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Millburn Park, Leven Street, Alexandria, Dunbartonshire
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Vale of Leven 2-0 Lesmahagow
Vale: WILSON 22 mins, SMITH 77 mins
Man of the Match: Dougie Wilson
Saturday 31st August, 2002. Kick off: 3.00pm
Millburn Park.
Abercorn Builders Central District Division 1

Vale may have won through to the quarter finals of the Sectional League Cup but for boss Hugh Hamill this was the most important match of the season. With only one promotion spot up for grabs this year it was vital that the Millburn men got off to a flying start in the league. They certainly responded to the task in hand and thoroughly deserved this decisive win over big spending Lesmahagow.

For this important game Vale had to do without stalwarts Deeley, Wardle and Ward but captain Alex Lacy returned after holiday along with McKernan and new signing Paul Barton. "Gow" came to Millburn weakened by suspension but they did have a fair degree of experience in their ranks with player boss Sandy Ross and former "Bankie" Billy Ferguson.

The home side were first to threaten when Scott McKernan's effort was scrambled back of the line by keeper McGovern after 12 minutes. Vale were almost caught out when McGovern's long kick eluded Meechan and Ross tried a hook shot that was gathered low by Rogers.

  Dougie Wilson
A goal and man
of the match for
Dougie Wilson

Vale forged ahead after 22 minutes with as sweet a goal as you'll see this season. Alex Lacy collected the ball on the right just inside his own half and Kevin Goodwin swept a lovely first time ball finding McKenzie racing free on the left, a header on and he was away and his low driven cross was fired high into the net by the ever dangerous Dougie Wilson. The home side were well on top at this stage and Wilson and Hunter both passed up good chances to increase the lead.

"Gow" at last came into the game and for a 10 minute spell they bombarded the Vale goal with high balls that left Vale vulnerable. However Vale weathered the storm and finished the half on top with Meechan coming close from Brown's corner.

Ten minutes into the second period Vale were unlucky not to score when Brown's free kick found Meechan all on his own and from 6 yards his downward header beat the keeper but bounced up to rebound from the crossbar. A similar move 5 minutes later saw Meechan's powerful header find the back of the net, this time offside robbed the Vale defender of a goal.

Good play between Wilson and McKernan on the right saw the experienced striker pick out the inrushing King but with only the keeper to beat he hit the ball first time and the ball cannoned off the keeper's legs.

After McKernan came close with a low shot that trundled wide of the far post "Gow's" chances were hampered by the sending off of midfielder Hamill for comments made to the referee with 16 minutes left. At once Vale put on Brian Smith for the injured Hunter and the newly wed Smith celebrated in style by netting Vale's 2nd goal within 3 minutes of his arrival. The substitute ran onto Wilson's through ball to calmly slot the ball past the advancing keeper.

With 6 minutes remaining McKernan would have done well to follow Smith's example but from a similar position he shot straight at the keeper for a fruitless corner.

By now the visitors had thrown in the towel and in the last minute Vale should have grabbed their third. McKernan chased Kings pass and as he was flattened by the keeper on the edge of the area he just managed to toe poke the ball goalward and from point blank range Dougie Wilson smashed the ball into the net but unfortunately for him the referee deemed that he had been in front of McKernan and ruled the goal offside.

On a day when Vale had no failures Goodwin, Hunter, McKernan and man of the match Dougie Wilson deserve special praise.

Vale would like to thank Morrison & Ritchie Butchers for sponsoring Saturday's match ball.

Team: Rogers; Lacy, Barton, Meechan, Goodwin; Hunter (Smith), Alan Brown, King, McKenzie; Wilson, McKernan. Unused subs: Maclaurin, Anton Brown, George & McLaughlin.
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