O'Neill hits historic treble as five-star Colts move up to third in Lowland League
Colts romped to a 5-1 win over Preston Athletic in their first home game of 2016, although they were helped by the visitors being reduced to 10 men after just 14 minutes.
Home ’keeper Sam George made a terrific early save to keep his side level before Colts made the breakthrough when Jamie Broadfoot’s ball took out the defence to set up O’Neill.
His first time effort was saved by the ’keeper but O’Neill latched onto the rebound, rounded the ’keeper and fired goalwards only to see a Preston defender Neil Dewar dive full stretch to palm the ball around the post.
It was a red card and a penalty which O’Neill himself calmly dispatched to open the scoring.
Having taken the lead against 10 men Colts would have been expected to go on and dominate possession, but George had to look sharp to make a further two fine saves to keep Colts ahead.
However the home side did double their advantage when Broadfoot took a corner short to O’Neill who opened his body and curled a wonderful effort into the top corner from 25 yards.
The visitors managed to pull themselves back into the game just after the half hour when a high ball into the area was met by centre-back Kevin Smith who climbed highest to head home off the underside of the bar from eight yards.
It could have been 2-2 moments later afterwards as Lee Foggin was caught by a diagonal over his shoulder but reacted quickly to get back and hold his opponent up in the area before David Brown stepped in to block the shot.
But Broadfoot and O’Neill combined again before the break, the latter latching on the former’s pass and going past two defenders before drilling the ball into the bottom corner to complete his treble.
After the break Jordan Pirrie replaced Blair Munn in the centre of the Colts midfield and the 17-year-old gave Colts fans a glimpse of the great potential in their development side as he put in an assured performance on and off the ball.
Colts increased their lead on 50 minutes when Daniel McDonald played a one-two with Jonathan Black before blasting beneath the ’keeper from eight yards.
Efforts from Pirrie, Broadfoot and Andy Selkirk missed the target before Broadfoot had a fine ‘goal’ ruled out for offside,
However Colts added a fifth near the end. Pirrie fired in a 25-yarder which the Preston ’keeper did brilliantly to keep out but Broadfoot was alive to the rebound and cut the ball back across goal to Andy Hunter who showed a cool head as he found the bottom corner beyond two defenders on the line and the ’keeper.