Chris Gray eyes treble as Musselburgh edge towards title
Musselburgh Athletic defender Chris Gray struck his first goal of the season as the Olivebank men edged closer to the Premier League title with a 4-2 East Lothian derby victory over Dunbar Athletic.
Burgh, who were relegated from the Super League last season, won’t return to the top flight next season, though, with their application to join the East of Scotland League set to be rubber-stamped this week.
Gray, who is potentially three games away from securing an East Region treble – winner’s medals for the Super League, Premier League and South Division – admits the fact they won’t get promoted is strange, but is looking forward to a move to the Seniors.
“We’re getting there now and we want to get it tied up as soon as possible,” said Gray, who has extended his current deal into next season.
“I want us to be playing when we win it, not waiting for Fauldhouse to drop points, so hopefully we can go and win it ourselves.
“We’ve got two tough games coming up against Haddington and Thornton, they are both decent sides so six points isn’t guaranteed.
“It takes the shine off a wee bit the fact we wouldn’t be going back up to the Super League [if we get promoted]. To win it would complete the set for me – it’s a big thing.
“It’s big for the club too. We’ve only lost once so far this season in the league and you can’t grumble at that, the boys have been brilliant.
“I don’t really know what to expect next season. We’re just sitting waiting at the moment. Hopefully it will be regionalised and we’ll be playing the local teams like Tranent and Bonnyrigg. That would make it a more interesting league.”
Calvin Shand’s Burgh came into the match aiming to preserve their unbeaten home record in the Premier League, while their near neighbours were looking to continue their unbeaten away run which extended back to August.
The visitors were the better side in the opening stages with veteran midfielder Chris King pulling the strings in the middle of the park while winger Darren Handling was always willing to get forward down the left.
Dunbar boss Geoff Jones must have been scratching his head, however, as his players somehow found themselves three goals down after just 22 minutes.
Jed Davie capitalised on a defensive mishap to slot home against the run of play on 13 minutes and Gray netted with a fine header soon after.
Burgh had looked rattled in the opening 15 minutes, but they soon notched a third as defender Chris Moffat let the ball slide underneath him, Ewan Ralton latched on to it and he cut the ball across for captain Matti King to slide in and poke home.
Dunbar were awarded a soft penalty on the half-hour mark when Handling went down under Brad Donaldson’s challenge at the back post and Chris King converted, despite goalkeeper Ally Adams getting a hand to it.
James Harley should have pulled another goal back for the visitors just three minutes later but, from King’s free-kick, he somehow missed the target from six yards out with his effort skewed wide.
Shand identified his side were losing the midfield battle in the first half and introduced Sean Murphy at the interval, with the former Leith Athletic man’s influence there for all to see as the hosts went on to control the second half.
Murphy set-up Ralton for the fourth with 15 minutes remaining, before Dunbar pulled another goal back with two minutes to play as Gray headed into his own net under pressure from Harley.
Dunbar boss Jones felt his side probably deserved a point and revealed his concerns for the club should the leagues be reconstructed as a result of other teams leaving for the East of Scotland league.
He said: “On the balance of play, I thought we were the better side in the first half. Our gameplan was going to plan, we looked very dangerous on the break, then we lost all momentum with a bad mistake.
“I think 4-2 is a little bit harsh on us. I think a draw would’ve been a fair result. Musselburgh have got good players and they are a bit more clinical than us.
“If we finish in the top six we might find ourselves in the Super League, but if we finish below that we might be back in the South Division if there is a reconstruction, which would be hard to take. If that’s the case, I would have to consider my position at the club – I’m not the guy who is going to go back to where we came for nothing. We’ve just got to finish the season strong.”
Musselburgh Athletic: Adams, Whyte, Gray, Donaldson, Lynch, Ralton, Davie, Myles (Moffat), Thomson (McDonald), MacDonald, King (Murphy).
Dunbar United: McCathie, Thomson, Tait, Ingram, Moffat, Harley, Kean, King (Chapman), McLaren (Motion), Ballantyne, Handling.