Johnstone Burgh BC hoisted the Scottish Youth FA Cup for the first time in their history with a battling win over Bonnyton Thistle, their charge to victory led from the front by Jordan Keenan’s superb brace.
With the sides neck and neck in the league and a history of close ties that included a Burgh win on penalties two seasons ago and a recent away win for Thistle, one could tell there was potential for a dogfight. And not only were the Renfrewshire club were chasing their maiden Scottish Cup win, the Kilmarnock outfit were looking to triumph in their ninth Scottish Cup final. A war was on the cards, but the game never boiled to quite that level.
Clouds were cast over Airdrie’s Excelsior Stadium as the teams arrived in the morning, hours before kickoff. The dullness of the skies didn’t descend onto the pitch but, subjectively speaking, this wasn’t a match for the purist. Both teams failed to carve one another open consistently, with crunching tackles and 50-50 jostles making the highlight reel as much as the chances created.
Burgh lined up in a solid 4-4-2 formation, while Thistle took to the field in a more open 4-3-3. The tactics made little difference in the opening exchanges as both sides struggled to keep their foot on the ball.
Burgh were the more lively out of the blocks however, and Thistle’s Andy Strachan had to be alert to snuff out two attacks in as many minutes. Keenan was the focal point of both, something that would be a recurring theme as he played his way into the SYFA Man of the Match award.
Despite Keenan causing problems early on, no one in the stadium would have predicted the striker opening the scoring in the first ten minutes. The faces of his teammates and coaches were testament to that, as their smiles widened in surprise and joy as his glancing header hit the top corner. From a corner, Keenan evaded his marker and stuck his head onto the cross, the ball seeming destined for the goal the moment he touched it, despite Andy Hunter’s best efforts to clear the ball off the line.
Bonnyton managed to lift the tempo despite being 1-0 behind, with Burgh opting not to bomb forward in search of a second, preferring to try and frustrate their opponents. Thistle worked their way into the box when Chris Kelly’s quick free kick thirty yards out set Kyle Gilroy free, and as the winger surged into the box he swept the ball across the face of goal and, as the travelling crowd stood up awaiting the simple tap in, they all came crashing back down with a sigh as Strachan’s toe at the back post wasn’t enough to force the ball home.
Bonnyton continued to probe however and as both teams continued to look equally vulnerable and dangerous from set pieces, this route to goal was looking increasingly likely. Gilroy won a free kick right on the edge of the penalty area and Kelly stepped up once more, this time opting to curve the ball low towards the corner. The Burgh wall managed to flick it away for a corner but from that, Strachan won his header and sent the ball towards the back post – in not too dissimilar fashion to Keenan – but this time the header was an assist, as Ian Paterson nipped in at the back post and stabbed the ball home to equalise.
With two goals in the opening 20 minutes, everyone watching was waiting on the rest to flow but it never materialised, as a chess match in the middle of the park ensued, until Thistle were bailed out by Strachan again as he deflected an effort from Ruaridh Clark onto the post and way for a corner, which was dealt with comfortably and cleared. Bonnyton’s Craig Patterson and Marc Maguire linked up for their side’s next effort, as the striker laid off his teammate twenty yards out, but Connor Orr was equal to it in goal.