Musselburgh Athletic missed out on the chance to remain at the top of the Super League table when Steven Thomson missed a 90th minute penalty, but manager Stevie McLeish wasn’t too downbeat about the final result.
In a fiercely competitive derby on a heavy surface, Burgh had the chance to nick all three points at the death after referee Scott Millar awarded a spot-kick but Thomson’s effort struck the juncture of post and crossbar before Brian Martin sent a header from the rebound over with the goal gaping.
McLeish, who guided Musselburgh to last season’s Junior Cup final, insisted a point for his ever-improving side – who had won their last seven league matches in a row – was a bonus given Penicuik had turned them over at Olivebank earlier in the season.
“When you get a penalty right at the end of the game you are expecting to maybe get a win, but maybe a draw was a fair result in the end,” he said. “They had chances [in the] second half and we had chances in the first half, it was a game of two halves. Maybe we should’ve sneaked it in the end, given we had the opportunity to. To come to somewhere like Penicuik who, like ourselves are flying in the league, and get a point is a bonus.”
After a poor start to the campaign stemming from the overhaul of playing staff after the Junior Cup final in June, Burgh looked a shadow of last season’s side. But, given time to gel, they have established themselves as a formidable outfit and McLeish is content with the progress they have made.
He said: “Since the summer we’ve really just come on leaps and bounds. I think the first month of the season was just too quick for us because we started that bit later, because we finished so late. We had to bring an entire squad in and I think they are starting to show they can really play. They can certainly compete and they are a force to be reckoned with again.
Debutant defender Jack Blaikie struck the bar with a header from Keith Lough’s corner kick after 17 minutes, the ball rebounding back to him for a second bite but Burgh keeper John Dodds tipped over.
Burgh’s front three of Sean Jamieson, Sean Paliczka and Thomson caused Penicuik all sorts of trouble in a dominant opening 40-minute spell, however, the home side nicked the opener ahead of the break.
Daryl Devlin picked up a loose ball midway inside the visiting half and threaded a neat ball through for Lewis Barr who composed himself before sliding a low strike under Dodds.
Penicuik could have made it two just minutes later after Lough picked out Greg Ross with a sweeping low ball across the face of the Burgh goal, the former Dunfermline man slid in at the back post but sent his effort off the post.
Thomson came mightily close to an equaliser after 59 minutes when he caught Paliczka’s cross from the left with the sweetest of volleys at the front post, but a mixture of Bejaoui and post denied him.
Penicuik’s big keeper rarely makes a mistake, but he didn’t cover himself in glory when attempting to punch away a corner on 61 minutes – the ball squirming out to Scott Swaney who sent a first-time effort into the net.
The home side put two up front in a bid to regain their lead as the match continued to swing from end to end, with more of a cup tie feel to it than an important league encounter.
Conor Thomson, making his debut for Penicuik after joining from Bonnyrigg Rose, came close with a cross-cum shot which dipped just wide of the far post, before Kevin Bracks curled an effort just wide of the top corner for Burgh.
There was late drama when Cuikie centre-back Blaikie was given a second yellow card after hauling down Paliczka in the box, but neither Thomson nor Martin could produce the required finish to steal all three points.
Penicuik Athletic: Bejaoui, Ross, McDermott, Blaikie, White (Thomson), Barr, Lough, Janczyk, McCallum, Devlin (Somerville), Lister (Gay).
Musselburgh Athletic: Dodds, Martin, Myles, Hamilton, Gibson, Jamieson, Thomson, Bracks, Swaney, McKenna (Davie), Paliczka.