Craigroyston won the Central Taxis First Division and promotion after beating Leith Athletic 4-2 in a pulsating 90 minutes where emotions ran high in front of a large crowd at Spartans’ Ainslie Park.
Ross McNeil, the Craigroyston manager who stepped into the hot seat last year, said: “I’m delighted for the players and everybody connected with Craigroyston Football Club because it’s a great achievement getting into the Premier Division.”
In Craigroyston’s first attack Craig Anderson hit the post then he lobbed the ball on to the roof of the net before Stevie Moncur shot wide. Bryan Wilson claimed for a penalty before another Anderson effort was held by Ian Gordon who was by far the busier goalkeeper.
There was controversy in the 20th minute when Leith’s Jason Stevens took off on a solo run and was brought down by last defender Paul Greenhill. The match referee, Ralph Gordon, brandished a yellow card with the Leith players appealing for a harsher punishment.
Craigroyston took the lead midway through the first half when Wilson took off and volleyed a shot into the net via the post from the edge of the area.
Leith pressurised Craigroyston in the early part of the second half and deservedly equalised when a Stevens cross from the right was slipped into the net by Lewis Tracey. Leith then almost took the lead when Craig Hume hit the post but they were dealt a blow when Craigroyston immediately launched the ball to the other end of the park where John Dunn progressed behind Leith’s square defence to slip the ball behind Gordon with Leith claiming he was offside.
There were seven minutes left when Anderson went on another run and from the left he delicately lobbed Gordon to give Craigroyston a two-goal cushion. However, within a minute a volley from Hume brought Leith back into contention but they could not find an equaliser and, in stoppage time, Errol Douglas ran on to power the ball behind the exposed Gordon. Craigroyston finished the game with ten men after substitute Jordan Low was given two yellow cards within a minute.
McNeil added: “We are happy that we don’t have to go into our last game on Saturday needing points and it’s great to have the league title all wrapped up.”
Goalscorer Douglas, aged just 19, said: “Leith had beaten us four times previously this season but this game was the one that really counted as it meant that we won the league.”
Derek Riddel, the Leith manager, said: “That was really disappointing. We never played at all in the first half when we seemed to go direct for some reason. Our normal game is about getting the ball short and passing it but we didn’t do that. In the second half we played much better and got ourselves back in the game with a well worked goal and then we’ve lost a sucker punch although I thought that the Craigroyston player was offside.
“Similarly, with the third goal their player has tapped the ball in from almost on the goal-line. These big decisions did not go our way and have potentially cost us promotion.
“Craigroyston were far better than us in the first half and deserved everything they got. We are still in with a chance of promotion but we need Coldstream to drop points.”
Leith Athletic: Gordon, C Barrie, D Thom (Tulloch 69), Jack, Tainsh, Black, Tracey (Campbell 72), Cairns, Stevens, Hume, Hall. Subs: S Barrie, Lowson, L Thom.
Craigroyston: Burnside, Young, Campbell, Greenhill, Jeffrey, Anderson, Dunn, Ritchie, Douglas, Moncur (Low 72), Wilson (MacIntosh 70). Subs: Barbirou, McCormack, Addison.