East of Scotland: Penicuik brush off setbacks to extend lead
Penicuik Athletic boss Kevin Milne hailed his players' mental strength after they brushed aside their local rivals with striker Wayne McIntosh netting all four goals.
In what has been a testing period for the club after the departure of former manager Johnny Harvey to Berwick Rangers followed by the shock exit of three key players, Milne says it has only made his squad tougher as they extended their lead at the top of Conference A.
“From the outside it probably looks like it could [affected the players], but if anything, it has made us more determined to do better,” said Milne.
“It has galvanised the squad, things like this can make or break a team, and I think it has definitely made this team. I would say it has brought the boys closer together, they are lot stronger for it now.
“We’ve been hit with a lot of blows in the last couple of weeks, on and off the pitch. These are defining moments that can happen at any stage in the season and it’s all about responding, and the guys have responded in the perfect way.”
Penicuik had won their past ten matches in all competitions, while Star were unbeaten in their last 13, so many saw it as a toss-of-a-coin encounter.
Milne continued: “You come into these games and you don’t know what to expect, it’s a derby and emotions are running high; the game could go anyway really, but I think once we settled it looked like there was only going to be one winner.
“I think a lot of teams will maybe start to write us off a wee bit, just with what has happened the past couple of weeks, but we’ve brought in two quality players [Greg Page and Dean Crabbe from Tynecastle] and the guys already existing in the squad – it’s not just about two or three guys – it’s a whole team thing, so the mentality is still the same and they still want to play the same way. It just goes to show that we’ve got the depth in the squad to go and kick on from here.”
Losing their captain, Aaron Somerville, after just 12 minutes through a potentially serious ankle injury was a further body blow Penicuik could have done without.
They responded well, however, after a frantic start, with McIntosh burying his shot from the edge of the area past Star goalkeeper Kieron Renton after Sam Jones had played him in through on 37 minutes.
It was 2-0 just three minutes later, with McIntosh initially flicking on for substitute Lumbert Kateleza and feeding Arran Ponton who cut back for McIntosh to slide the ball home.
Star improved considerably after the break, with Kyle Lander introduced at the beginning of the second half to give striker George Hunter more support up front.
Veteran defender Wes Mitchell should have reduced the deficit for the visitors but he headed Dale O’Hara’s free-kick wide from point-blank range.
Penicuik left-back Ryan Baptie then came very close with a free-kick from 25 yards out which drifted just wide of the top corner.
Star were more competitive, but it took them until the 73rd minute to force home keeper Thomas Cordery into his first save, as he tipped over a dipping Steven Thomson effort.
The three points were wrapped up with 15 minutes remaining as McIntosh netted his fourth hat-trick of the season, lacing the ball into the back of the net from Scott McCrory-Irving’s delightful through ball.
Former Bonnyrigg Rose frontman McIntosh just loves scoring against Newtongrange, and he even found time for another, bagging his 24th of the season, when he tapped in from two yards out after Kateleza had cut the ball across goal.
Penicuik Athletic: Cordery, Caddow (Sproule), Baptie, Young, Page, Connolly, Somerville (Kateleza), Jones, McIntosh, McCrory-Irving (Crabbe), Ponton
Newtongrange Star: Renton, Swaney, Mitchell, Melvin, O’Hara, Hunter, Porteous, Thomson, Forster, Sclater, Richardson (Lander)