Dalkeith Thistle lost ground in the race for promotion from the Premier League after going down 2-1 to Oakley United in Fife.
A win for Dalkeith would have taken them to top spot in the table and coach Brian McNaughton was understandably disappointed with the result.
“We missed so many chances in the first half and chances mean goals and goals mean winning titles. We have to be more clinical with our finishing or it could be costly for us in the end. We started well but fell away and allowed them into the game, giving away a couple of goals in the process and we couldn’t recover in time.”
With games being postponed from early morning it was a big surprise to find the Oakley ground in such a good condition. It was bitterly cold but the playing surface was perfectly acceptable as both sides kicked off. Dalkeith settled quickly and created a lot of chances, the best of which saw David Morris smash the ball against the post when he should have done better. Oakley fought back and took a slightly surprising lead just after the half-hour mark. Following a corner on the right the Dalkeith defence failed to clear the danger allowing Oakley’s Mark Connors to nudge the ball over the line.
Oakley nearly doubled their lead early in the second half when substitute Derek Murray slammed the ball off the bar from a distance. They didn’t have long to wait though as they grabbed a second on the hour. The ball was played out wide right to Alan McDonagh who looked offside but he didn’t hesitate and drove the ball into the far corner with the keeper well beaten.
The visitors’ bubble had burst and it was difficult to see them mounting a come back. Oakley had pace up front and a solid looking defence. Gradually though the visitors started their passing game and with ten minutes to go they pulled a deserved goal back. A long free-kick from the left taken by Michael Linton was headed clear by the Oakley defence only as far as sub Jamie Paterson just outside the box. His first touch set him up nicely for a good finish, the ball hitting the net with the keeper nowhere.
Dalkeith tried hard to get the equaliser and looked to have grabbed a lifeline when Sean Lally’s effort seemed goalbound but a desperate block from Connors saved the Fifers’ day. In the last minute another corner from Dalkeith saw the ball looking like it had crossed the line straight from the kick but the referee ruled it had been cleared, much to the annoyance of the Dalkeith players who thought they had levelled the game in the dying minutes.
McNaughton added: “Fife is always a difficult place to come and get points. Oakley proved they are a good side coming back from a few years in the doldrums.
“This loss could be a sore one but the players will respond and get back on track for a push at promotion. We just fell out of the game for a spell and Oakley took advantage and then when we needed to fight back it was too late and we ran out of time. I thought , as did the players, that the ball had crossed the line straight from the late corner but the referee ruled it hadn’t.”
Dalkeith were without recognised striker Steven Pudledski on Saturday and he was missed. He scores goals for them but he may be out for some time.
Dalketih are still very much in contention for promotion but this result places Oakley only a point behind them.
Oakley: Manderson, Grant, Duray, Tapping, Connors, Paterson, Coulter, Reid, McDonagh, Watt (Murray), Allen. Subs: Nutt, Devanney, Harrower, Wood.
Dalkeith: Patarek, Gavin, Watters, J Hunter, Liddle, Linton, Morris, M Hunter, Flynn (Paterson), Lally, McNaughton. Subs: Pennycuik, Murray, Trialist, McNeil.