Following a very disappointing performance, where the young Pace played well below the standards that they have set themselves for the majority of the season, they found themselves with a tricky game in which to bounce back, welcoming Armadale in the WLAYFC cup Quarter Final. The visitors, having beaten league leaders Broxburn recently, were stubborn opponents in the away league tie earlier in the season so the Westfield men would have been well aware that a repeat of their performance last time out would risk leaving them 2 games without a win for the first time since August 2013.
With Swords and Hepburn still out through long term injury and Taylor not ready to start following his own long term problem, Dunipace also found themselves without Walker through College commitments. It meant a start for Cherrie at left back, McIntyre moving to the right with Black shifting to centre back alongside skipper Balmer. King returned on the right with Comrie starting on the left of midfield alongside Meade and Maclaren. Weir started up front with top scorer Brown leaving Taylor, Steven, Patterson and Mitusch on the bench.
The home team, kicking towards the hill in the first half against their normal habit, started reasonably well, moving the ball confidently along the back line from kickoff, looking more comfortable in possession than they had at any point in the previous fixture.
And they had the ball in the net early on, Brown linking with Weir before rounding the keeper and slotting home. The official though chalked it off for offside which, having been directly in line with the players, was unfortunately for the home side the incorrect decision, Brown well onside when the ball was played.
Following that, good work between Comrie and Maclaren on the left forced a corner and from it the home side should really have taken the lead, Comrie swinging in an excellent ball which landed on the head of McIntyre, unmarked, 5 yards from goal. The fullback unfortunately headed over, but it was another early warning shot.
With King and McIntyre linking well on the right the fullback, back on his natural side, was pushing forward at every opportunity. And from one of these forays into opposition territory that Weir nearly capitalised, blocked out by a defender for a corner.
The striker though wasn't put off though and opened the scoring from the resulting corner, Comrie delivering a fine ball from the right and Weir getting up above two of his own players as well as the defence to head off the underside of the bar, the official adjudging it had crossed the line. With the Dunipace players claiming the goal and the Armadale players adamant that it had not crossed there was some controversy surrounding the award. In truth, from our vantage point we had no idea, the official far better placed to make the call.
And he had another big call moments later as King and Meade combined to play in Brown, running away from the visiting centre back. As the striker looked to pull the trigger the defender slid in and the ball ended up out for a throw with Brown claiming the penalty. Once again though the official took up good position and called it spot on, the defenders tackle superbly timed and in no way a spot kick.
Armadale were causing the home side trouble of their own, coming almost exclusively down the home left, with the defence diving into challenges too regularly and leaving themselves open to attacks. Fortunately, in the opening exchanges only one effort forced a save from Jackson in the home goal, but it was a fine stop, diving full length to his right to tip a powerful drive on the angle beyond the post.
It didn't though provide the warning that Dunipace needed as they found themselves level moments later, again the damage done down the left. With Comrie caught wide the ball was slid into the feet of the winger, leaving Cherrie exposed. With a 2v1 against the fullback couldn’t stop the cross and despite Jackson making a super save to keep out the first effort it dropped onto the head of the attacker following up who planted it confidently beyond the stopper for 1-1.
Dunipace reacted well to being pegged back, Black playing an excellent ball onto the chest of Brown in the box, Brown holding off the challenge of the defender before sliding to Comrie who saw his shot blocked wide for another corner.
Cherrie escaped a booking for a rash challenge on half way as Armadale continued to attack down the left, but it was the home side who looked the more likely to score again with King stinging the palms of the keeper from 20 yards following good setup play from Brown and Weir hitting the post rather fortuitously with a cross from the right. Comrie showed great feet in the wide area to skip past the fullback before finding the side net before Brown was played through on goal, nipped the ball away from the keeper and hit the side net himself as the defence got back onto the line.
There was though, as the half came to a close, yet more injury woe for the home side. Meade and Maclaren linked to find Comrie on the left and he cut inside to find Brown. Brown did well to reverse into the run of Maclaren, but the keeper was sharp off the mark to get there first, clattering Maclaren in the process. In the tackle Maclaren suffered a recurrence of the shin issue that has been plaguing him recently and visibly uncomfortable was forced off to be replaced by Mitusch. In the reshuffle Comrie moved into the centre, allowing Mitusch to play in his more natural position in the wide area.
From the off the wide man had an impact on the game, linking well with Comrie to release the midfielder on the left. Comrie beat 2 men before pulling back towards Weir, but the defender snuffed it out for another corner before the striker could get his shot away.
Half time and 1-1, the home side with the better chances created but being kept on their toes by a more than capable visiting attack. The young pace played some decent football in spells, certainly showing more patience at times in possession that they had done last time out, but fair to say they still hadn't reached the levels set before the enforced 3 month winter break.
Into the second half and it was much of a muchness, Dunipace creating an early chance for Meade as Comrie linked well with Mitusch on the left who did superbly to hold off his marker then play a deft touch into the run of Meade. With only the keeper to beat though the midfielder slid wide of the post.
Moments later McIntyre and Brown linked on the right to send King away. King raced away from his marker and delivered a wonderful cross between defence and keeper, with no-one in black and white there to finish it off. And it was a similar story moments later as Mitusch did similar on the left before picking out Weir, his shot snuffed away to Cherrie who fired over from distance as Mitusch looked for the ball in space on the right.
The home side freshened things up 10 minutes into the half, Paterson replacing Weir up front and the striker almost had an immediate impact as he raced onto Mitusch's through pass before skipping beyond two tackles and seeing the keeper block his effort out for a corner.
The striker though did have a scoring impact in the next phase of play, linking again with Comrie and Mitusch before forcing his way into the box. As the ball was nicked off his toes it looked as though the keeper was in complete control but Brown, as Brown does, sniffed a chance. With absolutely no right to get there he beat the keeper in the challenge, took a touch and slotted into the net for 2-1, getting his reward for perseverance by slotting in goal number 32 for the season.
It was to be the last chance on goal Dunipace would have for a while, the visitors increasingly allowing the home side to come forward and leaving numbers behind them, Dunipace over committing on a few occasions with Balmer and the impressive Black to thank more than once for winning the first ball to give them a chance to get back into shape.
During the period Jackson in the home goal only had to field one effort, a comfortable take from a srike from 20 yards, but there was drama left in this tie and it came in the shape of yet another Dunipace injury!
The home side lost the ball in the midfield area and Armadale sprung an excellent counter attack, the front man played through on goal on the left. The ball though was slightly heavy, giving Jackson a chance to get out and make a wonderful last ditch tackle, equally as good as the visiting defenders effort in the first half, to put the ball out for a corner. The tackle though the ferocity with which the two players came together, no malice at all from the Armadale attacker, left the keeper in some pain on the ground.
Following a long (5+ minutes) stoppage to ensure nothing was broken it was confirmed that the keeper could not continue, which meant Andy Meade donning the gloves with fully 30 minutes remaining.
Such an important player in midfield it was a double blow for the home side, but in Steven they had a ready made replacement. On Meade's only previous stint in the sticks he conceded one but saved a penalty, which (penalty aside) was to be a similar story again here. From the corner the Armadale substitute rose above everyone to head home for 2-2, nothing Meade could do, which under the circumstances gave the visitors a real boost.
In truth though, they only managed to test Meade on 2 occasions during the 30 minutes, a long range effort that last years player of the year kept out with his feet in an almost tackle like fashion, much to the amusement of his colleagues, followed by a well collected cross.
Paterson had a chance to score but took a heavy touch before McIntyre and Comrie had efforts fielded by the stopper as Dunipace protected their stand in keeper by going on the offensive. This led to them regaining the lead with 15 minutes remaining through Paterson, scoring his first goal for the club.
Good football on the left saw Brown played into the channel and the big striker made inroads towards goal. Again his stubborn persistence paid off as he rode one challenge before being tackled but managing to poke the ball to his strike partner. Paterson, through on goal, was the coolest man on show, taking his time to draw the keeper before finishing calmly into the corner with his right for what should be the first of many for the talented forward.
Again, the home side were adamant that it was offside, but Paterson was played on by the fullback who was a good 5 yards deeper than the rest of his defensive line having chased back with Brown.
And the tie was made safe 5 minutes later with a quite exquisite finish. Taylor, having come on for a 20 minute stint at left back as he works his way back to fitness, linked with Steven and Mitusch to play Brown into a 1v1 with the centre back. The defender thought he could get there first, but Brown poked it past him to race clear on goal. As the keeper came out to face him Brown opened his body and shaped to finish low into the bottom right hand corner across the stopper, giving the eyes before showing a great touch to lift it over him to the left and into the net.
A well worked goal with a finish containing no shortage of quality and that little bit of arrogance that all good strikers have, 32 goals in less than 16 games providing the justification for both.
With Armadale pushing for a lifeline the striker could and probably should have had a hat-trick, again showing his considerable strength, pace and skill to skip beyond the last defender having been found by McIntyre. With the keeper rushing out he could have chosen to go around him or slot past him, but from much further out he tried to chip the keeper again, this time the stopper getting a hand to it. As the defender cleared the loose ball Steven did what Brown had failed to do, showing a lovely touch to lift high into the net from fully 35 yards, but to his disappointment the official had already blown for a foul.
4-2 it finished to the home side, but on a day when they played more than 30 minutes with no recognised goalkeeper or out and out central midfielders they will have been happy to see the game out in such a controlled fashion. While it is true that they were still some ways off their best, as a reaction to the week before from a purely performance perspective there were plenty of positives to take from the game.
Still plenty of work to do, but following such a disappointing day last time out it is that positive reaction that is vital for these young players to learn in pursuing progression towards the first team.