Benburb 4 Forth Wanderers 3
Despite twice being ahead during the game, the Wanderers lost 4-3 to Benburb on their first visit to New Tinto Park, with the hosts winner coming deep into injury time at the end of the game. David Leadbetter, on loan from Rossvale, made his Forth debut at left back.
Benburb were first to show and Jamie Boyle fired an effort wide after a good build up involving several players whilst at the other end home keeper Scott Sommerville had to look lively to reach a passback ahead of the onrushing Barry McGeechan. Forth keeper Andy Finnigan then saved from Kieran Blackwood as the Bens pressed but Willie McClaren was becoming more prominent for Forth and some good play saw him setup McGeechan, although a good defensive tackle cleared the danger at the expense of a corner. The Wanderers forced several corners at this stage but only came close with a Jim Dick header which was cleared from the line, Dick having replaced the injured Gary McMullen with barely 15 minutes on the clock.
The game continued to flow from end to end, but when the opening goal arrived it was the Wanderers who struck. McClaren played in Taylor Scott and the young striker fired home from 8 yards with 27 minutes gone. Forth continued to press forward but it was the hosts who equalised 5 minutes later. A corner out on the left was touched on and Stephen Tait could only deflect the ball into his own net while trying to clear. Undaunted, the Wanderers regained the lead 2 minutes later when McClaren notched his 10th goal of the season. This time Scott was the provider playing in McClaren who sidestepped keeper Sommerville before rolling the ball into the net. McClaren came close again minutes later when he fired narrowly wide from 20 yards.
Benburb then enjoyed a good spell of play and only a goal line clearance from Leadbetter denied Colin McInnes before an overhead kick from Ryan Livingston rattled the post. However, the final chance of the half fell to the Wanderers, McGeechan in a good position elected to play in Scott rather than shoot and as the young striker shaped to shoot an excellent last ditch tackle by Macauley Wilson diverted the ball for a corner. A good chance for Forth but half time arrived with them holding a slender one goal advantage.
Darren McNeil had the first chance of the second half for the Bens but dragged his shot wide. Willie Hardie was then carried off for Forth, being replaced by Kristopher Dick after 52 minutes and 2 minutes later it was 2-2. Jim Dick brought down Livingston in the box for a clear penalty and Livingston himself made no mistake from the spot. Livingston came close again minutes later before McGeechan tested Sommerville at the other end. Benburb then took the lead for the first time after 67 minutes when Blackwood played in Livingston who kept his composure to net his second of the match.
Sommerville then did well to save from Scott as Forth pressed for an equaliser but it was merely delayed and duly arrived on 76 minutes when Scott played in McGeechan who drilled the ball home. The game was now extremely open and Finnigan did well to tip over a McNeil shot as the Bens began to take control and Lightbody and Boyle both spurned good opportunities. Boyle was then replaced after a challenge from Gupwell which resulted in another lengthy stoppage.
Benburb were finishing the stronger and substitute Lockhart saw a shot deflected narrowly wide before Collinge headed past from the resultant corner. Finnigan then saved from Lockhart as we moved into 9 minutes of injury time, but he was helpless on 95 minutes when a free kick was nodded down by Livingston into the path of Blackwood, who fired home to spark wild Benburb celebrations. Amazingly there were still another four minutes of injury time but no further goals, so it ended 4-3 to the Bens.
A disappointing result after a game which could have gone either way, although the Wanderers will need to tighten up defensively if promotion is to be achieved. Next up two tough home matches against Glasgow Perthshire and Royal Albert, weather permitting.
Many thanks to John Smith at the Bens for allowing me to fill in the many blanks from his report on the Benburb site.
Forth team : Finnigan,S.Tait,Leadbetter,Gupwell, McMullen(J.Dick),Hardie(K.Dick),Grenfell