Bo’ness United manager Allan McGonigal felt his side would have come away with all three points had winger Nicky Walker not seen red early in the second half of this Super League clash.
Referee Evan Cairns showed no hesitation in flashing his red card at the Bo’ness midfielder after just two second-half minutes for his challenge on Penicuik’s Grant Killin, with the home winger forced off through injury as a result.
McGonigal believed it was a harsh decision, but felt his side should have had the match wrapped up before half-time as they lost ground in the race to regain their title.
“We created three or four great chances in the first half and how we came in at half-time still level, I’ll never know, because we were miles in front of them,” he said.
“Nicky being sent off changed the whole outlook of the game – on another day we probably would’ve won by two or three.
“Sometimes you’ve got to look at the person that’s involved in the sending-off. Is Nicky Walker that type of player? Never in a million years and that tells you everything.
“He went in to try and shield the ball and he stood on the boy’s foot. It’s not as if he went over the ball to initially hurt the boy. I wouldn’t have thought it was a sending-off.”
A large crowd was generous in answering Penicuik’s appeals for donations to two local foodbanks, but there was little in the way of reward for them on the pitch in a tousy opening period. Some fierce challenges, yes, but little in the way of quality football by either side.
The opening five minutes were an exception to the theme of the first-half, however. Bo’ness’s Ross Philp struck the bar inside the opening minute after getting the ball out from under his feet – the chance having come from Walker’s determination down the left.
Then home defender Scott McCulloch came close to giving his side the lead, but his header from Killin’s free kick was straight at visiting keeper Conor Wallace.
Killin was then cautioned for diving by referee Cairns after he went down under Colin Leiper’s challenge inside the box.
Bo’ness began to take the game to the home side – defender Ross Campbell coming close from a corner, before striker Mark Cowan fired over from the edge of the box from Walker’s cutback.
Centre-back Leiper, with two goals in his last two matches, looked set to add to his recent purple patch with a low strike from 25-yards, but Penicuik keeper Youssef Bejaoui turned it wide.
Killin was forced off at the beginning of the second half with Ryan Gay taking his place. Gay almost made an instant impact – his cross from the left finding Greg Ross, whose backward header hit the woodwork.
Penicuik came close again on 58 minutes through striker Ryan McCallum. His shot was blocked by Scott Pittman, but the ball ricocheted goalwards and Wallace had to be alert to gather.
Despite their numerical disadvantage, McGonigal was quite happy to stick with two forward players and a three-man midfield, while Penicuik boss Craig Meikle made changes in search of a winner.
The visitors came close to taking the lead on 82 minutes. Pittman, who has been impressive for the champions this season since making the move from Broxburn Athletic, raced forward on the counter from inside his own half. He played in substitute Kieran Anderson, but from the edge of the area, he sent his strike wide of the post.
The home side might have stolen all three points at the death, but Gay’s effort was straight at Wallace from 20 yards out.
Penicuik manager Craig Meikle was left disappointed with just a point as he felt his side dominated the second period. He said: “The sending-off changed the game and allowed us to dominate the half. I thought we created enough chances to get the win and I thought we were poor in front of goal.
“It shows how far the club has come, that we can stand in the dressing room and be disappointed with a draw at home to Bo’ness who have won the Super League several times in the last few years.”
Penicuik Athletic: Bejaoui, Cunnison, McDermott, McCulloch, White, Lister, Ross, Burrell (McPartlin), McCallum, Janczyk (Weir), Killin (Gay)
Bo’ness United: Wallace, Snowdon, Leiper, Murphy (Scott), Campbell (Sloan), Devine, Walker, Philp, Cowan (Anderson), Pittman, Donnelly