Defensive problems mount as Coldstream crash out

Heriot-Watt University4

Coldstream2

THOSE who have been paying to watch Coldstream this season have certainly had value for money, with 28 goals going in at either end in the four games they have played so far.

Far too many of them have been conceded, however, and this latest defeat means Lawrie Dunn’s men have a meaningless game this Saturday when former manager Mark Lamb brings his new team, Lothian Thistle, to Home Park in Qualifying League Group D.

The inaugural competition, which acts as a separate qualifying tournament for the League Cup, has at least enabled Dunn and assistant John Ross to assess their new squad before their First Division campaign begins on Wednesday night at home to Gala Fairydean.

There are likely to be more changes on Saturday and Wednesday to what has been an unsettled defence. Centre-back Martin Cornish missed Tuesday night’s defeat to Heriot-Watt University at rain-lashed Riccarton and remains an injury doubt for this weekend.

Right-back Michael Brown also picked up an injury on Tuesday, while player-manager Dunn limped off with a knee problem early in the first half. To compound Dunn’s defensive crisis, goalkeeper Scott Bruce sustained an ankle injury on Tuesday which will rule him out of Saturday’s fixture.

Mark Walters will play in goal, but a back four which has changed in each of Coldstream’s four games will have to do so again.

The concession of another four goals on Tuesday means Coldstream have now conceded 16 in four games. Only Hawick Royal Albert, with 19, have leeked more goals so far. With another goal for the prolific John Crawford on Tuesday, taking his tally to seven in four games, there are no problems for the Streamers going forward. Indeed, only three teams have scored more goals in the Qualifying League so far.

With Martin Allan suspended and Phil Johnson injured, Darrell Laing and Chris Taylor made their first starts of the season in the centre of midfield alongside Martin Tait.

Coldstream had been slow starters in their previous three games, but looked more composed in the early stages at Riccarton. That changed in the 13th minute, however, when Dunn mistimed a sliding tackle on the slippery surface, giving the referee no option but to award a penalty. Heriot-Watt striker Banji Koya made no mistake from the spot.

Dunn limped off with a knee injury nine minutes later, meaning another reshuffle in defence, with Graeme Chadwick coming on at right-back and Brown moving to centre-back. It went from bad to worse for the visitors when Jimmy Rae extended the home team’s lead, but with Tait turning in his best performance yet in the centre of midfield since signing from Berwick United in the summer Coldstream always looked threatening in attack.

Coldstream winger Craig Heugh pulled one back from close range after Crawford’s headed flick-on had caused confusion in the Heriot-Watt defence, but just before half-time the home team restored their two-goal advantage.

A cross from the left was won in the air by an attacker, and Koya was quickest to react to the loose ball eight yards out, blasting it high into the net to leave Streamers keeper Scott Bruce with no chance.

Sean Muhsin extended Heriot-Watt’s lead to seal the three points midway through the second half, leaving Coldstream with nothing but pride to play for.

Substitute Paul Cameron made an instant impact when he slipped a delightful through-ball into the path on Crawford, who showed composure to sidefoot past the home goalkeeper.

But it was too little, too late. The defeat leaves Coldstream bottom of Group D with one point from their four games. Heriot-Watt’s win moves them up to second place.Coldstream: Bruce, Brown, Knox (D Cornish 73), Dunn (Chadwick 22), McLeod, Taylor, Armstrong, Tait, Crawford, Laing, Heugh (Cameron 65). Subs not used: Low, Turner.

• Coldstream Under-19s’ preparations for their East of Scotland campaign, which begins this Sunday away to Tynecastle, have been disrupted by the postponement of friendlies against Blyth Spartans on Sunday and East Stirlingshire on Tuesday night.

The Streamers have played three pre-season friendlies, losing 3-0 away to Clyde U-19s, 3-1 at Montrose U19s and beating Greenlaw 3-0.