Caledonian Braves brushed off recent back to back to defeats with their first home win of 2020 over strugglers Vale of Leithen.
Saturday’s 4-1 success at Braves’ Strathclyde Park venue moved them onto 30 points from 20 Lowland League games this season, placing them seventh in the table.
Top scorer Ross McNeil was again Braves’ main man as he netted a fine hat-trick to ensure 2020 opened with a bang for the Motherwell-based side.
The home side bossed possession in the opening stages, which paid off when an early goal was scored by in form midfielder Neil McLaughlin.
There was great play from Ben Daily out on the right before his cross was deflected into the path of McLaughlin who made no mistake in tapping home into the empty net.
The goal seemed to flatten the game for the Braves and the away side soon grabbed a shock equaliser.
The strike was immediately preceded by two great quick saves from Alex Marshall in goal but he wasn’t able to prevent the third effort from crossing the line.
Braves continued to press to regain the lead in the match with McLaughlin and Ross McNeil coming close several times. It was on the stroke of half-time that they would gain the advantage again.
Once again, great work on the right from Daily saw him beat two players before finding McNeil on the edge of the box.
He sent a lovely curling effort into the top corner of the net to make it 2-1.
Into the second half and the Braves gained an early penalty. David Winters was fouled as he looked to cut the ball back giving the referee no other option.
McNeil stepped up and smashed the ball high into the roof of the net to double the Braves’ advantage.
The match saw the return of long term injury absentee Blair Docherty and instantly the young forward cracked a shot on target from distance.
The game was put to bed after McNeil rounded off his hattrick with an excellent looping effort which gave the goalie no chance.
Raffi Krissian played a long ball through which confused two of the Vale defenders, McNeil saw the keeper off his line and grabbed his third of the afternoon.
So it was very much back to winning ways for Braves at the start of the new decade.
This Saturday, a trip down to Gala Fairydean Rovers is on the cards for Braves as they make their way down to Netherdale on league duties, kick-off 3pm.