Leith Athletic 3 v 1 West Kilbride

If a convincing win and performance on a Saturday afternoon always affords a more enjoyable Saturday evening, it’s safe to say the Leith Athletic players would have had a few sore heads on the Sunday morning.

A scintillating start to their sixth round Scottish Cup tie with West Kilbride saw the Edinburgh-side blow away the visitors with three quickfire goals in the opening 30 minutes to send them into the last 16 of the country’s biggest sporting competition.

From the first whistle, and with the wind at their backs,  the fired-up Leith side went straight for the jugular against the much-fancied – and much-hyped – Ayrshire side.

There had been whispers that the visitors were among the favourites to lift the trophy this year, particularly with their good home form but in truth, they were unable to live with a Leith side who outfought and outplayed them in every department.

The writing was on the wall as early as the second minute when Jamie Lauder danced his way past three challenges on the left wing before rolling the ball into the box where the onrushing Rory Stewart coolly dispatched into the corner of the net.

The roar from both on the park and the sidelines rivalled anything to come from nearby Easter Road where Hibs were taking on Celtic on SPL duty and within 10 minutes there was more reason to raise the decibel level again.

Andy Penman looked to burst through the West Kilbride defence with a neat turn of pace before he was scythed down as he raced through on goal. The referee, perhaps feeling pangs of sympathy for the way the visitors were being ripped apart in the opening stages, decided not to even book the West Kilbride no4 when, in truth, he should have seen red for the challenge.

But that was quickly forgotten when Lauder stepped up to expertly curl the resultant free-kick around the wall and under the body of the despairing keeper.

It had been a rip-roaring start but Leith weren’t finished there and before the half hour mark had been reached they found themselves three goals to the good when Andy Fraser flicked on an Iain Gordon clearance for Stevie Radsynski to make no mistake and fire low past the goalkeeper from 18 yards.

A smart Gordon save low to his right following a long throw in kept Leith’s three-goal cushion in tact going in to half time and the visitors faced a mountain to climb to stay in the competition.

A professional second half performance was called for against the wind and Leith duly delivered, managing to contain the best West Kilbride had to throw at them while still providing a real threat at the other end on the break.

The visitors’ best chances were being fashioned from corner kicks and long throw-ins as they struggled to break down a superbly organised Leith defence.

Gordon pulled off another good save when he backpedalled to touch a looping header over the bar and another chance was averted when David Connor managed to toe the ball away from West Kilbride’s no8 at the back post when he was faced with a simple tap-in.

West Kilbride did manage to pull a goal back and again, the chance came from a long throw-in which the Leith defence, for once, failed to clear and the no9 was able to bundle the ball home at the back post.

As the game wore on, the visitors were beginning to realise they wouldn’t breach the Leith defence again and with 10 minutes remaining their chance completely evaporated when no7 saw red for a second bookable offence.

Radsynski had a chance to put a bit more gloss on the win when he found himself one-on-one with the keeper with just minutes remaining but he elected to try and square the ball to substitute Mattie Hutchison rather than shoot and the chance was lost.

Nevertheless, the win was already in the bag and Leith were left looking forward to a last-16 tie with a local derby agaisnst either Redhall or Lothian Thistle.

Before that, Leith are back on league duty against promoted Buchanan Thistle at home, KO 2pm. Thistle’s last visit to the Links saw them upset the odds with a 2-1 cup tie victory in December 2006 and the Leith boys are sure to have revenge on their minds.

Man of the match: There wasn’t a failure in a Leith jersey and no shortage of candidates. Radsynski and Lauder are worth mentions for their contributions but this was the best game I have seen Dougie Thom have in a Leith jersey. The left back was strong going forward as usual but added a steely dimension to his defensive game to win numerous tackles and headers before starting the Leith attack.

Dick of the day: No Leith contenders for this one on the day so it goes to absent midfielder Chris Beaton who decided swapping a windswept Scottish Cup tie in Leith for the sunshine of Dubai was a good idea. After that performance, it could be a while before he finds himself in the team again.

Leith (4-4-2): Gordon, Young, M Stewart, Wallace, Thom; Fraser (Hutchison), Connor (Hunter), R Stewart, Lauder; Penman (Fairbairn), Radsynski

Subs not used: McCall, Milligan

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