At a wet and blustery Alliance Park, Caledonian Braves bounced back from a tough loss against The Spartans last weekend, by dramatically defeating Bo’ness United 4-3, in the fourth round of the South Challenge Cup.
The match was a roller-coaster for the supporters in attendance, with a flurry of second half goals and action, which led to a tense period of extra time to settle the tie.
Manager Ricky Waddell stated that the “good and the bad was there for all to see, in what was a horrible game of football where we had to battle and show our battling qualities”. His side certainly rallied after losing their lead in the second half, but Ricky always believed that if his side “could get their noses in front, they wouldn’t lose it, and it proved to be the case”.
Caledonian Braves made a strong start to the game, settling in with a few early chances after kick-off. However, as conditions grew worse, neither side were able to play a passing game, which appeared to suit the more direct Bo’ness. Little split the teams in the following fifteen minutes, until Bo’ness were awarded an innocuous penalty after two players jumped for a loose header in the box. Bo’ness attacker Tom Grant took full opportunity of this situation, by dispatching past Chris Henry with a powerful struck penalty in the 22nd minute.
The Braves responded well and ensured that they’d enter the half time break level, after equalising in the 33rd minute. Creative lynchpin Marc Kelly started the fluid move with a neat piece of interplay at halfway, before releasing the tricky Zac Butterworth down the right, whose cutback was met by the onrushing Ross McNeil, who coolly dispatched from close range to make it 1-1.
As the wind and rain continued to grow, both teams would’ve been relieved to hear the halftime whistle, as the opening period closed without further action.
Ricky Waddell’s halftime feedback proved to be successful, as the Braves began the second half firmly in front, as the conditions began to ease for a spell. Following on from three substitutions and some sustained pressure, Luke Main rifled in a terrific shot from the edge of the box, which clipped the inside of the post before hitting the back of the net, to give the Braves a deserved lead in the 66th minute.
Just five minutes later, the Braves were then awarded a penalty after a clumsy push in the box and Marc Kelly stood up to double the host’s advantage. Kelly – who possessed a 100% strike rate from the spot coming into the game – smashed his effort down the middle past the diving ‘keeper, but his effort smashed onto the crossbar. A powerful strike which left the crossbar reverberating, but crucially also left Bo’ness with a foothold in the tie.
From out of nowhere, the momentum switched, and Bo’ness advanced up the park and swiftly found an equaliser in the 73rd minute. After the ball bobbled around in the box, Tom Grant nodded home with a well improvised header to level the scores for the visitors.
However, the true sucker punch arrived just two minutes later, when the impressive Lennon Walker latched onto a long ball to find himself one on one with Chris Henry. The Falkirk loanee made no mistakes by impressively taking on the shot early to beat Henry and send the travelling supporters into jubilation.
This time, it was up to Ricky Waddell’s men to respond, and they did just that in the 84th minute, when lively substitute Jamie Watson latched onto Luke Main's cross, after persistent play from the midfielder, to once again level the scores as the clock ticked towards 90. That would prove to be the last action of the regulation minutes, as the supporters wrapped up for a chilly extra time period to follow.
Caledonian Braves looked the brighter of the two sides in the additional period and ten minutes in, found the breakthrough to make it 4-3. After some impressive work by Butterworth down the left, Marc Kelly burst onto a loose ball in the box and our top goal-scorer made no mistake by finding the back of the net, with a powerful strike that flicked off a Bo’ness defender on its way to goal.
This goal proved to be a killer blow, as Bo’ness failed to rally and ultimately lost their temper in the dying embers. Firstly, defender McCormack received a second yellow for dissent towards the referee, and he was quickly joined in the changing room by Pearce, who received a straight red for a wild stamp on Enzo Wright.
Bo’ness therefore played the last five minutes with nine men and had no real chance of getting back into the tie, with Caledonian Braves running out as deserved winners over the piece.
The result sees us advance into the next phase of the Southern Challenge Cup, however attention will first turn to Wednesday night when we return to league action for our visit to Hearts B.
Post-match reaction from Ricky Waddell available at the link here - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k1erwM4Oioc&ab_channel=CaledonianBraves
Website Man of the Match: Luke Main