PENICUIK ATHLETIC went three points clear at the top of the Super League as they stretched their unbeaten run to seven games with victory over Tayport. However, manager Craig Meikle was left dismayed by his side’s performance.
This was the Cuikie’s fifth victory in six as they stole a march on Bo’ness United and Kelty Hearts – both involved in cup action, to take the top-flight top spot for the first time ever.
It was far from plain sailing, though, with Penicuik having to huff and puff their way through the 90 minutes against the valiant challenge posed by bottom club Tayport who simply refused to buckle against their hosts.
Penicuik had raced into an early lead through striker Aaron Somerville after just 90 seconds – and the signs looked ominous for the visitors who arrived on the back of a 6-0 mauling to Musselburgh.
“After we scored early on I’m thinking ‘Let’s kick on and go and get a few more’ but as the game went on we just got worse and worse,” said Meikle.
“I thought we were horrendous, absolutely horrendous and it was probably our worst performance of the season so far.
“I was really frustrated with the quality and it’s great when I can stand in the dressing room after the game and tell them I’m disappointed with the way they’ve played when we’ve picked up three points and we are sitting top of the league.
“I can’t fault any of my players for their effort.
“They are working hard and that’s what’s getting us results at the moment – that sheer determination and the work rate and effort they are putting in to make things difficult for the opposition. There was a lot of pressure on us because we needed to win when other teams round about us weren’t playing and it was even more important to get the three points to put the pressure on them.”
Former Whitehill Welfare striker Somerville finished with aplomb after being played through by strike partner Ryan McCallum to net his sixth goal in blue and white since his arrival from the Lowland League outfit in the summer.
Their attacking intent continued to flourish and another player plucked from the senior ranks in winger Keith Lough, a close season signing from Gala Fairydean Rovers, was inches away with a curling effort which flashed just wide of goalkeeper Raymond Jellema’s left-hand post.
Tayport gradually grew into the first period, with left-back Greg Ross nipping in ahead of the lurking Scott Finlay to head away Dale Robertson’s cross.
Somerville was wasteful in front of goal when twice set up by Lough as the home side looked to double their advantage. Firing straight at keeper Jellema with his first chance, before Tayport’s No.1 denied him once more minutes later after a great cross-field ball from Lough.
Finlay went close for the visitors with the first chance after the interval, his curling left-foot shot just evading keeper Youssef Bejaoui’s top-right corner, before Somerville went off with a back injury. The intensity of the first period was no longer evident with referee Colin Whyte doing his best to disrupt the flow with a series of bookings, much to the frustration of both sides.
The moment of the match came with 17 minutes remaining as Penicuik made sure of the three points in style – forward McCallum curling an inch-perfect free-kick from fully 25 yards over the Tayport wall and directly into Jellema’s top-right hand corner.
The second goal seemed to relax Penicuik too much, however, and Bejaoui was required to save his side three times from close range to keep their clean sheet intact in the final 12 minutes.
McCallum was denied in the final minute as the home side went in search of a third, before Ross Montgomery knocked youngster Kyle Mitchell’s low cross just wide when sliding in at the back post.
Penicuik Athletic: Bejaoui, Young, Ross, Bruce, White, Devlin, Gay (Mitchell), Janczyk, McCallum, Somerville (Patterson), Lough (Montgomery).
Tayport: Jellema, Robertson, Suttie, Anderson, Kay, Rollo, Adam, Ovenstone, Ogg, Connelly, Finlay (Sutherland).