Sauchie Juniors….....3
Dalkeith Thistle….....1 East of Scotland Premier League

SAUCHIE took another step towards an immediate return to the East Super League with a convincing victory over Dalkeith at Beechwood Park on Wednesday evening.

The Wee County side were two up at the break thanks to strikes from David Morrison and Steven Higgins, before Mark Sharp made the points safe with his first for the club in the second half.

Dean Whitson pulled one back for the visitors but it wasn’t enough, with Sauchie goalkeeper Darren Dolan saving a late Scott Waugh penalty to seal the victory.

The home side started brightly and Ryan Millar looked to be in after he latched onto Brian Morgan’s pass, but he was controversially given offside, before Morrison and Higgins combined with the latter just failing to keep his shot down.

Dalkeith threatened at various points, their first chance falling to Tyrone McLean, whose shot, like Higgins’, sailed over the crossbar.

Sauchie could have had a penalty when Higgins’ cross appeared to strike an arm in the box, but the referee was unmoved, before Jordan Tapping’s shot was kept out by Thistle keeper James McQueen.

However, the breakthrough did eventually arrive with 25 minutes played.

Josh Flood chased down what looked like a lost cause and was rewarded as he kept the ball in play. He then cut it back to Morrison, who blasted past the helpless McQueen and into the roof of the net.

The midfielder has now scored in his last two games and could have had another moments later, but he was denied by a terrific last-ditch tackle from Callam McNeill.

But Sauchie had their second ten minutes after they had taken the lead.

Higgins raced past Dalkeith right-back Shaun Murray, cut inside and slotted the ball beyond McQueen and into the far corner of the net.

The visitors kept battling and Tapping had to be alert to deny Waugh with a superb block after the Thistle winger had latched onto a mishit clearance.

At the other end, McQueen was seeing a lot of action, and it was not all of Sauchie’s making.

The keeper had to make a superb stop after team-mate Dan Greig had inadvertently sent a header looping towards his own net.

Dalkeith came out after half time full of fight as they searched for a route back into the game, and McNeill was not far away as he headed over from a Paul Tansey corner.

Sauchie’s top scorer Millar was without a goal in five games but he was causing Dalkeith all sort of problems and was only denied by a good save after he was played in by Higgins.

That was Higgins’ final act of the game as worryingly, he picked up a knee injury and had to be carried off, giving manager Fraser Duncan a headache with his squad already depleted.

Gary McCulloch headed inches wide as the home side hunted for the third goal to put the game beyond all doubt.

However, the home side's pressure eventually did pay off, and it was the unlikeliest of scorers who got the goal.

Sharp had never scored for the club before, but as Morrison’s shot was cleared up rather than out, he showed more determination than anyone, beating team-mate Millar in the air, to nod the ball home and finally break his duck.

Although the game was over as a contest, Dalkeith continued to fight admirably and McLean forced Dolan into a decent save, before Whitson grabbed what proved to be a consolation with twenty minutes remaining, squeezing a header past Tapping, who did his best to clear it off the line.

Dolan’s older brother Steven, a defender by trade, entered the fray as an auxiliary centre-forward and almost immediately forced McQueen into a save, but he failed to catch the shot as he would have wanted and it was relatively comfortable for the keeper.

At the other end, keeper Dolan was called into action twice in quick succession.

First, he kept out Tansey’s header, before he pulled off a magnificent save to keep Waugh’s penalty out after Sharp had been harshly penalised for handball.

That averted what would have been a nervy finish for Sauchie, and in the end it was the home side who threatened to add to the scoring, McQueen saving his side late on.

First, McCulloch’s header was brilliantly kept out, before the goalkeeper made another superb stop to deny Dolan the goal which would have been a fine reward for Duncan’s gamble in throwing the defender on up front.

That was the final action of an entertaining game which saw Sauchie move another step closer to winning the East Premier title, with their attentions now turned to Saturday’s East of Scotland Cup quarter-final against Kelty Hearts at Beechwood Park.

SAUCHIE: D. Dolan, Sharp, Syme (McFarlane), Tapping, Fleming, McCulloch, Millar, Morgan, Higgins (Shields), Morrison (S. Dolan), Flood. UNUSED SUBS: Maitland.