East of Scotland Premier League – Saturday 27th November 2021
Musselburgh Athletic 4 (King 11, 24, 32p, Murrell 86p)
Blackburn United 1 (Browne 13p)
[match report by Derek Hall]
Plenty to play for on a bitterly cold day at Olivebank in the EOS Premier with Musselburgh Athletic aiming to stay in touch with the top three whilst Blackburn United went looking for a result to move them further from the scrap near the bottom. A cagey start saw the first real effort arrive on three minutes as Bradley Whyte fired a low long range left foot drive well wide for the home side and then Danny Campbell worked hard for the visitors on the right flank but his cross into the box drifted behind. After six minutes, Whyte did the spadework before finding Josh Jefferies and his low left foot 25 yard drive had United keeper Gavin King going low to make the save. A minute later, Conor Thomson got to the goal line and Jack Sayers made an excellent block to concede the games first corner which Musselburgh failed to profit from. A long through ball then dropped over the head of United centre half Marcus Miller but Jordan Smith just couldn’t get on the end of it and keeper King gratefully gathered the ball. However with ten minutes on the clock, the keeper could do nothing as the home side hit the front when a lovely ball from the left flank picked out Mathu King on the edge of the United penalty area and he managed to dig the ball out from under his feet before flicking the ball beautifully into the corner of the net with the outside of his right foot from 15 yards, taking the effort early before keeper King could set himself for a really classy finish. That early advantage only lasted for around two minutes with an equaliser which owed much to United’s Campbell who won the ball on the left wing before clipping a lovely pass inside to Richard Hutton and he skipped past one challenge and into the Burgh penalty area where he was upended by home keeper Ross McRae and referee Alastair Grieve was right there to award an obvious spot kick. United captain Michael Browne stepped up to cooly send keeper McRae the wrong way from the penalty and with almost thirteen minutes on the clock, we were back to all square. Jeffries tried an immediate response from distance for the home side but this one was well wide and Blackburn had taken heart from getting themselves level. On eighteen minutes, a free kick into the Athletic box after a foul on Daryl Meikle saw the ball ping around before keeper King scrambled the ball behind with Campbell again right there for the visitors. Callum Heath played the corner short to Dominic Kane and his long, looping back post cross was taken on the volley by Meikle from around nine yards and only a desperate lunging block by Liam Reid preserved parity for the home side. Browne was then in again for the visitors and only a brave block from keeper McRae kept the United skipper at bay although a short passback a few seconds later from Sayers had United keeper King under a little more pressure than he wanted before managing to clear. Not to be outdone, Reid then almost put his keeper McRae in a bit of bother with a back pass and United winger Hutton wasn’t far away from closing the Burgh keeper down. However, after 24 minutes, the home side relieved the pressure in the best possible way as Jordan Smith raced down the right flank and got his head up before stroking a lovely cross towards the near post and the incoming King didn’t have to break stride as he met the ball eight yards out and powered home a thumping header just inside the near post to put the home side back in front. A foul on 28 minutes by John McManus on Hutton saw United put six players into the Burgh penalty area so it must have been very frustrating when Heath’s delivery didn’t manage to clear the first defender. On the half hour, Whyte played a nice pass into the United penalty area wide on the left which tempted Sayers into an ill advised challenge, possibly on Orru, but the upshot was another clear spot kick and nobody was surprised when King stepped up to stroke the ball home low into the corner to claim a 21 minute hat trick and with just over half an hour gone, the home side had given themselves some breathing space and King was now thinking about clearing a space on the mantelpiece for the match ball. After 35 minutes, Lloyd Fiddler found Whyte and he laid the ball into the path of Orru whose 18 yard left foot angled drive was brilliantly tipped over by United keeper King and the keeper was soon involved again dealing with a speculative 35 yard half volley from Greg Page. United were looking to stay solid and ensure things didn’t get any worse before the break, but Heath got forward for the visitors to send a left foot drive from 24 yards over the crossbar. However, at the break, United had a few problems to solve and would be coming out in the second period knowing that the games next goal had to be theirs if they had any ambitions at all of taking something from a home side who had in Mathu King a striker who on this form looked like he could score at will.
Four minutes into the second half, Heath raced away down the right flank for the visitors but he was closed down by the Burgh defence before he could deliver any sort of cross. At the other end, Burgh defender McManus was almost playing like a right winger at times and a dangerous cross into the United penalty area was headed behind by Lyall Cameron. Jefferies corner found the head of Whyte and the ball then flashed across the United goal area before being cleared. After 52 minutes, the hard working Campbell laid the ball into the path of Hutton and his angled 15 yard drive brought out a good save from home keeper McRae at the second attempt. Two minutes later, Browne headed the ball inside the box to Campbell and his sixteen yard header hit the back of the Burgh net but the offside flag had gone up early and the header didn’t count. At the other end, Sayers misjudged a ball into the United penalty area and Orru dispossessed him before firing his left foot drive into the side netting from a fairly acute angle. After 57 minutes, a Reid clearance saw King break upfield for Burgh and as he went past Miller on the halfway line, the United centre half somewhat cynically took him down and referee Grieve didn’t hesitate in going to his pocket for the first time to look out his yellow card. A minute later, King was probably disappointed as he sent an unchallenged header from a McManus cross well wide of the United goal after a nice move begun in midfield by Fiddler. After 63 minutes, Campbell saw a shot from sixteen yards blocked behind by Page and the United striker was working tirelessly up front for his side whilst basically feeding on scraps and when the corner came over, the same player glanced a header across the Burgh goal area and wide. On 65 minutes, Musselburgh replaced hat trick hero King and also Whyte with Declan O’Kane and Aaron Murrell. Miller then received what had to be a final warning from referee Grieve for complaining about a nothing throw in, daft at any time but bordering on mental when you’re already carrying a yellow card. The game had gone a bit flat, Burgh were content to manage their two goal lead and Blackburn just couldn’t seem to carve out any real killer chances. On 68 minutes, the visitors made their own double switch as Kyle McClung and Heath made way for James Mildren and David Howe. Thomson and Murrell almost worked a nice one two on the edge of the United penalty area but Meikle read the situation and made the interception. Blackburn were frustrated again by a couple of offside flags in quick succession against Campbell and Hutton, both from passes by Sayers but with 15 minutes left they almost got the breakthrough as home keeper McRae somehow kept out a Sayers header, scooping the ball away as he was going down in the opposite direction. Meikle was then replaced by Bailey Ferris as Blackburn went to their bench again just before a Howe effort dropped for Ferris and only a good challenge from Reid stopped another decent chance for the visitors at the expense of a corner. With just over ten minutes remaining, Burgh made another double switch as Fiddler and Smith were replaced by Jackie Myles and Conner Fitzpatrick. On 83 minutes, Thomson sent a 25 yard effort over the top for a home side who hadn’t really fashioned a chance for a good ten minutes, whilst still remaining fairly comfortable. Six minutes from time, Murrell drove forward for Burgh, avoiding a clip from Browne, and his pass to Thomson saw the strikers shot deflected behind for a corner, at which point referee Grieve then went back and cautioned United skipper Browne for his earlier attempted trip on Murrell. The ball into the box saw a clumsy challenge by Cameron on Reid once again correctly penalised by referee Grieve and the game had its third spot kick, with the responsibility this time falling on the shoulders of Murrell, who made a lovely job of sending King the wrong way and tying the game up for the home side at 4-1. Before the game restarted, Burgh made their final switch as Ciaran Young came on for Thomson and he was on just in time to see Blackburn claim for another spot kick when Hutton’s powerful 22 yard right foot drive was blocked inside the box but referee Grieve was unmoved. Jeffries flashed an excellent corner kick right through the heart of the United goal area as we entered the final minute but in the end, it was the home side who took the points with an inspired first half performance being followed by a professionally managed second half which will doubtless give manager Joe Hamill a good deal of satisfaction on a day when Mathu King showed again why he is such a favourite in these parts. Blackburn worked very hard without really convincing anyone during the second half that they could turn things around, but a bit more support for the excellent Danny Campbell might yet yield dividends in future fixtures.
Musselburgh Athletic: Ross McCrae, Jordan Orru, John McManus, Josh Jeffries, Conor Thomson (Ciaran Young 86), Mathu King (Aaron Murrell 65), Bradley Whyte (Declan O’Kane 65), Liam Reid, Lloyd Fiddler (Connor Fitzpatrick 79), Jordan Smith (Jackie Myles 79), Greg Page. Unused subs: Liam Gregory, Harvey Tanner.
Blackburn United: Gavin King, Jack Sayers, Kyle McClung (James Mildren 68), Lyall Cameron, Marcus Millar, Dominic Kane, Calum Heath (David Howe 68), Michael Browen, Danny Campbell, Daryl Meikle (Baley Ferris 77), Richard Hutton. Unused Subs: Craig Saunders, Craig Young.