Tollcross Thistle maintained their challenge for the Premier 1 title as they cut leaders Edinburgh South Vics’ lead to 12 points in a 4-1 win over Fernieside.
Vics could only draw away to Newcraighall Leith Victoria on Saturday afternoon after an efficient Tollcross overcame Fernieside. Tollcross, who sit in fifth place, have four games in hand over the table-toppers and so have every chance of catching up.
In prime position however, are Heriot Vale, who sit in second spot and remain unbeaten in the league. Vale are just four points behind Vics, but they too have played four games less.
Tollcross and Fernieside both took time to settle in the harsh conditions at Saughton on Saturday. There was nothing to separate the sides until Tollcross were awarded a penalty in the 24th minute.
Striker Michael Yuill was tripped in the area as he was about to strike, and up stepped John Lawson who sent Fernieside goalkeeper Scott Walker – marking his return from injury – the wrong way.
Fernieside came close to a leveller shortly after when Gordon Wilson headed just over from a corner, an opportunity the tall defender should have done better with perhaps.
Fernieside were in control of possession as they looked for an equaliser, although they didn’t threaten Tollcross too much, who had centre-back Faron Gribben marshalling the hosts’ backline well.
They did break through the Tollcross rearguard ten minutes before half-time however. Liam Tomassi did well to shrug off the challenge from Tollcross’ John Diver, as the powerful midfielder strode down the left wing. Tomassi then fed Christopher Gordon whose shot from inside the box deflected off a defender and over the head of keeper John Nisbet.
The visitors were level for just five minutes though, as Lawson got his second of the match with a lovely strike from the edge of the box, placing a left-foot strike into the top corner via the junction of post and crossbar.
And it was 3-1 to Tollcross just two minutes later as they rushed into a two-goal lead ahead of the interval. Lawson was involved again as he sent a dangerous cross into the box which centre-back Gribben flung himself at to crash a header past Walker.
Fernieside might have hoped the break would give them some respite after Tollcross had left them flummoxed with a quick-fire double. The interval didn’t halt the home side at all however, as they made it four five minutes into the second-half.
Yuill’s shot was initially saved from Walker after the striker had found his way into the area. Walker couldn’t hold onto the strike though and Michael Robertson made him pay as he knocked in the rebound. Fernieside had chances to reduce the deficit, with the impressive Alisdair Anderson coming close twice in the second-half. His first effort brought the best out of Nisbet who pushed clear, before he pulled another shot just wide of the post.
Meanwhile, Premier 2 league leaders Lochend were held to a 3-3 draw away to Linlithgow Thistle, although they might feel it was a point gained rather than two points dropped after the home side had stormed into a two-goal lead at half-time.
Linlithgow started the brighter and found themselves a goal up on 15 minutes when Callum Heeps’ strike from 25 yards flew into the net.
Jamie McLean then doubled their lead against the title-chasers on 30 minutes with a great finish from 18 yards to complete a well worked passing move.
Lochend hadn’t showed up in the first-half and their unbeaten league record was under threat, however Scott Coventry pulled a goal back for the visitors with a header early in the second-half.
Linlithgow restored their two-goal advantage when a Mark McDade strike made it 3-1 against the run of play, as Lochend pushed for an equaliser.
Lochend rescued a point with two goals in the last half hour. Michael Smith got the first from the penalty spot, before Sean Lothian equalised when he found the top corner with a breathtaking effort from 30 yards out.
Elsewhere, The Spartans leapfrogged Sandys into seventh spot in Premier 1 as they took an important step in their bid to avoid relegation with a 1-0 home win against last year’s champions.
Eighteen year-old Mark Kustra was the hero for Spartans with a well taken second-half effort to move two points clear of Sandys, although they have played two games more than their opponents.
David Campbell broke clear down the right wing before crossing to the back post where Kustra met the ball first time to rattle into the net on 55 minutes.
Back from injury, and only on the field for 30 seconds, Spartans striker Andy Howett could have made the points safe with two strikes in quick succession, while Kieran Proven, making his debut since moving from Tollcross, had a good chance to double the lead.
Spartans had to withstand heavy pressure from Sandys in the final 15 minutes as the visitors pushed for an equaliser, but they found Spartans keeper Willie Turner in fine form.