Penicuik Athletic title dedicated to tragic physio

Penicuik duo Dougie Cunnison and Ryan Gay with the Premier Division trophy. Pic: Jim Dick. Jeff Gray below
Penicuik duo Dougie Cunnison and Ryan Gay with the Premier Division trophy. Pic: Jim Dick. Jeff Gray below
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Penicuik manager Craig Meikle has dedicated their Premier League title triumph to former club physio Jeff Gray.

An emotional Meikle paid tribute to Gray, pictured right, who tragically suffered a heart-attack at a match earlier in September last year, revealing that his passing had inspired himself and his players to go on and win the league championship for him.

“Just after the game in the dressing-room we said a few words for Jeff and we had a moment in silence to think about him,” said Meikle. “I know there are a lot of players in there, myself included, who have had Jeff in their head the whole season and have let that drive them on to better things.

“We toasted him and we’ll dedicate the league win to him, which I think is fitting. It’s a great finish to a season after such tragedy which we have had to face.”

Penicuik came in to the match against second-placed Fauldhouse knowing a point would be enough to secure the league crown as the visitors were a point behind and had played two more games.

The home side had missed the chance to win the title on Wednesday night after falling to a 2-1 defeat at home to Jeanfield Swifts.

The early stages were befitting of such an important match, with both sides taking time to settle.

Fauldhouse were first to threaten after seven minutes when Mark Wilkins put Craig Chilton through with a flick over the home defence, but the striker rushed his shot and keeper Youssef Bejaoui held.

Penicuik striker Scott McCulloch flashed a strike across goal before Chilton tested Bejaoui from the edge of the box and the keeper had to get down well to stop at his near post.

An intriguing battle was starting to develop between McCulloch and visiting centre-back Jamie Gallagher with both competing well in the air.

And on 20 minutes a tussle between the two won Penicuik a penalty after McCulloch went down under a Gallagher challenge. Referee Evan Cairns pointed to the spot and captain Dougie Cunnison sent keeper Andrew Murphy the wrong way for the lead.

Fauldhouse responded well to going a goal down and forced Penicuik to defend for the remainder of the half.

A headed clearance from Cunnison presented Wilkins with a perfect opportunity to restore parity after the ball landed at his feet inside the box, but he failed to get his shot on target.

The visitors came closer after 38 minutes when midfielder Jason Deans brought out the best in Bejaoui after a brilliant run. Deans jinked his way into the box and fired towards Bejaoui’s bottom left corner, but the keeper threw out a hand to tip onto the post.

Deans hit the woodwork again three minutes later with a free-kick on the edge of the box which he cracked off the junction between post and bar, before Wilkins’ effort came off the underside of the bar.

McCulloch should have doubled Penicuik’s lead on 49 minutes when the ball broke to him eight yards out, but he miscued his shot when it seemed easier to score.

The hosts were looking more like themselves in the second-half, buoyed by their luck towards the end of the opening period and they made it two on 64 minutes.

McCulloch freed Ryan Gay who got the break of the ball in a 50-50 challenge on the edge of the box, and he directed his shot under Murphy before running off to celebrate.

Fauldhouse pulled a goal back nine minutes later after a Darrell Young foul in the box allowed Chilton to score from the penalty spot, but Penicuik’s title party wasn’t going to be postponed again.

Meikle felt it was the perfect way to be crowned champions, he said: “There is no better time to win a league championship than on a Saturday afternoon against your closest title rivals.

“I’m delighted for the boys. They have worked hard all season. We’ve had our ups and downs and it’s great to finish on a high.”

Penicuik: Bejaoui, Ross, Young, Cunnison, McDermott, Lister, Gay, Killin (Dickson), Montgomery, McPartlin, McCulloch (Millar).

Fauldhouse: Murphy, Smith, Ross, Gallagher, Fallon, Scott, Campbell, Deans, Donnelly, Wilkins, Chilton (Browne).