Vale of Leithen 1

Civil Service Strollers 4

David Knox

At Victoria Park

THE fragility of having a small squad was evident on Saturday amidst the wind and rain of Storm Freya.

Those gathering storm clouds above Innerleithen ahead of kick off were the least of Vale manager Chris Anderson’s worries as no fewer than eight of his slender squad were missing through injury, illness, suspensions and stag parties.

Debuts for a handful of teenagers and emergency call-ups to three trialists allowed his team to take to the field.

But, despite a battling performance by the home players, there was a gulf in class for much of this weather-beaten match.

Manager Anderson, who himself was serving the first of a two-match ban, admitted he hadn't been expectant of continuing his encouraging start to 2019.

He said: “I was pleased with how everyone applied themselves today but when you’re bringing in new players and asking others to play out of position it’s always going to be difficult.

“I wasn’t expecting to pick up anything today, it was more a case of getting the game out of the way and we can regroup with players coming back and go again.

“Civil are a really good team and today’s result is no disgrace.”

With two of the home defenders and the goalkeeper stepping in at the last minute as trialists, there was a worry that fourth-placed Civil would exploit any lack of cohesion.

And it looked as though those fears would be realised as Scott Clapperton fired in the ninth minute opener during a goal-mouth scramble.

Jordan Hopkinson had already netted in the third minute only to be flagged for off side.

But the makeshift Vale team dug in well after the early set back.

Craig McBride and Alex Imlah held their lines well in central defence and the new full-backs, Andy Martin and Antonio Vasatano, both presented formidable obstacles for the attacking Strollers wingers.

In a rare foray up field Vale did win a freekick on the edge of the area – but Liall Smith’s freekick curled round the wrong side of the far post as he searched for an unlikely equaliser.

With half time approaching new keeper Grant Steele pulled off a couple of good saves.

But the teenager couldn’t prevent David Churchill doubling the advantage in the 44th minute as he headed home Craig Newall’s cross.

Despite the persistent rain and blustery winds, both teams attempted to play fast-passing football.

Steele saved well from Hopkinson and Churchill either side of the hour as the visitors continued to press.

But he was beaten again in the 66th minute as Hopkinson converted Churchill’s cross from close range.

Vale continued to fight for every ball with Marc Berry and Ger Rossi doing their utmost to rally the new troops.

And the home team was unfortunate not to pull a goal back in the 77th minute as substitute Lewis Cockburn was threaded through, only for Josh Donaldson to make a fine block.

Civil substitute Alieu Faye slotted home the fourth from 20 yards with just three minutes remaining.

But there was still time for the hard-working Brad Rixon to head in a consolation with the last play of the game.

Vale of Leithen. G Steele, A Martin, A Vastano, C McBride, A Imlah, G Rossi, M Berry, L Smith (L Cockburn 56), B Rison, M Underhill & J Smith.