Swain hard to beat as Thistle win

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Kevin SWAIN, the Lothian Thistle Hutchison Vale goalkeeper, put on a masterclass performance to deny the students of Edinburgh University and help earn his side three valuable points in the Central Taxis Premier Division.

The University, especially in the second half, pushed forward in numbers only to find Swain in terrific form and no matter what they tried he was equal to everything they fired at him. However, Lothian’s last line of defence was keen to praise the players in front of him when he said: “I was busy but as a team I felt that we played quite well. I don’t like taking the plaudits – it is a team game and our defence played particularly well.

“The University are very fit and kept coming at us. Overall, it was a great three points.”

The sides kicked off with both occupying spots in the bottom half of the table although the quality of football on show belied their lowly positions. The University started on the off with Jack Beacher and Dan Ward upsetting the Lothian rearguard but their final ball lacked penetration.

Cyrus Moosavi embarked on a run which saw him brush aside three defenders before hitting a 16 yard shot which was turned around the post by Swain at full stretch. The goalkeeper then bravely halted Calum Murray with a dive at the striker’s feet before he was beaten by Beacher but from a marginally offside position.

However, in a counter attack and slightly against the run of play, Paul Crawford was given time on the right to pass the ball to Craig Fell and the defender’s first-time shot from 18 yards took a slight deflection on its way into the net behind Mark Tait.

The goal gave Lothian renewed verve and energy and Craig Stewart, who had an excellent game wide on the left, cut inside to hit the side netting then Jamie Hawkins hit a long range effort over the bar. Joe Murray also had a first time volley which scraped the post.

The start of the second half saw the students up the tempo of the game and they almost equalised immediately when Calum Murray set up Moosavi but his weak shot from ten yards was easily held by Swain. A James Craigen shot was deflected wide then Murray had an effort which spiralled over the bar before Olli Vakalla, the University’s Finnish defender, hit the outside of the post with a ferocious drive. Beacher then had a 30 yard net-bound free kick tipped over by Swain before Moosavi missed the ball in front of an open goal. It was almost one-way traffic in favour of the students with Lothian content to soak up the pressure and hit on the counter attack.

Lothian substitute, Lloyd Dignan, hit a 25-yard free-kick inches wide of the target while, at the other end, Conor Regan lifted the ball over the bar from a good position. Swain then denied Stefan Ross and Mark Gair in quick succession before Lothian sealed their victory deep into stoppage time.

In a breakaway down the right Kenny Fisher picked out Dignan who calmly slotted the ball first time behind Tait from eight yards to ensure that all three points headed home with Lothian Thistle. Mark Lamb, the Lothian manager, said: “The result probably flattered us although I felt that we shaded the first half.

“The second half was definitely the University’s. However, credit to our guys for coming away from home and getting a clean sheet.”

Douglas Samuel, the University head coach, said: “In short, Kevin Swain has denied us a victory. He has made three or four fantastic saves, we’ve hit the post twice and in the second half we had 15 goal attempts while Lothian had two and one of them was a goal in the final minute when we were chasing the game.

“Our entire team was superb in the second half when we played at a higher tempo and got the ball forward quicker. We completely dominated the second 45 minutes so we are hugely disappointed not to take something but really pleased with the performance level.”

Edinburgh University: Tait, Thomson, Gair, Main, Vakalla, Irvine (Regan, 73), Ward, Murray, Moosavi, Craigen, Beacher (Ross, 82). Subs: McMaster, Cathcart.

Lothian Thistle: Swain, Fell, Stevenson, McDiarmid, Crawford, Wilkes, Fisher, Hawkins (Lynes, 47), Murray (McDonagh, 80), Reid (Dignan, 67), Stewart. Subs: Omara, Ali.

Referee: Michael Gill.