PRESTON ATHLETIC assistant Bob Baillie lamented a second-half collapse from his side as they suffered a 6-0 defeat in Saturday’s Lowland League Cup semi-final against East Kilbride.
A blitz of goals after half-time saw Gavin Lachlan (2), Harry Mitchell, Joao Victoria and Liam Gormley book a final spot for EK and ensured a miserable afternoon for Preston.
Baillie was disappointed with a second half display that was in contrast to the first. “First half we did really well,” he said. “We battled well and it was close and it could have gone either way. Second half, obviously we’re short on numbers and Scott Gibson’s playing with an injury. They scored the first, got the penalty and the heads went down from there. It was night and day from the first half – we got carved open and just gave up I think, which is hard to take because at half time I thought we were going to take them all he way.”
Paul Devlin was playing as Preston’s lone striker and was unlucky with a header on six minutes, getting too much height on it after meeting Ryan Strachan’s cross from the left. EK’s top scorer Joao Victoria then sent a vicious free kick just wide of Sean Brennan’s left hand post after he’d been fouled right on the edge of the area.
Scott Devlin was closest to opening the scoring on 24 minutes, sending a curling effort just wide of the top corner after Taylor Aitchison’s lay-off. Brennan was then at full stretch to keep out Harry Mitchell’s header from Coll’s corner. Coll himself then sent a dipping effort across goal five minutes before the break.
The hosts were ahead just a minute into the second half. Brennan stood up well to save from Anthony Brady when through on goal, but the rebound fell perfectly for Gavin Lachlan, who had the simplest of tasks to stroke the ball into the empty net. Marc Templeton then spurned a golden chance to make it two just four minutes later, somehow missing the target from three yards following Brady’s cutback.
Preston almost levelled shortly after through Paul Devlin, who was unfortunate to see his volley blocked en route to goal. Strachan did well to create space for himself on the edge of the area but his shot lacked the power to trouble Craig Gordon.
EK immediately doubled their advantage in bizarre circumstances on 54 minutes. Brennan produced an excellent save from Mitchell’s powerful volley, only for the ball to spin high into the air before the backspin took it into the back of the net after bouncing on the line.
Their spot in the final was assured just two minutes later thanks to wonderful goal from Victoria, sending a curling right-footed effort into the top corner from the edge of the area.
Lachlan almost made it four just be for the hour, crashing an angled drive off the cross bar with Brennan beaten. Devlin should have pulled one back for the Panners on 63 minutes when Henderson picked him out in the area but his header was straight at Gordon.
Sub Craig Hastings then won a spot kick for the home side after he was tripped when skipping past Jack Thomson, only for Brennan to save McLeish’s penalty. It only delayed the inevitable however, as Marc Templeton found the top corner.
Preston were playing for pride and Aitchison then Henderson forced smart stops from Gordon in quick succession. They were reduced to ten men for the final 13 minutes as Scott Gibson was eventually forced off after suffering an injury in the first half. It was 5-0 soon after, Liam Gormley racing clear and slotting the ball past Brennan with ease. The same player rounded off the scoring in the final minute from close range.
Baillie expected the managerial situation at Preston to be resolved soon. “We’ll sort this game out first then we need to get back into it as soon as possible and hopefully start planning for next year. I think it [manager’s job] will be sorted over the weekend – we’ll have a discussion and see how that goes.”
East Kilbride: Gordon, Lachlan, Coll (Giblin 60), Howie, Morris, McLaughlin, Mitchell (Gormley 66), McLeish, Victoria (Hastings 70), Brady, Templeton.
Preston Athletic: Brennan, L Todd, Baillie, Gibson, J Todd, S Devlin, Aitchison, Henderson, P Devlin, Thomson, Strachan.