Bathgate Thistle’s Under-15 side basked in end-of-season glory as they lifted their second successive Bob Malcolm League Cup.
A 2-1 win over Broxburn Athletic Colts in extra-time saw the trophy collected by Thistle captain Ross Powley after a draining 100 minutes of football.
Both teams put in phenomenal effort in searing heat Bathgate’s Creamery Park, resulting in a gripping finale to the 2015/16 campaign. In the end, Thistle’s resolve went deeper and they prevailed after a close and competitive encounter.
The match had started disastrously for the blues as left-back Leon Kay was forced off injured in the first minute. One of the team’s most consistent performers, he had to watch the remainder of the afternoon from the dugout. Jay Fordyce took his place and went on to deliver an imperious display.
Thistle moved ahead on 20 minutes when Darren Eardley’s free-kick rocketed past the Broxburn goalkeeper from 25 yards. Bathgate dominated at that stage, however they were pressed back before half-time.
Junior Rafferty’s header hit the crossbar and two saves by John Skeldon in the Thistle goal kept Colts out, but not for long. As red shirts poured forward, Colts midfielder Kevin McMaster capitalised on slack defending to volley a fine equaliser.
Bathgate increased the pace after the break and would have retaken the lead had another of Eardley’s raking free-kicks not crashed off the crossbar. In defence, Eardley, Fordyce, James Russell and Sean Byron were all in top form. Midfielders Powley, Sam Waddell, Dylan Anderson and Kieran O’Hanlon worked tirelessly to service forwards Elliot Kay, Bailey Flannigan and Billy Wight. Temperatures continued to rise as extra-time arrived.
The game remained tight, but Bathgate conjured a winning goal with only minutes left. Anderson drove forward to thread a pass to Flannigan. He cut inside and shaped to shoot but instead slipped the ball to Wight near the penalty spot. As the Thistle support held its collective breath, the winger took a touch and lashed an emphatic left-footed finish high into the net – a goal fit for any occasion.
There was a late cameo appearance by David McKeon – out injured for several weeks but desperate to play the final minutes of his team’s big day.
The full-time whistle sparked euphoric celebrations. Russell collected the man-of-the match award before Powley lifted the trophy, bringing a fitting end to a great season for Bathgate.