Penicuik tipped to handle pressure of leading Super League

John Williams battles for the ball
John Williams battles for the ball
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Penicuik Athletic midfielder Lewis Barr believes they can continue to flourish under the pressure of being at the summit of the Super League.

Johnny Harvey’s men regained top spot on their own as they maintained their unbeaten start to the season thanks to Lumbert Kateleza’s second-half winner. in the 1-0 victory against Forfar West End.

Stubborn Forfar West End had frustrated the hosts who, for all their dominance, couldn’t find a way past heroic goalkeeper Darryl Burns until late on.

Stand-in skipper Barr reckons they’ll be in for more of the same as the season goes on, with teams happy to come to Penicuik Park and defend, given their current form.

“Being at the top end of the league teams have been sitting in against us and you’ve just got to be patient,” said Barr.

“I think we got a bit frustrated in the first half, but in the second half I thought it was always coming and Lumbo just showed his quality at the end.

“I think it could’ve been four or five by half-time at least if we had taken our chances. They were rugged, you’ve got to give them credit. They came here with a gameplan and they made it tough.

“I think more teams will be coming here and sitting in. Last season was a bit different, teams came out and played a bit, but I think we’re a team that is feared now, so it’s good, it gives you a bit confidence.”

The former East Fife man is certain belief is only going to grow stronger if they can maintain their current run.

Barr continued: “It’s not to say we didn’t train well last year, but there’s an extra spark there this season because we want to keep the run going. You don’t want it to end because you know what it’s like when you start to lose games.

“It’s a good pressure to have being top, I enjoy it. I’d rather be top, because it’s always hard to chase. I don’t think it’s any negative pressure at all, it’s all positive and it’s great for the club.”

Aaron Somerville was first to bring out the best in Burns when he shot from the edge of the box on nine minutes after an incisive run from Kateleza who had the Forfar defence chasing shadows all afternoon.

New signing Sean Jamieson should have grabbed his second goal in blue and white when he headed wide from Kateleza’s cross, and the impressive Scott McCrory-Irving clipped an effort from 25 yards which dipped just over.

A brave tactical switch from boss Harvey on the hour mark when sacrificing centre-back Gary Hamilton for winger Ross Montgomery as they changed to a back three, provided the hosts with more width and gave them the basis on which to finally break the deadlock.

Just minutes before Kateleza found the the net, there were loud appeals for a penalty after Somerville’s shot was cleared off the line by Craig Bell, with several Cuikie players in the vicinity claiming handball.

That could have been a big moment had Penicuik not scored, the goal coming out of nothing as Kateleza’s seized on a loose ball and stroked home from 16 yards.

Despite only scoring once, Penicuik boss Harvey believes his team won’t have a more routine victory this season.

He said: “We made it hard because we didn’t take our chances. I think it was enjoyable to watch at times the way we passed the ball about. It was as comfortable a win as we will have all season. It keeps the unbeaten run going and adds to what we’ve already started.”

Penicuik Athletic: Allison, MacDonald, Williams, Young, Hamilton (Montgomery), Jones, Somerville, Barr, Jamieson (Forbes), Kateleza, McCrory-Irving (Mendes)

Forfar West End: Burns, Stephen, Bell, Rae, Stirton, Robertson, Van Der Kuhl (Walls), George, Scott, McKenzie, Petrie