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Millburn Park, Leven Street, Alexandria, Dunbartonshire
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Vale Of Leven 5-1 Blantyre Vics
Vale: Wardle 14 mins, Meechan 60 mins, Ward 67, 75 & pen 80 mins.
Blantyre: Curran 57 mins
Man of the Match: Graeme McKenzie
Saturday 30th November, 2002. Kick off: 1.45pm
Millburn Park.
Abercorn Builders Central District Division 1

Hugh Hamill's men got their league challenge back on the rails with this victory over bottom side Blantyre Vics at rain soaked Millburn on Saturday. The result was also the ideal boost ahead of next week's important Scottish tie at Benburb.

Although the scoreline was pretty emphatic at the end, the visitors looked the better side after levelling the score early in the second period until being reduced to 10 men after Brown was sent off for a 2nd caution.

Vale started their first home game since October with the side that did so well at Renfrew last time out. Vics, troubled by injury, fielded the side that dumped Super league Cumbernauld out of the West of Scotland Cup last week.

The home side started brightly and deservedly took the lead after only 14 minutes. Lacy got in a shot that was stopped by the keeper who also did well to stop McKenzie's follow up. From the resultant corner from Alan Brown, BRIAN WARDLE got in a looping header that dropped over McNab and into the net.

  Hugh Ward
Hat-trick for Hugh Ward.

Vics young side gradually came into the game and subjected Vale to a fare bit of pressure but the closest they came to an equaliser was when McGurk broke on the right and when his cross fell to Curran his netbound shot was somehow pushed up onto the crossbar by inform Vale keeper Rogers before being cleared.

Vale should have increased their lead at the start of the second half but Goodwin's effort was blocked and after a scramble Vics cleared the danger.

The game erupted 12 minutes into the half when Hunter was adjudged to have pulled the jersey of Lawson on the edge of the area and as the referee was cautioning the Vale player a series of petty squabbles ended with Vics' Brown punching keeper Rogers to the ground. Amazingly the referee missed the incident and allowed the free kick to be taken. Unfortunately for Vale in the scramble that followed Wardle did well to hook the ball out from under his own bar but the ball rebounded from Curran and ended up in the back of the Vale net. The aforementioned Brown was stupid enough to make some remarks to Vale's defence earning his 2nd caution of the afternoon and promptly despatched to the comforts of the dressing room.

With a man advantage Vale immediately withdrew Hunter and put on the more attack minded Boal. On the hour mark Vale forged ahead for the second time. Meechan's long ball saw McKenzie free on the left and when his cross came over Smith's near post effort was blocked for a corner. Once again Alan Brown sent over an inviting cross which was powerfully headed down and into the net by JIM MEECHAN.

Vale added a third after 67 minutes with the first of Hugh Ward's hat trick. Graeme McKenzie, who was having his best game for Vale since his summer signing, was involved when he collected Toby King's pass on the left before sending over an inviting cross that was dummied by the inrushing Smith and WARD clipped the ball over the keeper into the net.

Eight minutes later the game was more or less over as a contest when McKenzie collected the keeper's poor throw out and his low cross was fumbled by the keeper straight to the feet of WARD who first timed the ball into the unguarded net.

With 10 minutes remaining Alan Brown threaded a pass through to Lacy who found himself in on the keeper who promptly brought him down inside the area just as the Vale skipper was about to roll the ball into the net. A penalty it was and surprisingly the referee didn't even speak to the keeper who was had no answer to HUGH WARD'S expertly taken spot kick to wrap up the scoring. In the final minute the keeper denied Ward a fourth goal when his delicate chip was tipped up and over the bar.

On a day when everyone earned pass marks hat trick hero Hugh Ward was just pipped for the man of the match award by Graeme McKenzie who contributed to four goals, gave Vale an attacking option on the left and in tiring conditions was back helping out in defence.

Team: Rogers; Lacy, Wardle, Meechan, Goodwin (Deeley); Hunter (Boal), Alan Brown, King, McKenzie (Anton Brown); Smith; Ward. Unused subs: Maclaurin and McKernan.

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