The Whitehill Welfare bandwagon rolls on after a 3-1 victory over Preston Athletic on a difficult playing surface at Ferguson Park.
The three points takes the Roswell outfit up to third in the Lowland League table and just a point off Stirling University – and this was their seventh consecutive win in an undefeated run that now stretches to 11 games.
However, it seemed likely the reigning East of Scotland champions were going to have to settle for a solitary point with less than five minutes remaining and the sides locked at 1-1 – an opinion voiced by home manager Mickey Lawson.
“It wasn’t pretty and it looked like it was going to be one of those days,” the Whitehill boss explained afterwards.
“Things have been falling into place quite nicely for us recently but we didn’t play as well as we can so we had to just batter away. To be honest we had two or three chances in the first five minutes and had we taken one of them then it may have been a different game.
“Sometimes you have to win ugly, but it’s another three points and it keeps our run going. The pitch was difficult too so we’re absolutely delighted with the win.”
Just as Lawson alluded to, the hosts created several opportunities in the first couple of minutes, Steven Manson’s shot being cleared off the line by Preston’s Brian Foster.
Wayne Sproule then almost capitalised on Keiran Dodd’s hesitancy in the heart of the visitors’ defence, catching out the No.4 to advance in on goal before seeing his shot tipped over by John Gilbertson, who was sent off after the final whistle for striking out at Wayne McIntosh, in the Preston goal.
The East Lothian outfit’s talisman Sean Martin was first to threaten the Whitehill goal when his glancing header from Mark Cherrie’s delivery from a free-kick was gathered by Bryan Young.
Martin was then aghast at not being credited with having given Preston the lead as his effort from ten yards came crashing back off the underside of the crossbar, the assistant referee on the far side adamant the ball had not crossed the line much to the striker’s disgust as he continued to argue his case.
McIntosh then headed into the arms of Gilbertson before a further effort from Sproule again needed to be tipped over with Gilbertson at full stretch. Martin, though, finally had cause for celebration when he opened the scoring for Preston after 37 minutes.
Robbie Arthur’s deep delivery into the Whitehill penalty area was headed back across goal by a towering Foster and there was an unmarked Martin to prod the ball in from close range. McIntosh then thundered an effort off Gilbertson’s crossbar before the club’s leading striker restored parity a minute before the interval.
Darran Thomson was adjudged to have tripped Manson en route to goal and McIntosh made no mistake from 12 yards.
The majority of the second half was a relatively low-key affair in comparison with the opening 45, the final five minutes, ultimately, proving to be decisive.
Whitehill’s Andy Martin had been a driving force all afternoon down the right hand side of play but it was from Manson’s cross this time around that McIntosh was picked out and the frontman wasted little time in volleying home into the bottom left corner to fire the hosts into a 2-1 lead.
With Preston throwing caution to the wind in search of an equaliser, they suffered a sucker punch in the final minute when Whitehill’s Danny Noon added a third, rolling the ball in from 25 yards with Gilbertson off his line.
The result left Preston manager David Bingham feeling hard done by that his side had failed to pick up at least a point for their endeavours.
He said: “We played as well as we have done in a long time so I think it was a wee bit harsh in the end.
“But it is what it is. I thought the penalty was really soft so I’m disappointed considering the effort they (the Preston players) put in and I thought we merited at least a point.” Looking ahead to his side’s Lowland League Cup last-four tie though, he added: “We’ve got a big semi-final on Saturday against Dalbeattie so we need to be ready for them.”
Whitehill Welfare: Young, Martin, Thom, Hall, Bruce, McGlashan (Dodds 76), Manson, Kidd, McIntosh, Noon, Sproule (McLaughlin 63). Subs: Quinn, McDiarmid, Cantley.
Preston Athletic: Gilbertson, Cherrie (Philp 54), Morrison, Dodd, Foster (Devlin 75), Moore, Stewart, Osborne, Martin, Arthur, Thomson. Subs: Pennycuick, Davidson, Shearer.