St Andrews United keep up the pace at the top after Vale of Leithen victory
The home side struggled to implement their usual passing game during the opening stages. Vale of Leithen goalkeeper Chris Malcom also produced a terrific performance throughout the first half to deny the hosts. Indeed, Malcolm made a fabulous save from Kyle Sneddon in the twentieth minute by diving to his right and the heavy pitch certainly suited the visitors.
Malcolm then made equally impressive saves to prevent Ryan McManus and Lewis Sawers from giving Saints the lead before James Flynn hit the bar at the other end of the park in the 44th minute.
The score thus remained 0-0 as the players headed for the changing rooms at the interval yet the United fans weren’t too concerned because their favourites dominated possession during the first half.
St Andrews United also tends to perform better whilst attacking down the slope but Vale of Leithen’s Dean Burgess created the first opportunity of the second half by testing Calum Brodie with a low, left-footed shot in the 52nd minute.
However, Sawers immediately caused problems for the visitors a few seconds later as it took a great defensive tackle to halt the winger’s surging run then Malcolm made further good saves from Lewis Lorimer and Jordan Mackenzie.
The action subsequently switched from end-to-end thereafter as Flynn sent a header just past Brodie’s far post before Scott Reekie hit the woodwork with a similar effort. Malcolm then made a superb double-save from shots by Ryan Dignan and Sawers as the home supporters began to wonder if luck was not on their side.
Thankfully, Saints earned a penalty in the 73rd minute when a poorly hit clearance struck a defender’s arm and Sawers confidently dispatched the spot kick to Malcolm’s right.
Not surprisingly, that goal eased the nerves of the hosts and they quickly added a second goal when James Collins danced past Vale’s left back prior to swinging a lovely cross towards the penalty spot.
United captain Reekie was slightly in front of the ball but he checked his run before sending a fantastic looping header over Malcolm to make the score 2-0. That goal clearly knocked the stuffing out of a resilient away team and United manager Robbie Raeside consequently took the chance to make five substitutions, including the introduction of Aiden Mackenzie for his debut.
Another young player also caught the eye in the shape of John McGlashan as he earned the man-of-the-match award for producing a mature display in defence yet there was time left for local lad McManus to add a third goal during injury time.
McManus collected a neat pass from fellow St Andrean Dave Shields prior to beating a defender and hitting the ball across Malcolm with his left foot.
The match ended 3-0 to Saints, and with fellow promotion contenders Dunipace and Whitburn both dropping points, it was a good day for Raeside’s team.
Meanwhile, United’s under-20s drew 1-1 with Oakley United at Pitreavie last Friday. evening.
Saints line-up against Vale of Leithen: Brodie, Lorimer, Cunningham, Reekie, McGlashan, McManus, Sawers, J.Mackenzie, Dignan, Sneddon and Collins. Used subs: Greenhill, Redpath, Grant, Shields and A. Mackenzie.