Small delighted as Whitehill show they can dig deep

Connor McGregor is congratulated after scoring from a free-kick
Connor McGregor is congratulated after scoring from a free-kick
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Whitehill Welfare boss Gary Small hailed his players’ workmanlike performance as they battled against the wind to pick up just their fourth win of the season with a 3-0 victory over Dalbeattie Star.

Jack Wright’s predatory finish and a stunning Connor McGregor free-kick put the hosts in command at Ferguson Park on Saturday and substitute Lee Barrett sealed the points with a fine third late on.

Conditions were far from ideal with the wind putting paid to any real quality on show. However, having not played competitively since defeat by Spartans at the beginning of the month, Small says picking up maximum points was top of the agenda.

“You’re not going to get prizes for watching a good game of football that’s for sure,” the former Tranent boss quipped. “I said to the guys at half-time that the outcome of the game will come down to who wants to work harder, who wants it more and who makes less mistakes. I want us to be a good football team to watch but we had to abandon that idea due to the conditions.

“We’re coming to that time of year where it is going to be difficult weather-wise so the boys adapted well and we thoroughly deserved the win. We haven’t played for three weeks and I was quite concerned about it. Training has even been a bit stop-start with injuries and what have you and even though we’ve won 3-0, I still don’t think some of my players looked fit or sharp enough.”

Having been a real powerhouse in the Lowland League since its inception in 2013, visitors Dalbeattie were alarmingly poor.

“I was surprised because I had a look at their results beforehand and they’ve maybe been a wee bit unfortunate,” Small said. “They only got beat 1-0 by BSC Glasgow (current league leaders) whereas we lost 4-0. They were also 3-2 up against East Stirlingshire and conceded a last-minute equaliser and they also drew with Cumbernauld.”

McGregor’s inviting corner midway through the first half somehow evaded four of his team-mates inside the six-yard box but the 16-times East of Scotland League champions capitalised on their next foray into Dalbeattie territory.

Mark Smith showed great agility to glide past his opponent down the right band picked out team-mate Wright who knocked home the opener from a couple of yards.

Whitehill doubled their lead just minutes before the interval through a brilliantly executed effort from McGregor. Having been tripped 20 yards from Vincent Parker’s goal, the midfielder dusted himself down and picked his spot sending a curling shot into the top corner.

The visitors carried more threat after the break, Farrel O’Sullivan coming within a foot of halving the deficit with a fierce drive before Smith thought he had increased the lead only for his effort to be ruled out for offside.

However, Whitehill wrapped up the points with little more than four minutes to play when a neat one-two between teenagers Dylan Weldon and Barrett saw the latter lift the ball over the advanced Parker and into the empty net.

“It was really pleasing to have five of the under-20s either starting or on the bench this week,” Small added. “I had really good reports regarding Lee’s performance on Friday night for the development squad so that was his reward coming on and he capped it off with a great goal.”

Whitehill Welfare: Easton, Dowie (Mitchell 46), McGrath, McKenzie, Reid, Lucas, Watson, McGregor (L Barrett 74), McPartlin, Smith (Weldon 71), Wright. Subs: Jardine, B Barrett, Nicholson, Knox

Dalbeattie Star: Parker, Wilson, O’Sullivan (McColm 82), Todd, Cameron, Baty, McHarrie, Milligan, Muir (Mason 65), Brotherston, Thomson. Sub: Kerr