NORTH MERCHISTON VALE began life in the Lothian West league with a spirited 3-3 draw away to Craigroyston CYFC at Craigie Park.
After establishing a fourth minute lead through Grant Stuart, the hosts looked good value for the win when the No.9 added another minutes into the second half.
Vale looked down and out but two goals in the space of as many minutes from Fraser Seywright and Liam Thomas turned their fortunes around.
Despite their momentum, it was in fact Craigroyston who next altered the scores thanks to a pearler of a strike from range by Chris McLeod. Again however, Vale responded, this time thanks to a cool finish from Kevin Walker. With 15 minutes remaining they had the upper hand in what had been a highly entertaining encounter but both sides were happy to settle for a point a piece.
After suffering relegation last season the visitors set their sights on an immediate return to the Championship. However, they began their opening game in the worst possible fashion when Craigroyston struck early on. A defence-splitting pass from deep by Darren Harvey fell nicely to Stuart along the right and he cut inside and beat goalkeeper Darren Affleck at his near post to make it 1-0.
The referee awarded a penalty for handball minutes later but Stuart skewed the spot-kick just wide of the goal.
After a slow start, the incident struck some life into Merchiston and they began to claw themselves back into the game. They had a handful of chances in quick succession, the best of which was from a set piece. Marteinn Svavarsson delivered a free-kick from deep that fell kindly to Neil Rankin in behind the Craigroyston defence but he could only send an effort wide.
Rankin’s side really should have been on level terms as the referee blew for half-time, and shortly after the restart they were made to pay when the boys in red and white doubled their advantage. Again Harvey and McLeod combined when the former delivered the ball in from the left for the striker to steer in with his head at the back post.
Despite this, Merchiston stuck to their game plan and soon reaped the rewards for persistence with two quick-fire goals. First, Seywright fired in a penalty after Kevin Walker was hauled down in the area. Then, Alan Bannon played a well-weighted ball forward to Liam Thomas and he dinked an effort over the head of the goalkeeper to suddenly make it 2-2.
Craigie wasted no time in hitting back. From 25 yards out Chris McLeod took matters into his own hands when he whipped the ball into the top corner, leaving Darren Affleck with no chance for 3-2.
It was a goal worthy of winning any game of football but it wasn’t to prove the case on this occasion as Vale pulled level again. Thomas turned provider this time with a ball in from the right and Walker provided an acrobatic finish from five yards.
Come the end both sides were happy to settle with a draw in the league campaign’s curtain raiser.
Reflecting on the game, Vale coach Scott Newby praised his side’s character. “We showed promise and looked sharp, moving the ball around well and we dug deep to turn the game around. I’m disappointed not to win. We’ve got a cracking spirit in the dressing room here and there’s lots of promise for the season ahead.”
North Merchiston Vale: Callum Leslie, Darren Affleck, Colin McDougall, Marteinn Svavarsson, Ryan Stewart, Scott Gordon, Stephen Notman, Alan Bannon, Fraser Seywright, Liam Thomas, Luke Leiper, Martin Byrne, Simon Leslie, Neil Rankin, Kevin Walker.
Craigroyston CYFC: Stuart Scott, Darren Harvey, Jack Smith, Jonathan O’Keefe, Darren Boyle, Dale Peterson, Scott Lockhart, Grant Stuart, Chris McLeod, Douglas McGregor, Raymond Gerrard, Gary Ulke, Scott Williamson, Jordan Currie, Ryan Peterson.