Musselburgh boss praises players after claiming bragging rights

Calvin Shand
Calvin Shand
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Musselburgh Athletic boss Calvin Shand hailed his players’ character as they secured the East Lothian derby bragging rights with a 3-1 victory over Dunbar.

The Olivebank men bounced back in style from last week’s shock 5-1 Alex Jack Cup defeat by Dalkeith Thistle – just their third loss of 2018 – with a dominant victory over their local rivals in East of Scotland Conference A.

Conor Thomson was the pick of the bunch for the home side, a double either side of a Scott McNaughton strike ensuring a comfortable afternoon, before Dunbar pulled a goal back through James Harley.

“It was important that we put on a performance,” said Shand. “In the first half we were really good. We eased off a wee bit at 3-0 but it was comfortable. There was lot of positives to take from it.

“Last week was a one-off; a bad day at the office – we all have them. We’ve only lost three times this year so it was important to show it was just a blip and on Saturday we did that. I wouldn’t say we were back to our best but we weren’t far away from it.

“They’ve started well and they’ve been scoring goals, but we were comfortable. It’s good to get another three points on the board as the league is the most important thing. Yeah, we want a good cup run and we were disappointed to go out last week, but the league is our bread and better.”

Last season’s Premier League champions Musselburgh are three points off early pacesetters Penicuik Athletic in Conference A. Shand admits it will be a task to compete with Penicuik and the other former Super League clubs.

“We need to be realistic. There are three Super League teams from last year in it and we weren’t in it that league,” continued Shand. “We just need to try and finish as high as we can; we’ve got our own objectives within the changing room that we want to achieve.

“We’ve got ten new players so for them to gel as quickly as they have done has been pleasing. To see the character of some of them on Saturday and how they reacted to last week has been good.”

It all could have been so different had Dunbar striker Dean Ballantyne found the net when the ball broke perfectly for him after just five minutes.

A hopeful ball forward bounced off Burgh defender Greig Callaghan fell straight to Ballantyne’s feet, but his effort went the wrong side of goalkeeper Dale Cornet’s right-hand post.

The hosts scored the opener with their first attempt on 25 minutes as Thomson found space inside the area to lash home Jackie Myles’ low cross from the right.

It was 2-0 for Burgh just nine minutes later as Thomson’s free-kick was neither pushed clear or held by Dunbar goalkeeper John Johnstone and McNaughton snapped up the rebound.

Dunbar boss Geoff Jones made a double switch at the break but they found themselves 3-0 behind just the minutes into the second period after Bradley Whyte’s ball to Thomson was slipped under the keeper.

Defender Harley pulled a goal back on 76 minutes when his header was deemed to have cross the line. That gave the Seasiders some hope, but they couldn’t find another goal to frighten the hosts.

Boss Jones blasted his side for failing to stick to their pre-match gameplan, he said: “It was absolutely shocking, we just didn’t turn up.

“I’ve got to maybe take a wee bit of responsibility there because I left two or three guys out from the starting XI based on a report that I had from Dalkeith from last week and how I wanted us to go out and play. Ultimately, they never done what they were told. We never played the game that I asked them to play and press the game high and don’t let them have loads of time on the ball. What we done was let them have loads of time on the bell and in the first half they killed us; they passed the ball around us like we weren’t there.

“We competed better in the second half but Musselburgh took their foot completely off the gas when they scored their third. I don’t think we did ourselves justice.

“I’m not going to chuck the baby out of the bath water because we’re not a bad side but we certainly didn’t show it on Saturday. We’ll need to buck our ideas up because it doesn’t get any easier; we’ve got Hill of Beath and Newtongrange in the next couple of weeks.”

Musselburgh Athletic: Cornet, Lynch, Whyte, Myles, McManus, McNaughton (Cherrie), Thomson (Maskrey), King, Callaghan, Deland, Evans

Dunbar United: Johnstone, Thomson, Tait, Gordon, Harley, Moffat, McTernan (McLaren), King (Ingram) Ballantyne, Handling, McCraw (Peden)