A Brian Morgan double was not enough as Sauchie were narrowly beaten by Super League rivals Broxburn Athletic at the semi-final stage of Kelty Hearts’ pre-season tournament.
The defeat means Sauchie will face either the hosts or Kennoway Star Hearts tomorrow (Sunday) in the third-place playoff.
Adrian Hanson took charge of the side for Saturday’s game with manager Fraser Duncan unavailable, and he handed starts to new signing Gary Graham and trialist central defender Taylor Gordon.
David Morrison deputised in defence alongside Gordon, while Darren Dolan took up his spot in goal despite the signing of Greg McGuinness yesterday.
Sauchie got off to the perfect start when they opened the scoring inside the first ten minutes. The ball fell to Morgan on the edge of the box, and the skipper curled a terrific shot over the Broxburn goalkeeper and into the top corner.
Less than two minutes later the Beechwood Park side could have made it two. Morgan turned provider as he swung in a teasing cross, but with the Broxburn defence all at sea, Josh Flood was just unable to get a telling touch.
And they were punished for that missed opportunity shortly afterwards when Broxburn levelled the scores. More poor defending, from Sauchie on this occasion, meant that a cross wasn’t cleared properly, and Athletic captain Nick Locke arrived at the back post to bundle the ball home.
They sensed blood after their equaliser and quickly went on the hunt for another, Dolan making a good save and seeing a free kick shave his crossbar.
But Sauchie came back into things, and Morgan wasn’t far away on two occasions, Ryan Millar also going close as they looked to re-establish their lead.
Chances were coming at both ends, and Dolan was forced into a wonderful save minutes before the interval, tipping a shot round the post when it seemed destined to end up in the corner of the net.
Sauchie had the first clear-cut chance of the second half, Josh Flood seeing his shot kept out by a superb fingertip save, with Millar agonisingly close to getting a touch on the rebound which would have seen his side’s advantage restored.
But once again Sauchie’s misfortune at one end was exacerbated by a lapse of concentration at the other end. An underhit pass back to Dolan was pounced upon by Darren Gribben, and he made no mistake as he slotted the ball beyond the helpless goalkeeper to turn the game around.
However, less than five minutes later they were back on terms, and it was their captain who got them back into it. The ball was lofted towards the Broxburn area, and Morgan ghosted in between two defenders to send a looping header over the goalkeeper and into the net for his and his side’s second of the game.
The action was swinging from end to end by this point and it was no surprise when the fifth goal of the game arrived. Unfortunately for Sauchie, they were once again masters of their own downfall, Stuart MacFarlane’s header back to Dolan evading the keeper and leaving Zander Millar with the easiest of finishes to net Broxburn’s third.
Sauchie could have fallen further behind with ten minutes to play, but Gordon capped an impressive display with an incredible goal-line block after Dolan had been beaten.
His fellow trialist Derek Currie was agonisingly denied an equaliser by a terrific save, while at the other end Morrison had to make a last-ditch tackle to stop Broxburn adding a fourth.
Despite their best efforts Sauchie could not get back on terms and will rue the defensive mishaps which cost them, but they should still be relatively pleased following what was a decent performance.
Sauchie Juniors: Dolan, Sharp (MacFarlane), Syme (Leary), Gordon [Trialist] (Dawson [Trialist]), Morrison, Hutchison, Millar (Currie [Trialist]), McTaggart (Shirra [Trialist]), Graham, Morgan, Flood (Stewart [Trialist]).