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Early goal enough for Sauchie

Sauchie claimed third place in this weekend’s Kelty tournament with a hard-fought victory over Kennoway Star Hearts on Sunday.

Having been narrowly beaten in yesterday’s semi-final by Broxburn Athletic, Sauchie were left to contest the third-place playoff against the side who finished just behind them in the Premier League last season.

Adrian Hanson once again took charge of the side, and he was without midfielder Ant McTaggart who picked up a knock during yesterday’s game.

But starts were given to trialists Sean Preston and Derek Currie, along with Taylor Gordon, who officially put pen to paper on a deal immediately after the game.

Having been the victim of slack defending yesterday, the tables were turned as Sauchie capitalised on an error in the opening seconds of the game.

New signing Gary Graham pounced on an underhit backpass, rounded the goalkeeper and slotted the ball home to give his side the lead inside 90 seconds.

And the dream start almost continued moments later when another error, this time from the Kennoway keeper, presented Darren Cummings with a golden chance, but he sliced his effort high and wide.

Sauchie suffered a blow with less than a quarter of an hour played when goalscorer Graham was forced off with a knock, last season’s top scorer Ryan Millar taking his place.

But Graham’s departure didn’t quell the Juniors’ attacking threat, and Cummings was unfortunate to see a viciously struck free kick kept out by an excellent save.

It was a case of “anything you can do, I can do better” for the goalkeepers as Sauchie custodian Darren Dolan made an equally good stop to deny Kennoway an equaliser from another dead-ball situation.

The game’s main talking point arrived just after the midway point in the half, and Cummings was again involved. Having been the victim of a heavy challenge, the striker was shoved by a Kennoway player and retaliated. Both players lifted their hands but the referee was content to show them a yellow card apiece, and the pair might regard themselves a little fortunate to have stayed on the pitch.

From the free kick which had been given for the initial tackle, captain Brian Morgan was inches away from adding to his brace from Saturday’s game, his shot skimming the outside of the post on its way past.

Both goalkeepers continued to excel, and Currie’s free kick was kept out by a great save after it had taken a nick on the way through, while at the other end Dolan did well to palm away a stinging drive from distance on the stroke of half time.

Further changes followed at the interval, and Steven Higgins almost made an instant impact, the former Motherwell striker seeing a shot go just the wrong side of the post in the opening moments of the second half.

Millar then forced another good save from the Kennoway goalkeeper as Sauchie began to turn the screw in search of a second goal.

Kennoway still threatened in spells and were unfortunate not to be on terms when a shot flew just a couple of inches over the bar.

But Sauchie looked much more dangerous, and trialist Lee Dawson was unfortunate to see his effort from a tight angle bounce just wide of the post.

Despite plenty of endeavour Sauchie couldn’t add to that early goal from Graham, but they will be relatively pleased after a solid display which saw them pick up a valuable victory and clean sheet.

Sauchie Juniors: D. Dolan, MacFarlane (Sharp), Leary (Stewart [Trialist]), Gordon (S. Dolan [Trialist]), Preston [Trialist], A. Shirra (J. Shirra [Trialist]), Hutchison (Higgins), Morgan, Graham (Millar (Dawson [Trialist])), Cummings, Currie.

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