Single strike secures semis slot

Nithsdale Wanderers 0, Newton Stewart 1

John McNaught at Lorimer Park

Newton Stewart are through to the semi-final stages of this season’s Haig Gordon Cup competition after recording a slender victory over Nithsdale Wanderers at Sanquhar in a very tough but entertaining cup tie.

The Creesiders started the match very well, although early exchanges were fairly even.

But with only six minutes on the clock, the visitors took the lead following some good work up front by Calum Dunn. The lone striker found himself running out of space as he tried to round the advancing keeper but his cutback found Stevie Beggs charging in to thunder the ball through a ruck of players and a stranded keeper for what proved eventually to be the only goal of the game.

Play then swung from end to end with Newton Stewart producing some very good one-touch football, while the home side relied mainly on the long ball game although they too were producing some very entertaining play at times.

This was a thrilling match with both sides looking to score but with the defences mainly on top. However, in the 33rd minute, Newton could have doubled their lead when Dunn went one on one with keeper Grozier with the goalie coming off best with a good stop. Three minutes later Beggs tested the keeper with a 35-yard free kick but again the stopper was equal to the drive which he parried into the path of Martyn Henry, whose close in shot missed the target.

The home keeper was having the game of his life and on two occasions before the break did well to prevent his side going further behind.

Nithsdale started the second half with determination to try to level the match and within four minutes a Jim Houston effort was tipped over the crossbar by keeper Garry Lightbody. In the 51st minute, though, Newton had another opportunity to double their scoreline when Dean Fyfe made good progress down the right to send a cross to the head of Henry but his header at the back post went wide.

Nithsdale thought they had scored the equaliser from a tremendous free kick from 20 yards sent in by Houston but, with keeper Lightbody beaten, central defender Lewis Richardson made a superb goal-line clearance.

With an hour played Nithsdale once again almost found a leveller but striker David Kennedy’s effort from close range missed the target. Five minutes later, the visitors were reduced to 10 men when Richardson received a straight red card following a foul near the half-way line which caused player/manager Davy Hyslop to re-arrange his team by taking off wide man Fyfe and replacing Richardson at the back by himself.

The home side then really went for the kill but could not penetrate the visitors’ defence to cause any great danger and keeper Lightbody proved his worth between the sticks with some very good saves. Nithsdale had most of the pressure but good defensive work kept them at bay and, with time running out, it was Newton Stewart who had a couple of good chances to build on their fragile lead. However, keeper Grozier again came to his side’s assistance to give them a chance of equalising but this was not to be and the first-half goal was enough to see Newton Stewart through to the semi-finals.

The Creesiders produced a very good display, with Stephen Beggs being named as man of the match for the winning goal and his overall midfield performance.