THIS clash of two teams desperately clutching onto their Premier Division lives delivered exactly what you would have expected.

It was scrappy from the first minute, full bloodied until the last, hot tempered at times, and at others descended into little more than trench warfare in midfield straight out of the ‘six-pointer’ playbook. 

But, crucially for those with Clacks in their veins, Sauchie emerged the victors from their Newtongrange Star battle, thanks to an impressive second-half display which should go some way to winning their relegation war. 

If they are to survive, they will need Ross Crawford to continue to adjust to life back at Beechwood with the same ease with which Scotland’s leading football clubs send out statements.

Alloa and Hillfoots Advertiser: David Cross opened the scoring with a fine finish David Cross opened the scoring with a fine finish It’s no exaggeration to say securing his signature looks like being one of the finest bits of business from either of the Wee County’s sides for quite some time. Everyone knew what they were getting when Fraser Duncan finally landed his man, but it’s doubtful many expected him to be an even better player than in his previous spell. 

Two fine finishes aside - and they were the composed stroke of a football that’s been missing all season from the Reds - he looked leaner, sharper, and just that bit smarter than everyone else; in no small part down to his spell with League Two Brechin City. 

David Cross might have been the one to break the deadlock, but Crawford’s two-second half strikes made the game safe and there was time left for Camelon loanee Aaron Bryson to nab his first goal for the club and put the gloss on a thoroughly pleasing day for the Reds; albeit Kayne Paterson’s deflect strike blotted the copy book. 

With Storm Ciara growing increasingly threatening in the skies, it was the hosts who started this must-win clash with a bang on the pitch, almost scoring twice within the first five minutes. 

Crawford was at the heart of things when he peeled off the shoulder of his man to get on the end of David McCaughie’s excellent cross, only for it to be deflected wide, before leaping above a shell shocked Star defence and flicking a header inches past the post.

Crawford wasn’t alone in threatening Newtongrange’s goal and instead the hosts’ best chances of the half - Cross’ fine finish aside - fell on Stevie Dolan’s shoulders. 

His tireless running broke the Newtongrange line to get onto the end of Crawford’s delicious flick, only for his weakly prodded finish to be blocked away by Liam McCathie.

He came even closer with one of the half’s final flourishes when he could only scoop the ball wide, despite the visitors’ goal resigned to its fate.

Alloa and Hillfoots Advertiser: David McCaughie impressed during a fine 90 minutes David McCaughie impressed during a fine 90 minutes

In fairness to Dolan, the ball took a devious bobble after McCathie parried Crawford’s fine effort and the makeshift striker had shown remarkable endeavour to keep up play - despite the groans from the Jimmy Millar stand which said otherwise.

Dolan would have the last laugh, however, as it was his composed hold-up play which teed-up Crawford for the first of his two goals. 

When Sauchie finally did score midway through the half, it came from one the side’s more unlikely sources. Cross’ composure from the spot is well documented, but here he was, ghosting to the front post, and planting Alan Comrie’s delicious delivery beyond McCathie. 

Newtongrange, for their part, looked very much like a team sitting bottom of the table with the clock ticking on their relegation prospects and their frustration only grew as the game wore on without reward. A wayward free kick from Scott Swaney and fortuitous flick over the Sauchie bar was the sum of it at the break.

Much to the relief of the Reds’ faithful, Duncan’s side finally flexed their superior muscles in the second-half to put Newtongrange to the sword, in all likelihood killing off one of their relegation rivals in the process. 

Crawford’s fine showing got its just rewards when he sprinted onto Dolan’s inviting lay-off and wrong footed McCathie with a lovely finish. He made it three just minutes later to put paid to the visitors’ faint hopes and this time it was a wonderful solo effort.

After picking the ball up in midfield, he charged towards Newtongrange’s box, stopped and flicked the ball over the head of a bamboozled defender, before coolly slotting the ball under McCathie and racing away in delight. 

The game was over from that moment and Newtongrange’s slumped shoulders belonged to those of a team who knew their race was run. There was still time for Bryson to make it four as he finished off a wonderful counter spearheaded by Comrie. 

Newtongrange did find the net via a wicked deflection, but there wasn’t enough time for them to mount anything like a comeback.