are a Premier Division club and deserve to be there.”
It certainly was an important goal because at that stage Gala Fairydean, who were beating Ormiston 2-1, were in the promotion spot, not Preston.
“I went on to the pitch to add a bit more experience and get a hold of the ball so we could penetrate more,” added Hobbins. “I found myself at a corner in front of their goalkeeper and the ball just dropped. Fortunately it fell quite well and I just had to lash it over the line.”
Hobbins’ goal means Preston are promoted on goal difference along with Heriot-Watt who were crowned as the First Division champions after the game.
The contest started at a frantic pace with Preston enjoying the majority of the possession with Steve McCormack shooting over and Sean Martin hitting the side-netting. Heriot-Watt were dealt a hammer blow in only the eighth minute when Erik Thomson made a reckless tackle on Gary Kennedy at the half-way line and was shown an immediate red card in his last-ever game for the students in front of his mother who had flown down from the Shetland Isles to watch his final game.
The ten-men students, though, took the lead after 28 minutes when Preston defender Matt Costello was robbed in his own penalty box by Michael Connor. He slipped the ball to Mike Webster who dispatched a left-foot shot behind Shaun Thomson from 12 yards. At the other end McCormack brought out a magnificent save from Craig Saunders then Kennedy, with a long-range shot, hit the outside of the post.
The second half saw Preston maintain possession although the students defended stoically until the introduction of Hobbins. The wily striker pounced after a short corner involving Martin and John Kerr to send the Preston players, management and fans into ecstasy. Another Hobbins shot grazed the crossbar but, after the 90 minutes, both clubs were happy with the outcome.
Ian Houston, Preston’s interim manager along with Billy Byrne, said: “Promotion was achieved but probably not in the way we thought it would go. The arrival on the pitch of Phil was significant. Certainly for Preston, that was one of the most important goals he will ever score.”
Michael Renwick, the Heriot-Watt coach, said: “I enjoyed the game and the objective was to make Preston earn the point they needed and absolute full credit to them. I think that the best two teams in the First Division have been promoted.”
Heriot-Watt University: Saunders, Ferrie, Main, Travis, Forbes, R. Napier, Thomson, Muhsin, Connor (Paterson 61), B. Napier (Ewing 70), Webster (Spiller 69). Subs: Watson, Rae.
Preston Athletic: Thomson, Morrison, Kennedy, Costello, Scott, McGlashan, Innes (Cairnie 68), McColl, McCormack (Hobbins 68), Martin, Kerr. Subs: Fettes, Curran, Stewart.