Two goals from Ross McNeil saw the Caledonian Braves secure a 2-1 victory over Hearts B on Saturday afternoon.
The three points in the Lowland League comes after a disappointing week after we were knocked out of two cup competitions.
A crisp volley early on and a goal from the penalty spot gave us a two goal cushion, before Murray Thomas pulled one back with 15 minutes left on the clock.
The victory sees Caledonian Braves rise to 11th in the table and Hearts B slip to 5th.
After the game, Braves manager Ricky Waddell said: “Fair credit to the boys because we were hanging on today. Over the course that we could’ve made the game a lot easier for ourselves by maybe scoring an extra goal and calming down on the ball. I’m obviously happy with the three points, the boys deserve a win.
“All credit to them for hanging in there, especially when it goes 2-1, you’re saying okay let’s see what you’re about. We talk about character but that shows character to say right, okay we’re not going to get beat here, let’s keep digging in."
The Braves began the game with an intention to press high and put pressure on the Hearts B back line who were determined to play out from the back.
The ball was in the back of the net after 3 minutes from Scott Cusick, before the linesman swiftly raised his flag for offside.
Moments later, some good play from Louis Thompson and Robbie Stewart won possession from Hearts on the wing, with the latter sending in a brilliant cross destined for Ross McNeil’s right boot.
The prolific striker made no mistake, rifling a stunning volley past Liam McFarlane in goal, to give us a dream start.
Bernie White had a busy afternoon and was first tested after Hearts played some intricate passes in the middle and got a shot off which saw White fly across to his right to parry to safety.
On 14 minutes, White was forced into another fine stop when a low corner was met by Rathie which was going high into the roof of the net, before our American keeper managed to get his fingertips to it.
The first half fizzled out after a frantic start, with both teams putting in good balls into the danger area which were either defended well or no attacker able to get on the end of them.
Hearts will be scratching their heads as they could’ve been level on the stroke of half time, when Duncan met a low ball across the face of the goal, only to see his effort cannon off the upright.
The second half got off to the perfect start, when Kristain Gkegka found some space on the left wing and started to drive into space ahead.
The ball was slipped in behind thanks to a clever Ross McNeil run, who was clumsily taken out from behind, giving the referee no choice but to point to the spot.
Make that 16 goals for Ross McNeil, who took the penalty, sending the keeper the wrong way and scoring a perfect penalty to the bottom right corner.
The Braves seemed comfortable in the second half with their two goal lead, with the only scare coming when a loose ball fell kindly to Sandilands, who’s strike was well dealt with by a combination of Daniel Martins and Bernie White.
It could’ve been a day to remember for Louis Thompson, who almost scored his first goal for the club, only to see his effort ricochet off the same post Hearts hit in the first half.
In the second phase of attack, Scott Cusick saw his shot from a couple of yards out blocked and cleared off the line.
The Wee Jambos were a constant threat in the match, albeit they were met by a strong Braves backline. They did manage to get their breakthrough in the 75th minute, after good work down the right by Wilson and Ross. The latter's cross found Murray Thomas who calmly slotted home to cut the deficit to one.
This did not deter the Braves' spirit with a bullet from John Guthrie speeding to the top left corner, but McFarlane got two strong hands to send the ball to safety.
Hearts B threw absolutely everything to find the all important equaliser but the Braves defended resolutely.
A sublime block by Daniel Martins showed his fight for the cause, throwing his body to block a dangerous strike.
Bernie White was the star of the show however, with a double save that defies all logic.
He made a good save from point black range but saw the rebound fall to a Hearts attacker. With the keeper being on the deck, it seemed that the Hearts man had the simplest of tasks to score, but Bernie inexplicably managed to get behind the rebound to keep the lead intact.
An absolutely terrific piece of goalkeeping.
Ross McNeil almost got his hattrick, showcasing his technique by flicking the ball over the defender’s head to be through on goal.
His strike was well saved by McFarlane, diverting his low effort away for a corner.
After three intense minutes of added on time, Hearts B’s race was run and the Braves secured a mighty impressive 2-1 victory over our Edinburgh counterparts.
“Character isn't a one off thing," added the gaffer post-game. "It’s what you’re all about and your make up and they’ve showed that a number of times so I can only commend the guys for their performance, digging in when we have to dig in and I’m really pleased for them in the end.
“Our real thought process at the moment is to try better every result that we’ve had in the past. We did that today against Hearts, we drew the game against Hearts before, but we beat them today so that’s about progression and that’s what we’re looking for.”
What’s next for the Braves?
Up next is an away trip in the league at Newton Park against Bo’ness United on Saturday 17th February at 3pm.
Our next home game at Alliance Park will be against Wigtown and Bladnoch on the 2nd of March, in the Southern Counties Cup!