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The sun began to break out in Ayrshire as both teams took the pitch; East Vale travelled to Kilmarnock where hosts Bonnyton were looking to prolong their latest Scottish Cup run which has seen them win two trophies on the bounce. After a rather lacklustre first half, Bonnyton were the team able to go up through the gears and eventually run out 2-0 winners thanks to a double from supersub (and Scottish Cup specialist) Steven Hill.
The game started tentatively with both teams trying to find their feet. After an end-to-end opening ten minutes with no cutting edge shown, Bonnyton conjured up the first meaningful shot via a free kick from twenty-five yards. Sam McCloskey stepped up to take the kick, which he himself had won, and curled the ball round and over the wall - but also over the bar.
It was Bonnyton who kept up the early pressure and four minutes later the speedy Sean Mears broke free and pulled the trigger from twelve yards - only for him to see effort blocked by a defender before it could trouble Scott Barclay in the East Vale goal.
Bonnyton were beginning to settle into the game on top and some neat work on the edge of the box from Jordan Muir found rampaging midfield general Kieran McCrum with a great through pass. As soon as the midfielder looked to shoot the brave Lewis Grierson made a superb tackle, perfectly timed.
East Vale had to wait until the twenty-fourth minute for their first noteworthy sight of goal. It came via their own free kick attempt as Max McCarroll sent a curling effort towards goal. It was caught by Scott Purdie in the Bonnyton goal, albeit in some distress as he ensured the ball didn't cross the line as he fell back.
Both teams were battling hard and Bonnyton were struggling to impose their fluent passing game on the match as much as normal. East Vale were valiant in their efforts off the ball and were arguably the harder workers of the opening period. They were lacking a cutting edge up top as the final ball was often ineffective. Another free kick from McCarroll was the closest they came for the rest of the half as he drilled the ball towards goal but over the bar.
Bonnyton continued to look the more dangerous side but were lacking that clinical touch in the final third. This showed when, five minutes before half-time, a flurry of chances in the box occured as Mears, McCrum and Muir tried in vain. A combination of keeper and defence kept he scores level via a series of blocks and saves. Muir went close again seconds before the whistle, as Barclar made a terrific diving save to parry the striker's curling effort with his instep wide.
The whistle blew with 0-0 a fair reflection on things so far. While Bonnyton were on top in terms of chances. possession was only slightly above 50-50 in the home side's favour and the visitors were winning first and second balls all over the park.
Half Time: Bonnyton Thistle FC 0-0 East Vale FC
Ian Higgins gave his players a scalding at half-time - but in there was obviously some words of wisdom and inspiration as his team came out all guns blazing in the second half. Rejuvanated by their manager, the team came out pressing the ball more and showcasing their passing game to a greater extent. Despite the continuing efforts of the visiting Fifers, they could only hold out until just before the hour mark. Bonnyton had kept their opponents under the cosh since the restart and substitute Steven Hill was the man who grabbed the all-important goal. Jordan Muir picked the ball up on the left hand side thirty yards from goal. He turned and passed to Hill who, with his back to goal, played a perfect one-two with Kieran McCrum on the edge of the box. The supersub had continued his run well and he stroked the ball firmly under Barclay to open the scoring.
Bonnyton had been the better team so far, they had gained firm control in terms of possession and now deserved to be ahead.
Muir could have doubled Bonnyton's tally as the home team looked far from backing down. He struck a sweet and powerful effort at goal from twenty-five yards, only for it to whizz over the bar by a few inches. David Shedden then went close with a header from inside the six yards box. He rose well, but no goal.
A scare for Bonnyton came on seventy minutes after a 50-50 clash between Bonnyton 'keeper Purdie and East Vale's Dylan Honeyman. The striker was put through only for Purdie to come out and take all. Both men ended up on the deck but Scott Maxwell, who had impressed in the East Vale midfield, fired the rebound wide.
Five minutes later, Bonnyton all but sealed the tie. And guess who? Yes, Steven Hill. Bonnyton counter attacked and the striker picked the ball up twenty-five yards out. He took the ball into the box, jerking past a defender as he went, before swiping at it with his left from fourteen yards and into the net despite the efforts of Barclay.
Bonnyton had really upped their game in the second half. East Vale had barely had a look in, in terms ob both possession and chances. They had been pressurised since the second period started and the tie was now slipping away from them.
The clock ticked down with East Vale trying in vain to try and make an impression on the match and find a route back in. Craig McLaren and Andy Strachan remained composed, alert and strong as ever at the back while Steven Gregory and Ryan Golightly pu in good shifts at full back. Lewis Grierson, Scott Maxwell and Dylan Honeyman were the main men for East Vale and they looked the most capable of turning things around.
It was not to be however, as Bonnyton saw out the match on top. McCloskey had a chance with five minutes to go to round off the tie but he missed. The winger found space in behind but he skewed his shot from eleven yards wide of the post by inches.
And the whistle blew after forty-five minutes of dominaion from Bonnyton which showed their prowess. The first forty-five left a lot to be desired but after they upped their game in the second period, there really only was one winner. The Fifers played well and will not be downhearted at the fact they only lost by two goals to the holders. The boys in white are still more than capable of winning rophies and have both the Fife Cup and the league to look forward to. Dylan Honeyman worked tirelessly for East Vale as did Mac McCarroll and Scott Macwell. The latter was composed on the ball and brave in the tackle. Also brave was Lewis Grierson. He was a stand out battler today and he also used the ball well.
Bonnyton keep their quest for three in a row intact thanks to a double from Scottish Cup specialist Steven Hill. The striker was instrumental in Bellfield Under 17's march to victory last year, scoring the winning goal in the Quarter Final and the Final. With the Quarters looming next weekend he will be hoping for more of the same. David Shedden also had a profound influence on the game when he came on, as he and Hill helped spark the team further into life following Higgins' team talk at half-time. Ewan Barrie worked hard as ever in his box to box role, while Sam McCloskey looked dangerous on the wing. McCrum, McLaren and Strachan were solid while Muir was always dangerous in attack. Gregory and Golightly also did well from full back. This team will be very hard to beat with many medalists in their squad and ex Pro-Youth players also among the ranks. The experienced and successful coaching staff, headed by the charismatic Ian Higgins, wil be hard for any club to out-do, out-think and out-class this year. Ayrshire rivals Valspar lie in wait in the Quarters.
Full Time: Bonnyton Thistle 2-0 East Vale FC