Lothian Thistle Hutchison Vale boss Raymond Carr was left to rue his side’s lacklustre start as they were beaten 4-1 by East Kilbride in the Football Nation Qualifying Cup final.
The Lowland League champions raced into a two-goal lead inside the opening 15 minutes at Blackburn United’s New Murrayfield Park, Declan Hughes and Sean Winter on target for Billy Stark’s men before Ross McNeil added a third on the stroke of half-time to all but kill of any hopes of an unlikely comeback.
Louis Swanson’s tap-in 12 minutes after the restart afforded the Capital outfit a route back into the match and despite second-half substitute Sam Nhamburo seeing his glancing header come back off a post as Lothian sought a second, it was Kilby who were to add to their tally with a fourth of the afternoon from the penalty spot through Winter.
Carr felt his side didn’t do themselves or the East of Scotland League any justice, but was adamant the 4-1 scoreline more than flattered their South Lanarkshire opposition.
“Going 2-0 down in the opening 15 minutes really put us on the back foot as we were left chasing the game,” Carr said. “We made silly mistakes trying to get back on track again which didn’t help. Coming in at the break 3-0 down, I just said to the boys that we can only go out and make this respectable because right now the tie is over.
“At the end of the day they came to do what they needed to do to win the game. But 4-1 completely flatters them as I felt for the last 25 minutes of the first half we were the team on top.”
Carr has been robbed of the services of prolific strike duo Sean Wringe and Jamie Devlin since the turn of the year, Wringe being forced out with a long-term injury and Devlin having moved on to pastures new with Tranent Juniors. However, Carr revealed he is close to bringing in a new face which he hopes to tie up this week.
“We looked like the side that was most likely to score but we just didn’t have that killer touch in front of goal,” he explained. “When we’re missing the strikers that we are, it’s very difficult to replace them. Keith Murray has come in and done well and we are hopeful of bringing in an experienced striker this week.”
Lothian will now have to dust themselves down as they prepare for tonight’s league encounter with Burntisland Shipyard at Saughton Enclosure.
With title rivals Kelty Hearts extending their lead at the top of the table to 12 points with victory at Heriot-Watt University this weekend – albeit Lothian do have four games in hand – Carr accepts his players must get the disappointment of losing Saturday’s final out of their system.
“We’ve got a game tonight, another one on Wednesday against Tynecastle and then again this weekend but that’s our league,” he said. “They make these decisions so we’ve just got to get on with it. But it’s not helping us with having that amount of games, I can assure you. We also played last Wednesday too, so maybe East Kilbride were a bit fresher than us.”
East Kilbride: McGinley, Stevenson, Coll, Howie, Lynch, Gibbons, Winter, Hughes (Craig 84), McNeil (Anderson75), Prunty, Strachan (McBride 77). Subs: Bell, Millar, Ramsay, Russell.
Lothain Thistle Hutchison Vale: Swain, Moore, O’Donnell, Crawford, Munro, Muir, Hare (Hutchison 65), Brown, Murray (Nhamburo 46), McGregor, Swanson (Mungall 86). Subs: Guy, Shala, Simpson.