First Team

McNeil rescues point for the Braves

19th December 2020

Ross McNeil’s double rescued a point for the Braves as they fought back from a two-goal deficit at half-time to draw against the Strollers.
The Edinburgh side led through goals from Alieu Faye and Ross Guthrie - both chances coming from throw-ins, as the hosts failed to grip the game.
But Ricky Waddell’s side looked invigorated after the break, with an early McNeil header giving them hope. Neil McLaughlin then won a penalty, with McNeil converting from the spot for his and the Braves’ second.
They pushed for a winner but it wasn’t to come – despite McLaughlin rattling the bar from the half-way line. Both sides will feel fairly disappointed coming away from this one, as they stay in mid-table.

Upon reflection, both early Strollers’ goals would fall into the soft category.
That’s not to take away from Alieu Faye’s strike into the far post. The gangly number eight was one of many aerial threats for the visitors, lining up with fellow 6-footers Ross Guthrie and Mark McConnell.
The ball was flicked onto Faye from a throw, and in the box the big man was able to make space before casually half-volleying into the back-post.
The second goal was more controversial. The windy conditions were causing havoc with Yohann Chardon in the Braves’ sticks, and he couldn’t read the bounce of a long-throw on the far side. The ball looped over the Frenchman, with Guthrie claiming a touch at the front post, and it bounced into the net to make it 2-0.
Not much was created until half-time, and it seemed like only a Christmas miracle could salvage anything for Waddell and his men.
Fortunately, they have Ross McNeil. Just before the hour mark, he headed in from close-range, unchallenged – just like that, the momentum swung towards the hosts.
McLaughlin pinged a beautiful long ball towards his captain, who crossed to the back-post where McLaughlin had continued his run. He gathered, before being clattered by Lewis Budinauckas – referee Lloyd Wilson pointed straight to the spot. McNeil stepped up, hands on hips, and sent the keeper the wrong way.
He would threaten again after a McLaughlin run, whipping it round the post first time as he tried for the hat-trick.
Then, the most speculative and fantastic effort of the match. On the volley, McLaughlin rattled the bar from the half-way line. The 22-year-old still had time to smack the post from a free-kick, but it wasn’t to be his day.

A month ago, the Braves wouldn’t have taken a point from this game. They showed an incredible resilience to fight back following a tepid first-half display.
McLaughlin and McNeil in particular helped claw the hosts back. When one plays well, they both play well, and boy did McLaughlin show up in the second.
He twisted and turned, and showed a fantastic first touch on numerous occasions. He was also unlucky not to score – with the bar still shaking hours after his volley from the half-way line.
The result leaves both Braves and Strollers in exactly the same spot as they started the day. A bittersweet result for both parties.
Braves: Chardon; Guthrie, Dowie, Forrester, Docherty; Lachlan, Esplin, Sinclair, McLaughlin; Smith, McNeil ©
Subs: Trialist; Slattery, Reid, Walker, Pearson, Winters, Watson

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