|CB||5||Andy Ward (c)|
|CM||7||Ross Ballantyne (vc)|
Colts first home game of 2016 saw Preston Athletic travel to Broadwood on a cold but thankfully calm Saturday afternoon in Cumbernauld. With teams above them not playing it was an opportunity, even if temporarily, for the league's new boys to jump to third in the table with 10 games remaining.
Having drawn 1-1 at East Kilbride last time out there was only one enforced change in the starting eleven, Ramsay unavailable and replaced by Foggin at left back. Barclay and Selkirk returned from injury and illness respectively to take their place on the bench beside Giles, Duncan, Davidson, Pirrie and Hunter.
|Foggin the only change and Goerge in good form (click to enlarge)|
The visitors certainly started the better of the two sides and really should have found themselves a goal up inside five minutes when Colts surrendered good possession, a feature of the first half, caught on the break. Preston worked the ball quickly down their right flank, getting behind the home defence before squaring to 8 yards where the ball was met by the onrushing striker. George in the Colts goal, not for the first time this season, made a fantastic save to keep the scores level.
Munn had a decent chance pulled back for offside before Broadfoot and O'Neill, the two who were the pick of the Colts players in the first half, stung the palms of the Preston keeper with efforts from distance.
Preston were working hard to close down their hosts, making life difficult for them to find any rhythm and forcing them into a string of misplaced passes. That game plan was made all but impossible though on 14 minutes. Some good play in Colts midfield found Broadfoot in a good position on the right and his ball across goal took out the defence, finding O'Neill. The attacker saw his first time effort saved by the keeper but was alive to the rebound, stepping around the stopper and firing into the goal. Well, until the Preston defender dived full stretch to palm the ball around the post. Penalty and a red card.
O'Neill himself stepped up and dispatched the penalty calmly to the keepers' left, making it 1-0 to the home side.
|O'Neill looks to score till handled on line. He dispatches the penalty himself (click to enlarge)|
Having taken the lead and playing against ten the men in yellow would have expected to go on and dominate possession, but a mixture of good pressing from Preston and poor decision making from the home side saw Colts look rushed on the ball, continually losing out in bad areas and giving away cheap fouls. Indeed George had to look sharp to make a further two fine saves from efforts coming from free kick delivery, a volley from 12 yards and a strike on the rebound to keep the Colts ahead.
The home side did have further efforts from McDonald, Broadfoot and a header from Brown before O'Neill and Foggin between them won a corner on the Colts left. Broadfoot took, opting to go short to O'Neill on the edge of the area. Under no pressure O'Neill opened his body and curled a wonderful effort into the top corner from 25 yards, the keeper helpless. 2-0 Colts.
Given the pattern of the game the scoreline was perhaps harsh on the visitors but they managed to pull themselves back into the game just after the half hour, much to the Colts frustration. Another foul given away on the Colts left led to a high ball into the area where the Preston centre back climbed highest to head home from 8 yards off the underside of the bar. 2-1.
And it could have been 2-2 moments afterwards as Foggin was caught by a diagonal over his shoulder which found the Preston wide man. To his credit Foggin reacted quickly to get back in and hold his opponent up in the area before Brown stepped in to block the shot. And Brown made another important interception moments later when he got the slightest of headed touches on a cross from the Colts right, nipping it off the head of the onrushing forward who would surely have squared the game.
It was though the home side that completed the first half scoring and again Broadfoot and O'Neill were the architects of what was another superb goal. Ward played a fine ball out of defence into the feet of McDonald who had come short, dragging a defender with him and Broadfoot spun in to receive the ball. McDonald dropped it off to his midfielder who heard the shout of O'Neill going beyond and dropped a lovely ball into his path. O'Neill could have squared to Black in the area but when that space was cut off he skipped inside the fullback before dropping a shoulder to go beyond the centre back as well, drilling into the bottom corner with the keeper helpless to grab a first half hat-trick with another fine goal.
|Broadfoot impressive and McDonald adding the fourth (click to enlarge)|
3-1 at half time and another little bit of history for the Colts, O'Neill the first man in the club's record books to bag a treble.
Into the second half and youngster Jordan Pirrie replaced Blair Munn in the centre of the Colts midfield. Pirrie has had a superb season in the Colts under 20's side and for 45 minutes here the youngster, just turned 17, gave Colts fans a glimpse of the great potential in their development side as he put in an assured performance on and off the ball.
As a whole the second half was far more controlled from the home side, keeping the ball better, moving it quicker and playing at a more appropriate tempo than in the first. George in the home goal had little work of note, particularly after McDonald had added a fourth for the home side on 50 minutes. A fine tackle in midfield found the striker on half way who nipped beyond the diving challenge and drove at the last man, Black bursting forward to provide support to his right. McDonald sucked the defender in well before playing to Black who had stayed behind the ball and thus onside, Black sliding an excellent return pass into the path of the forward who took a touch with his right before blasting beneath the keeper with his left from 8 yards.
Just before the hour the Colts made a further two changes, Hunter coming on to make his home debut replacing Black, with Selkirk replacing McDonald up top.
Efforts from Pirrie, Broadfoot and Selkirk missed the target before Broadfoot had a fine goal ruled out for offside, Pirrie playing an excellent through ball into the run of the midfielder who took a good touch and curled into the top corner from 20 yards. Pirrie was then tee'd up by O'Neill 20 yards out and curled inches over the bar himself before Hunter crossed for Broadfoot who saw his effort from 12 yards blocked for a corner.
Colts had another shout for a penalty on 75 minutes when O'Neill skipped beyond a lunging challenge in the area and hit the turf. Either a corner for a good tackle or a penalty for a foul. As so often happens, a goal kick was awarded with O'Neill then booked for the conversation with the Preston man afterwards.
|Hunter off the bench to bag the fifth, impressive Pirrie having the initial shot (click to enlarge)|
With time (and the match officials hamstring!) running out the Colts added a fifth, O'Neill finding Pirrie in midfield and the youngster driving forward to shoot powerfully towards the top corner from 25 yards. The keeper did brilliantly to dive full stretch to his right to keep it out of the net, but Broadfoot was alive to the rebound, cutting back across goal with his left and finding Hunter. The forward has a knack of being in the right place at the right time but he still had work to do, showing a cool head as he found the bottom corner beyond two defenders on the line and the keeper.
5-1 it finished and another fine victory for the home side. O'Neill making history with the club's first treble and Broadfoot bagging the highest number of assists in a single game (four) for the Colts. The win lifts the Broadwood men to third in the Lowland league table and sets them up nicely for what will be a tough game next time out against Edinburgh University away from home.