A little late due to holidays, but here is Liam Campbell’s excellent report of the match
Blackburn United 2 (Devine 7’, Sampson (pen) 48’)
Hill of Beath Hawthorn 1 (Harley 88’)
Today Blackburn United played host to 13th place Hill of Beath Hawthorn in the East of Scotland Premier League. With the teams separated by one place in the league table and just 5 goals between them, the 3 points Blackburn picked up today could prove to be massive as they leapfrog the visitors and leave the relegation zone.
The Blackburn squad will be increasingly delighted with todays result considering the 6-1 thrashing they took back in October by the visitors at Keirs Park, with the Blackburn goal on the day coming from skipper Marcus MillAr – that’s MillAr, with an ‘A’ as pointed out to me today.
Prior to the kick off there was a minute silence for the late Tom Allison who had previously worked with Lothian Thistle Hutchison Vale.
With the first whistle blown the game kicked off and like many recent games Blackburn started the better team with a high, aggressive press which was causing early issues for the visitors.
On 3 minutes, Blackburn would have their first chance of the game as the ball bounced and broke the way of Kyle Sampson inside the area. It was only a half chance but as he manoeuvred his body and struck his shot goalwards he tested the Hawthorns keeper Stuart Hall who got down well to his bottom right to pounce onto the ball.
Blackburn’s fast start would once again fire them into an early lead though as inside 10 minutes a defensive error allowed the ball to break the way of Laurie Devine, who was left 1 on 1 with Hall, and he smashed past the onrushing goalkeeper into the bottom left of the goal.
Almost straight from kick off the visitors had a half chance as the ball was cut across the box, but Jonathan Galloway sliced his strike high and wide of the goal.
The first of many yellow cards in the game was distributed to Hill of Beaths’ Lyle Kellichan for a late challenge on Blackburn’s David Wilson.
Just 2 minutes later the referee would distribute yet another yellow card to the visitors as Michael Fleming brought down Richard Hutton who was breaking away for Blackburn into the final third with options either side of him.
The previously mentioned aggressive press from Blackburn was restricting the away side to playing very direct with long, hopeful balls as they couldn’t play out from the back due to this press and this, in turn resulting in a lot of turnovers in possession and contributing to a highly competitive game.
On 23 minutes the referee again would distribute a yellow card for the visitors as Jeremiah Otoni looked to break clear before being brought to ground. The resulting free kick was hit dangerously low into the box however Hall pounced on the ball and held it well.
The first half was very competitive with hard challenges flying in all over the pitch and almost no chances were created in the last 20 minutes of the half until just before half time when a Scott Richards strike from range heading towards the top left corner was palmed away by Hall.
That would be the last action of the first half and the boys went in at that break leading a goal to nil, however the second half proved to be a lot more entertaining than the first.
The second half started in a similar fashion to the first half and Blackburn created the first opportunity on the 49th minute with a corner swung towards the back post were, eventually the ball dropped to the feet of the skipper Marcus Millar and his attempt went agonizingly wide of the goal after a deflection turned it round for a corner.
The resulting corner led to a scramble in the Hill of Beath box and Blackburn were awarded a penalty after the ball hit off a defending players hand.
Blackburn’s penalty specialist Kyle Sampson stepped up and similarly to his penalty against Broxburn Athletic the striker calmy converted with a powerful strike down the middle that beat the diving Hall, giving Blackburn a crucial 2 goal lead.
Blackburn came close again in the 51st minute when a defensive error from Shaun Leishman allowed Sampson in behind again were his cute chip attempt came so close to dropping into the roof of the net after it beat the onrushing goalkeeper, however the ball bounced on the roof of the net and the Hawthorn bench would breathe a sigh of relief.
In the 54th minute the first of a flurry of cards was shown, and this time it was for Blackburn as David Wilson went into the book for a challenge from behind.
Then between the 61st and 63rd minute the referee went to his pocket on 4 occasions with Sampson and Hutton picking up the yellow’s for Blackburn and the other two going to Hawthorn players Adamson and Brandon Luke.
Just before the 70th minute of the game Blackburn would make a double change as Hutton and Sampson would come off and be replaced by Callum Heath and Luke Meikle who added a lot of energy to Blackburn’s counter attacks in the last 20 minutes of the game.
The visitors began to come into the game and would feel they should have got one back earlier than they did when the ball broke on the edge of the box to substitute Adamson whose strike went miles wide and proved to be a real let off for Blackburn.
With just under 15 minutes of the 90 remaining, Hill of Beath would once again threaten, this time as Brandon Luke stood up David Wilson on the left wing, cut back inside creating space for himself and struck goalward however his strike was saved well by Craig Saunders in the Blackburn goal as he got down to his bottom right impressively and held onto the ball.
Blackburn’s substitute, Callum Heath would then threaten on the break for the hosts as he picked up the ball on the right wing before he cut inside onto his left foot and ferociously struck his shot towards the goal and only the crossbar would stop the ball from bursting the net open.
Blackburn would then bring Dominic Kane on at right back for Josh Binnie as they looked to see out the 2-0 win.
On the 81st minute the visitors once again came close but somehow the ball didn’t find the back of the net as an amazing flying save from Saunders dropped the way of an attacker who struck his volley well and had Saunders beaten but the post would prove to be Blackburn’s saviour on this occasion as the volley cannoned back out of danger.
Callum Heath would again threaten on the break as Blackburn looked for a third as after some amazing play from Devine and Kane on the right wing the ball came across into the path of Heath who struck well but Hall got down well again, this time to his bottom right to prevent a third that would have surely killed the competitiveness of the final 5 minutes.
With 2 minutes to go, Hill of Beath Hawthorn got the goal that they deserved when a corner was whipped into the box and was met by a strong James Harley header that beat Saunders in the Blackburn goal and found the bottom left of the goal.
The goal gave the visitors hope of a potential point and they nearly got it, when a defensive error from Blackburn allowed Lewis Payne in behind of the defence but his shot was once again saved by Saunders in the Blackburn goal and the keeper was in absolutely no rush as he let the clock tick down to relieve some of the pressure on his defence.
The last chance of the game however would fall the way of Blackburn as some good movement from Heath created space for a strike that was initially saved well by Hall though the ball would bounce up to Heath whose header looked a certain goal before a incredible goal line clearance from the Hawthorn’s skipper Shaun Leishman.
His heroics however proved not to be enough as the referee blew his final whistle and Blackburn would climb out of the relegation zone into 12th.
This was a massive three points for Blackburn who travel to 5th place, Sauchie Juniors next weekend. It will be a hard game for the boys but the performance and result today will certainly give them confidence of getting a positive result.