Season 2004-05

Following a five year stay in the Premier Division, Vale prepared for life in the First Division in optimistic mood, confident of an immediate return to the Premier. The majority of the squad that finished 2003-04 remained at the club, with centre-half Neil Ewart taking over the captaincy. New faces were Iain Gordon (from Dunbar United), Chris Cassidy (Dalmore), Stewart Manson (Cowdenbeath), Steven Noble (Gala Rovers) and local striker Mark Hanratty, signed from Leithen Rovers for his second spell at Vale. Among the departed were John Kayser and Scott Weir, who returned to the Border Amateur League with Gala Rovers and Sean Paliczka who was rewarded for some sparkling displays during the previous season with a contract at SFL Third Division side East Fife. There were changes in the technical area as well, with assistant manager Alan Notman leaving and coach Fraser Leckie, who desired a greater influence in team affairs, rejoining Selkirk.

As the season approached it looked like a place in the Premier Division would be regained without even kicking a ball. Threave Rovers decided the financial burden of travelling the long distances from Castle Douglas was too great to bear and withdrew from the East of Scotland set-up to return to the South of Scotland League. Despite widespread belief that the reinstatement of Vale to the top league would be a formality, in circumstances that could be described as interesting, the East of Scotland League management committee opted to reduce the Premier Division to 11 teams for 2004-05 without giving member clubs the chance to vote on the issue.

Pre-season provoked some mixed feelings. The only victory came against Newtongrange Star Under-21’s, with losses sustained against Gala Rovers, Dunbar United, Haddington Athletic and Hibernian. But the game against Haddington saw spells of great play by Vale, as did the glamour pre-season fixture against a young Hibernian select. Goals from Gary Hastie and Mel Graham gave Vale a 2-0 lead after half an hour, but a Ryan Pow penalty pulled one back for the SPL club. Early in the second half two quick strikes from Pow and Kyle Bryson won the game for Hibs.

The opening day of the league campaign saw Edinburgh Athletic visiting Victoria Park and immediately teaching Vale a harsh lesson in the ways of First Division football. The capital side overwhelmed their hosts with some aggressive, direct play and Vale found themselves one down after five minutes to a Graeme Bernardi goal. Robbie Clark pulled one back, but a John Coogan penalty early in the second half tied up three points for ‘The Crew’. Vale managed draws at home with Ormiston and Peebles Rovers, but further defeats at the hands of Craigroyston and First Division pace-setters Selkirk saw Vale picking up only two points from a possible fifteen and the hopes of promotion seemingly already in tatters. Worse still, a bad atmosphere hung over Victoria Park, with stories of dressing room splits and players refusing to sit on the bench after having been dropped from the starting line-up adding to the gloom.

In the Scottish Qualifying Cup, Vale drew South of Scotland League side St Cuthbert’s Wanderers in the First Round. The game saw Vale unable to turn their superiority into goals and after half an hour St Cuthbert’s took the lead through Michael Sutherland. With five minutes remaining, Gary Lothian pulled Vale level and just as it looked like the sides would have to do it all again down at Kirkcudbright the following Saturday, Mel Graham picked up the ball in midfield, and from 40 yards unleashed a screamer beyond the despairing dive of Saints keeper William McMillan. The goal – quite possibly one of the best ever seen at Victoria Park – was greeted by a roar heard halfway down Traquair Road and later co-manager Jack Diamond revealed that the previous Monday at training, Graham had tried about a dozen shots at an unguarded goal from a similar distance – and missed the target every time!

This set up a meeting with Whitehill Welfare in the Second Round, again at Victoria Park. Ross Johnston grabbed an early goal for the Rosewell side and a poor display meant Vale never looked much like getting back on level terms until a push on Gary Hastie in the box three minutes from time saw Vale awarded a penalty. Substitute Peter Moffat’s spot kick was beaten away by Ryan McGurk into the path of Hastie, who unfortunately screwed the rebound wide. Whitehill progressed all the way to the final of the competition, where they defeated Edinburgh City on penalties after a goal-less 120 minutes.

Out of one cup competition, it was immediately onto another one, with an away tie at Premier Division new boys Kelso United in the First Round of the Image Printers Cup. Two goals from Peter Mathieson, plus one each from Mel Graham and Gary Lothian saw the home side seemingly dead and buried, but Kelso rallied and strikes from David Law, Derek Burnett and Alan Tait pulled it back to 4-3 with five minutes remaining to ensure some nervy closing moments to the match. A home tie with Edinburgh University awaited in the next round and the match was staged at the third time of asking after heavy rain forced postponements on two successive Saturdays and it turned out to be a game worth waiting for. Vale took the lead and equalised twice as play raged from end to end and the goal tally went into double figures. The match ended 6-4 to University, who also went all the way to the final, where a shock win over Spartans saw them lift the trophy.

Sometimes things can change very quickly in football and a seven minute spell during a league match at Craigroyston on the 6th of November was to see Vale’s fortunes turn around dramatically. After a poor first half which ended with them trailing to a Gareth Manson goal, Vale came out for the second half a different team. In the 63rd minute Gary Hastie pulled Vale level, a minute later Darren Lockhart fired home and just five minutes later another Hastie goal and a chip from Peter Mathieson had put Vale 4-1 up against their shell-shocked hosts. Although Ian Cartwright grabbed a second for the capital side, Mark Hanratty pounced on a loose ball in the final minute to complete the rout.

This result was the catalyst for a three-month unbeaten run, which included impressive away victories at eventual First Division champions Easthouses Lily and local rivals Peebles Rovers and also saw striker Peter Mathieson, signed a month after the start of the season, score nine goals in eight consecutive matches, including the winner against Tollcross United and a last minute equaliser against Heriot-Watt University.

As 2005 began, the weather had a large say in proceedings, with postponements meaning Vale were the last First Division side to play their first match of the new year. By now coach George Watson, son of legendary Vale manager Finlay, had joined the club from Newtongrange Star to lend his assistance in the technical area.

The unbeaten run came to an end in controversial circumstances at Ormiston. After a David Cheyne goal for the hosts had been equalised by a superb strike by Des Sutherland, in the 92nd minute Ormiston’s ex-Vale striker Kerr Thomson controversially tumbled in the box under a challenge from ‘keeper Iain Gordon to win a penalty, duly dispatched by Graeme Renwick. The result left Vale’s revived promotion hopes hanging by a thread and depending on other results to go their way.

In the King Cup and League Cup, played on successive Saturdays in March, Vale were drawn against Premier Division opposition and narrowly lost 2-1 in both cases. Against Preston Athletic in the King Cup, Vale put up a good defensive performance, with an exceptional display by goalkeeper Iain Gordon denying Preston’s dangerous front pair of Phil Hobbins and Dale McCall as they attacked in waves. Without prolific scorer Peter Mathieson, who had by now walked out on the club, Vale lacked a bit of cutting edge up front with Steven Noble’s equaliser largely down to an error by Preston’s young keeper. In the end it took a late McCall goal to win the tie for Athletic. A week later Vale were desperately unlucky as they pushed Edinburgh City all the way at Meadowbank Stadium in a League Cup Second Round tie. All the goals came in six first half minutes, with Graeme Cole’s opener for City after half an hour being equalised in 35 minutes by Darren Lockhart. 60 seconds later Edinburgh regained their lead through Danny Noon and despite riding their luck at times, the home side held out.

Back in the League, wins over Hawick Royal Albert, Eyemouth United and Coldstream preceeded a game at home to Easthouses Lily. While very much an outside bet for promotion, a Vale victory would have blasted the situation at the top of the table wide open. In the event Vale lost heavily and Easthouses confirmed at least a promotion spot as Vale had to draft in players due to unavailability of some regulars. Another poor performance against Heriot-Watt saw the visitors – who went on to grab the second promotion spot ahead of Selkirk – wrap up the points by half time and made the prospect of the season’s imminent end more attractive than ever.

The season was completed with two surprisingly positive performances at home to Tollcross United and Hawick Royal Albert which saw two clean sheets and 11 goals scored. Five of those goals came from bit-part striker Chris Gardner who found some form and a starting position too late in the day. The six points from the two final games lifted Vale from the eighth position they had occupied for most of the season to a final position of fifth, but it couldn’t disguise the fact that 2004-05 had been a hugely disappointing season for the club.

Another disappointment was the absence of a Vale Under-19 side. The previous season had seen Craig Mackenzie, Chris Pacey and Dean Shanks make appearances for the first team and others involved in squads, but fixture chaos that saw the young team going long periods without games caused problems in keeping players. Further changes and conditions imposed on the way the East of Scotland Youth League was run saw the team unfortunately disband. No players made the step up to regular first team involvement, but some did made their mark elsewhere during 2004-05 including captain Kevin Barr who joined Tollcross United and striker Craig Livingston who enjoyed an exceptional season at Selkirk.

2004-05 Results
East of Scotland First Division
14/08/04 Edinburgh Athletic
(H)
1-2
Clark
21/08/04 Ormiston
(H)
1-1
Graham
04/09/04 Craigroyston
(H)
0-1
25/09/04 Selkirk
(A)
0-3
02/10/04 Peebles Rovers
(H)
1-1
Hastie
06/11/04 Craigroyston
(A)
5-2
Hastie 2, Lockhart, Mathieson, Hanratty
20/11/04 Easthouses Lily MW
(A)
3-0
Noble, Mathieson, Hastie
27/11/04 Coldstream
(H)
2-1
Manson, Mathieson
04/12/04 Tollcross United
(A)
1-0
Mathieson
11/12/04 Selkirk
(H)
1-1
Mathieson
18/12/04 Heriot-Watt University
(A)
3-3
Mathieson 2, Hastie
29/01/05
Peebles Rovers
(A)
6-0
Clark, Mathieson, Manson, Hastie, Ewart, Noble
05/02/05 Edinburgh Athletic (A)
0-0
19/02/05 Ormiston
(A)
1-2
Sutherland
05/03/05 Hawick Royal Albert
(A)
5-4
Sutherland 3, Lockhart, Hastie
12/03/05 Eyemouth United
(H)
4-2
Graham, Noble, Gardner, Manson
02/04/05 Coldstream
(A)
6-2
Hastie 2, C Lothian 2, Ewart, Graham
09/04/05 Easthouses Lily MW
(H)
0-4
16/04/05 Eyemouth United (A)
0-2
Graham, Gardner
30/04/05 Heriot-Watt University
(H)
0-3
07/05/05 Tollcross United
(H)
4-0
Gardner 2, Lockhart, Graham
14/05/05 Hawick Royal Albert
(H)
7-0
Gardner 3, Graham, Clark, Lockhart, McKenzie
Scottish Qualifying Cup (South)
First Round
28/08/04 St Cuthberts Wanderers
(H)
2-1
G Lothian, Graham
Second Round
11/09/04 Whitehill Welfare (H)
0-1
Image Printers East of Scotland Qualifying Cup
First Round
18/09/04 Kelso United
(A)
4-3
Mathieson 2, Graham, G Lothian
Second Round
30/10/04 Edinburgh University (H)
4-6
Mathieson, Hastie, Ewart pen, Manson
East of Scotland League Cup
Second Round
26/03/05 Edinburgh City
(A)
1-2
Lockhart
King Cup
First Round
19/03/05 Preston Athletic
(H)
1-2
Noble
2004-05 East of Scotland League First Division Final Table
Pos
Team
Played
Won
Drawn
Lost
Goals For
Goals Against
Goal Difference
Points
1
Easthouses Lily MW (C)
22
15
3
4
55
15
+40
48
2
Heriot-Watt Univ. (P)
22
13
5
4
64
31
+33
44
3
Selkirk
22
13
5
4
48
28
+20
44
4
Edinburgh Athletic
22
11
7
4
48
15
+33
40
5
Vale of Leithen
22
11
5
6
53
32
+21
38
5
Craigroyston
22
11
4
7
57
39
+18
37
7
Ormiston
22
8
10
4
50
21
+29
34
8
Peebles Rovers
22
10
4
8
37
42
-5
34
9
Hawick Royal Albert
22
5
4
13
32
66
-34
19
10
Coldstream
22
5
3
14
39
70
-31
18
11
Tollcross United
22
2
4
16
23
67
-44
10
12
Eyemouth United*
22
0
2
20
9
88
-79
-1
*Eyemouth United deducted 3 points for failing to fulfill a fixture.
2004-05 Full Results
C’strm
C’ston
ELily
EdAth
EyeUtd
HRA
HWU
Orm
PRov
Selk
TollU
VoL 
Coldstream
0-8
1-5
0-4
4-0
6-3
4-3
2-2
1-2
2-3
1-2
2-6
Craigroyston
1-4
0-2
1-3
5-0
5-0
2-2
1-1
4-2
1-0
6-2
2-5
Easthouses Lily
2-2
1-0
0-2
7-0
4-0
1-3
1-1
4-0
1-0
5-0
0-3
Edinburgh Athletic
5-0
1-1
0-0
7-0
4-0
2-3
0-0
0-1
4-0
4-1
0-0
Eyemouth United
1-3
0-3
0-7
0-4
1-4
0-7
0-5
1-4
1-3
1-1
0-2
Hawick Royal Albert
2-1
1-3
0-2
1-0
0-0
1-6
0-6
5-1
1-3
2-1
4-5
Heriot-Watt University
3-0
4-0
0-2
1-1
1-0
4-4
2-2
2-1
1-2
7-0
3-3
Ormiston
5-0
3-3
0-1
1-1
8-0
2-0
1-2
0-1
2-3
3-0
2-1
Peebles Rovers
5-0
4-1
1-3
2-1
2-0
1-1
0-3
1-1
0-0
4-3
0-6
Selkirk
3-2
2-4
2-0
1-1
4-1
4-2
4-0
1-1
5-0
3-3
3-0
Tollcross United
3-3
1-5
0-3
1-2
3-1
0-0
1-4
0-3
0-4
0-1
0-1
Vale of Leithen
2-1
0-1
0-4
1-2
4-2
7-0
0-3
1-1
1-1
1-1
4-0
Goalscorers 2004-05
Total
Player

EoSL
First
Division

Scottish Qualifying Cup
Image Printers Cup
EoS League Cup
King Cup
11
Peter Mathieson
8
3
10
Gary Hastie
9
1
8
Mel Graham
6
1
1
7
Chris Gardner
7
5
Darren Lockhart
4
1
4
Stewart Manson
3
1
4
Steven Noble
3
1
4
Des Sutherland
4
3
Neil Ewart
2
1
3
Robbie Clark
3
2
Craig Lothian
2
2
Gary Lothian
1
1
1
Mark Hanratty
1
1
Scott McKenzie
1
2004-05 Player Appearances (Sub Appearances)

Chris Cassidy
Mid
4 (12)
Mark Hanratty
Fwd
2 (11)
Stewart Manson
Mid
21
Lenny Clark
Gkpr
4
Gary Hastie
Fwd
24 (3)
Peter Mathieson
Fwd
14
Robbie Clark
Mid
28
Dennis Henderson
Def
4 (1)
Scott McKenzie
Def
16 (1)
Scott Dewar
Def
(1)
Paul Hossack
Mid
1
Peter Moffat
Fwd
1 (4)
Jack Diamond
Fwd
1
Darren Lockhart
Mid
24
Steven Noble
Def
25
Neil Ewart
Def
26
Craig Lothian
Mid
21 (1)
Gary Scott
Def
1
Chris Gardner
Fwd
5 (9)
Gary Lothian
Def
26
Des Sutherland
Mid
10 (3)
Iain Gordon
Gkpr
24
Alec Lucas
Mid
(5)
Jay Wilson
Mid
1 (2)
Mel Graham
Mid
21 (4)
Johnny Mackie
Def
1
Jamie Yuill
Def
3