Top form from potential title challengers

Mark Leighfield scores for Crichton from the penalty spot
Mark Leighfield scores for Crichton from the penalty spot

Crichton 1 Newton Stewart 1

This game started in a downpour but it did not dampen the spirits of either team as they played their first competitive match of the new season in the South of Scotland League.

Both teams have added new faces since last season and both started the game keen to show they will among the favourites for the title this term.

In a very competitive match, play swung from end to end with both defences in top form. With 11 minutes played, however, the Crichton players thought they should have been awarded a penalty when striker Mark Leighfield felt he was impeded in the box but the referee thought otherwise.

A minute later, with the play at the other end of the park, good work by Lewis Dunn gave him space to find brother Calum but his effort on goal was well defended.

The tackles in midfield were becoming tough with both sides giving their all to break the deadlock and, with half an hour played, Leighfield had a good headed effort on target which was easily held by keeper Harry Fidler.

The visitors then began to pressurise the home defence but it a hard nut to crack and in the 36th minute a Ross Newlands header flashed across Fidler’s goalmouth but was just off target. With play concentrated in midfield, for the rest of the first half the teams went at the break goalless.

The second half had seen only three minutes action when young Lewis Dunn was alleged to have pulled down Newlands inside the box and a penalty was awarded to the home side. Leighfield sent the ball straight down the middle to score and put Crichton into a slender lead.

Five minutes later the same player was unlucky not to double Crichton’s lead when he saw a vicious shot come off the upright and cleared to safety.

With 56 minutes gone, player/manager Davy Hyslop was caught trying to clear the ball but as Darren Kerr ran in on goal the central defender managed to track back to thwart the danger. Two minutes later Leighfield had the ball in the net from a corner but was alleged to have fouled Fidler in the process.

With 66 minutes played, following some Newton Stewart pressure, the game was all square. Substitute Robert Middleton did not give on a chase for the ball between himself and Crichton keeper Tommy Muirhead and, after the youngster won the race, he coolly cut it back to the incoming Calum Dunn who fired home.

Four minutes later, though, Newton survived once more when substitute defender Martyn Henry came to his side’s rescue when he made a fine goal-line clearance from a net-bound ball.

In the 74th minute it was Newton’s turn to claim a penalty for what they felt was a handball but the referee disagreed.

With 10 minutes left, Crichton had keeper Muirhead to thank for rescuing a point when he made an excellent save to push a John Kiltie deflected shot over the crossbar to safety.

The game ended all square following a very good contest with both teams deserving to take something from the match. On this form either could win the title this season – or have a big say on who eventually does.