HAWICK Legion played literally as if their Border Amateur Division ‘A’ lives depended on it in this six-goal derby thriller.
But their inability to defend set-pieces, which has been a killer all season, came back to haunt them as they allowed Hawick Waverley to come back from the dead and share the spoils in this must-win clash at Wilton Lodge Park.
Cruising at 3-1 up in the second half, Clinton Sharkey’s men had the momentum to bury their opponents.
But credit to the Waverley, who battled to the very end.
Sharkey said: “We should have won it, there’s no two ways about it, but at the end we gave away two crazy free-kicks. At the end it was just mental.
“You give away the free-kick and you get on with it and deal with it but we didn’t do that and that’s what’s punished us in the end.
“We’re 3-2 up and there’s only five minutes to go and you’re thinking ‘keep it tight, don’t give them an inch’.
“Fair play to them they got a draw but whether a draw’s a fair result in the end I don’t know.”
After a quiet opening where speculative shots were exchanged between Taylor Hope and Luke Cooper, Scott Craig almost put the home side ahead when he capitalised on some shoddy Legion defending but watched his effort deflected wide.
Some neat one-touch football from Ross McLeod released the livewire Dean McColm and his cross sailed just inches over the bar.
Waverley were making the chances but it was the Legion who grabbed the lead when the impressive Stewart Fraser whipped over a cross and Steven Sharkey had time at the back post to pick his spot only for Euan Reilly to save well. However, he parried it into the path of Jody Easdon who bundled the ball home.
McColm headed over at the other end but the Waverley were being frustrated by the towering presence of defender Neal McConnell, brought back into the side recently, who was winning the aerial battle for the Legion.
However, he was powerless to deny Craig the equaliser approaching the half-hour mark when McColm’s cross picked him out completely unmarked and he slotted the ball into the corner of the net.
Still the Legion refused to buckle and they belied their lowly league position, helped by an impressive midfield display from Liam Gellaitry.
On the flank, Fraser was tormenting young Aidan Reilly and when he weaved his way through three tackles it looked like he would give the Legion the lead, only for Alan Campbell to step in and block.
Their goal did come after the interval and it was no more than they deserved after making a blistering start to the second half.
Gellaitry beat Stuart Marshall on the right and his shot should have been food and drink for young Euan Reilly, but the Waverley keeper spilled the effort into his own net to the great delight of the Legion support.
The Waverley looked shell-shocked and worse was to follow as Cooper surged through, rounded the keeper and made it 3-1.
It was all Legion and Easdon almost put the game out of sight, but his header hit the bar. And then Cooper tried a cheeky chip from a free-kick, only for Euan Reilly to tip it over.
All the Waverley could muster was a free-kick blasted over by McColm.
Mark Deans was brought on for Craig McCutcheon and Jordan Yardley came on for Ross McLeod and the changes made an almost immediate impact for the Waverley as they notched a goal back.
This time McColm hit the target with a free-kick but Ali Willison palmed the ball out and Jamie Richardson was on hand to knock the ball in.
Now with their tails up the Waverley went in search of an equaliser as the Legion retreated further back towards their own goal. But in a quick break substitute Scott Duncan almost secured the points for the Legion when he toe-poked the ball past Euan Reilly, but brother Aidan was on the line to clear.
Back came the Waverley and Duncan threw himself into a challenge on the left that led to the leveller with just two minutes to go. From the free-kick Campbell was found in acres of space and he shot home.
Waverley boss Bruce Hughes said: “I’m happy to get a point out of the game because we haven’t been anywhere near as good as what we’ve been recently.
“Two or three of our main key players didn’t perform. It’s frustrating, but I can’t fault the character of the team to come back from 3-1 down and at the end we could have nicked the win.
“But we probably wouldn’t have deserved it to be fair.”