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Craigmount High School and Stewart's Melville College met in an all Edinburgh SSFA Shield quarter final tie at St Augustine's 3G. For all of us who were there in perishing cold conditions, we were treated to one of he most encouraging games of football at this level. A game won 3-2 by Craigmount and full of exceptionally good individual skills and most of all, great, great teamwork on both sides. Possibly, I was the only ‘neutral’ among the large turnout of spectators, and I was genuinely sorry for Stewart’s/Melville, who fought back from 3-0 down to close the deficit to 3-2 and the closing stages, well you just had to be there to see what happened and share in the excitement.
In my tired old eyes, this was indeed, a ‘beautiful’ game of football. Despite being a school much better know for rugby, Stewart’s/Melville have also a great reputation for producing very good teams at the younger age levels. I was aware of that as I watched them being warmed up (in Baltic cold conditions) and it was something of a surprise to me when Craigmount, deservedly so, went in to a 3-0 lead. But Stewart’s/Melville never looked out of the game and, great balls of fire, what a fight back the players in the colours of this famous Edinburgh educational establishment produced.
It was like going back in time to my youth, when boys’ comics had stories in them of fantastic - and unbelievable - heroics from young footballers! This game had all of that and Craigmount, bless them, scored three superb goals, fashioned and finished in the best traditions of football as it used to be in my youth as well. What a saw at St Augustine’s HS was the modern version of what I remembered from a byegone age! But every player was well-behaved and the sportsmanship was just well-nigh perfect both on and off the pitch! You may well ask: “Did I enjoy the game?” Yes, from start to finish and it certainly did not last long enough for me.
There was no indication in the opening stages that Craigmount were going to stamp their authority in such devastating fashion on this important quarter-final of the Scottish Schools FA Shield. But, boy, what great goals they scored as they went 3-0 in front. At this stage in my match report I would like to comment on the individual skills of Stewart’s/Melville No 11, Ciaran Dunne. Bewildering in the extreme as he dazzled wide on the left and his crosses were just brilliant in to the bargain. But, Ciaran's team-mates were not far behind when it came to playing football in the finest traditions of the game at this level. But Ciaran was one of the real stars in this game. Craigmount, well they had Michael Allan in sparkling form (as usual) and No 16, Lewis Hall, was fantastic both in attack and defence on the left side of the Craigmount set-up.
Play was very even with action galore in both goalmouths and Craigmount ‘keeper’ Euan (big noise) Page bellowed and thundered from the back - at the top of his voice. He both encouraged his team-mates and moaned at them, non-stop! In the 13th minute of enthralling action, yes the 13th minute (unlucky for some) Craigmount went 1-0 in front. No 8, David Gibson, ran on to a superb ball through the centre of the Stewart’s/Melville defence and David went on to finish off with a low shot under the diving goalie, namesake Stuart Gibson. And Craigmount were in the lead! One of my favourite players in the Craigmount side, No 4 Jack Murray, was very prominent indeed in the centre of the Craigmount defence along with ‘giant’ No 6, Daniel Baur. Rory Thompson, in the No 10 jersey, was outstanding for Stewart’s Melville and he looked particularly dangerous when he got in sight of the Craigmount goal and his left-foot piledrivers should have acted as a warning of what was to come for Craigmount.
Play, if anything, got even better after the opening goal and the actioin went from end to end, with hardly time for anyone to draw breath, difficult enough in the howling, cold wind, I have to say. But the Craigmount fans and goalie Euan Page were certainly howling in celebration when Lewis Hall produced the most glorious pass to Michael Allan on the left and the Craigmount No 10 made it 2-0 with an equally brilliant finish. It was 2-0 at the halfway stage and Stewart’s Melville had the wind knocked out of them again at the start of the second half when Lewis Hall, again, set up Michael Allan to score, yes again, for Craigmount to leave Stewart’s/Melville trailing, somewhat unbelievably, 3-0!
That scoreline was not a true reflection on this game, I must add and Stewart’s/Melville set about Craigmount, firing on all guns as they say. It was at that stage, a blistering game, full of great football and, yes, individual skills to make me feel proud to be Scottish. Stewart’s Melville clicked in to action and their passes got better and the Craigmount goal was under fire. My view that Ross Thompson was the ‘danger man’ in the Stewart’s/Melville ranks was proved to be correct. As the game really went in to overdrive and ‘football fever’ gripped those on both touchlines, it was Craigmount who were forced back in defence. The pressure was relentless and - slam, bang - there are no prizes for guessing who it was who scored two quick goals for Stewart’s/Melville to reduce the deficit to 3-2. Yes, Rory Thompson!
It was ‘squeeky bum’ time therefore for the Craigmount side and the parents of the players and there was no let-up as their fired-up opponents went on the hunt for an equaliser. And, goodness me, how close Stewart’s/Melvile went to getting the goal their play deserved. Euan Page, instead of ‘bellowing and thundering’ proved his worth in the Craigmount goal in the closing stages and it was just wonderful to watch. I was so wrapped-up in what was happening on the pitch, it was a shock to hear the final whistle. At this game, time certainly flew past quickly as I enjoyed myself.
In the following exchange of handshakes it was even more uplifting to see how genuine was the friendship among all the players and officials. I managed to get my old bones on the move on my way out of the ground, so pleased to have been at this venue to see such an excellent game of football and all I can add is my congratulations to Craigmount and hard-luck to Stewart’s Melville. It was a wonderful example of how football should be played in Scotland.
Full Time: Craigmount High School 3-2 Stewart's Melville College