Date : 12th August 2023
Opposition : Harthill Royal
Venue : Home
Scorers : Craig Bell 2, Michael Robinson (pen), Rhys Bloomfield (pen)
Booked : Ryan Dunn, Rhys Dixon, Evan Smith, Christian Temple, Ciaran Hatsell, Sam Straughan
Sent Off : None
Attendance : 63
Referee : Michael Dixon
Team Lineup :
Rhys Bloomfield (c)
Jack Cummings on for Jack Forster 28 mins
Brad Smith on for Sam Straughan 74 mins
Ross Aitchison on for Michael Robinson 82 mins
Match Report :
One hundred and twenty minutes play. Eleven goals. Nine bookings. A multitude of free kicks and a very disappointing result for Tweedmouth after surrendering a two goal lead and then going back in front just before the first hour was up.
At a breezy Shielfield, the wind was generally in Harthill’s favour in the first half but it was Rangers who gained the initial advantage on 15 minutes. Rhys Dixon’s free kick reached Michael Robinson out towards the left. When he sent the ball over into the box the short scramble which followed ended with Craig Bell putting it into the net.
Not long afterwards, Bell was on to score again even though forced into a weak shot after being obstructed by keeper David Thomson. The ball was cleared before it could cross the line so a penalty was awarded instead. Thomson, the first to receive a yellow card, was comfortably beaten by Robinson’s spot kick.
Barely a minute later, Gary Bonnes produced a terrific finish with home players static as Harthill ran at them ahead of a cross to their captain. They nearly made it a quick double as Rangers were again opened up but this time Bonnes drove the ball outside the post. Five minutes later, a poor home pass led to Mark Smith making it all square again by drilling the ball just inside the same upright.
As in the first half, Tweedmouth started the second on the attack before Bonnes twisted the ball away from the target after getting on the end of a long kick upfield. Then it was home keeper Ryan Dunn’s turn to go in the referee’s book as his outstretched leg sent the Harthill skipper tumbling. Callum Robertson’s free kick curled over the bar.
Rhys Bloomfield’s run down the left wing was eventually halted by Dylan Campbell close to the dead ball line but Rangers’ skipper was soon on the score sheet from the penalty spot after Thomson made contact with Christian Temple when he went up to head Dixon’s cross.
Harthill made a triple change five minutes later with one of the newcomers, Kevin Kalala, playing a particularly influential role in determining the outcome of the tie. Fellow sub Mo Sesay headed past an open goal whilst, in the other direction, Robinson got the better of Owen Lake but his shot was never going in.
Harthill equalised for a second time in the 81st minute. Kalala bagged the first of a true hat trick after Banwan Jamal’s header came back off the post.
Before 90 minutes were up, Bloomfield twice tore away with men chasing him before being thwarted by Thomson, injured in the process the first time.
Three-all necessitated extra time and it opened with a quickfire burst of goals. Harthill immediately won a corner and seconds later Kalala had the ball in the net again.
Rangers lost Jack Forster to a calf injury in the first half and Robinson to a non-contact ankle injury around the time of the visitors’ third goal. He was replaced by Ross Aitchison, himself still nursing an injury though it didn’t stop his key role in between Bloomfield and eventual scorer Bell who did well to keep the ball at his feet despite some frenzied challenges from the opposition. It was now 4-4.
Not for long though. Tweedmouth gave away the ball and Kalala soon completed his personal haul. Before extra time half time, with something of a fluke goal, Cameron Morrison gave Royal a two goal lead for the first time.
There was no fluke about the game’s final goal. Dunn had just made arguably the best save of the match from Robertson but Harthill’s no.10 did make it on to the list of scorers after Lake chested the ball his way.