Preston Athletic turned in arguably their best performance of the season as they trounced Gala Fairydean Rovers 7-0 in Group A of the Lowland League Cup.
Despite not playing a competitive fixture in almost a month, Preston simply overpowered their opponents from the Borders who, in truth, were hugely disappointing for long spells of the match.
Striker Sean Martin spoke prior to Saturday’s encounter at the Pennypit about ensuring he and his team-mates delivered all three points and he played a significant role in doing so by netting a hat-trick.
“The team performance was pretty good but I feel I could have scored more than three,” Martin, 25, said. “But overall we’ve bounced back from losing down at Gala. I didn’t expect seven but I felt we had the chance to give them a doing! Hopefully this will give us the confidence to go on a good run and come out on top.”
It didn’t take long for the home side to find not only their rhythm but the lead when, after just three minutes, defender Brian Foster weaved in front of his opponent to head in Ross Elliot’s corner from six yards at the near post.
This set the tone for a disgruntled visiting contingent, backed by a modest support from the Borders which included none other than home-grown talent and former Hibs manager John Collins, who took his seat in the main stand.
Martin should have made it two shortly after, the striker able to capitalise on Craig McBride’s slip at the back, but his lobbed effort over goalkeeper John Dodds landed over the crossbar.
The visitors were devoid of ideas when, on the few occasions, they did manage to find the pass inside the Preston backline with Richard Ramsay and Foster, in particular, dealing with anything that came their way.
David Bonnar then foolishly impeded Martin in the penalty area and the player picked himself up and dusted himself down before sending a low drive into the bottom left corner from 12 yards.
Just three minutes later, Preston notched their third of the afternoon when terrific play down the right from Steven Philp was rewarded when his pinpoint cross was cleverly directed beyond Dodds and into the far corner from the head of Martin.
Philp then added his name to the scoresheet just four minutes later when Martin, this time, turned provider to repay the compliment for the No. 7 to turn his first-time shot over Dodds and into the back of the net for 4-0.
A deflated Gala side trudged off the park and into the away dressing room with no real expectations of overturning the score in the second half and such an outcome was confirmed when Paul Devlin converted from a tight angle via the left post on the hour mark for the home side’s fifth.
Martin then completed his hat-trick six minutes later when he raced onto Mark Stewart’s through ball and the No.9 showed terrific composure in placing an effort low into the bottom corner.
Ten minutes from time, Mark Cherrie jinked his way into the box and provided a clever finish for goal number seven to cement Preston’s biggest victory of the season.
Coach Stevie Adamson, who suffered a scare before Christmas when he collapsed during a training session and spent several weeks in hospital, looked a fresh face on the touchline and spoke of his delight in securing all three points – particularly in wake of the club’s 5-2 loss to Lothian Thistle Hutchison Vale in a friendly encounter last Tuesday. Adamson said: “I’m not 100 per cent but I’m definitely back on the mend. This is my first game since then so it’s good to be back.
“I’ll be honest I was slightly wary going into the game as we were really slow to start last Tuesday. We were expecting Gala to be up for it but it never proved that way and I don’t think they created a clear-cut chance. We were solid and kept our shape and have certainly put ourselves back in the mix for finishing top in the group.”
Preston Athletic: Pennycuick, Cherrie, O’Hara, Ramsay, Foster, Stewart, Philp (Morrison 63), Elliot, Martin, Devlin, Thomson. Sub: Gilbertson.
Gala Fairydean Rovers: Dodds, Inglis, McBride, Bonnar, Nicol (Hardie 27), Greene, McColm (Sutherland 71), Paliczka, S Noble, Fairburn (Jardine 56), Gibson. Subs: R Noble, Common.