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Under-14 Paladin Cup Final, at the lovely New Dundas Park in Bonnyrigg, where North Berwick had victory snatched from them in extra time, Easthouses winning the silverware courtesy of an OG from their opponents. But this latest final from the South East Region Youth FA also had the greatest example of sportsmanship and good behaviour I have seen in youth club football. And it came at the finish, when North Berwick, possibly, felt they had achieved defeat from the jaws of victory!
This team from the jewel in the crown in East Lothian, North Berwick, looked to be on their way to winning the handsome trophy only to be brought back to earth with a bump when Easthouses broke away to score an equaliser and force the game in to extra time. Then ‘Houses got their crazy winner! And, what was the reaction to that from the loseers? Good manners, smiles, acceptance of their runners-up prizes and greatest of all - SPORTSMANSHIP! It is a gross understatement on my part to say the North Berwick squad were a credit to themselves, their club, to the SERYFA, football in general and to their proud parents. Never have I seen such good manners from any losing team at any level of football to match North Berwick. This seaside town in lovely East Lothian is THE place to live in Scotland! Obviously, not only is it the most desirable place to live, it produces young sports people of the very highest order. Referee Jules Cattenach had possibly his easiest game ever to look after. I cannot think of anything that gave him a moment’s concern.
North Berwick and Easthouses, thank you for restoring my faith in football as the beautiful game. The greatest team game in the world and how these two sides enjoyed themselves in the sun - yes, the sun - rain and wind at Bonnrigg on a Sunday morning. There were, for me, some magic moments to savour, as usual. When Easthouses were awarded a free kick within shooting range of the North Berwick goal, one fan shouted from the terracing: “Bend it like Beckham!” Help ma’ Boab, as Oor Wullie would say. “Bend it like Beckham,” not on your Nellie! In fact, awa’ n’ bile yer heid’ is my advice to the person who shouted out that out-of-date nonsense. Who is Beckham, I ask? I do not know if he has ever set foot in Scotland as he pursues a career as ambassador to just about every sport imaginable.
North Berwick were on song in the Paladin Cup Final and they looked to be much better prepared than their opponents! In fact, if they had taken just half the chances they created, the game would have been done and dusted by half-time. Robbie Warnock was one of the stars for North Berwick and it was he who was responsible again when his side went 1-0 in front in the 24th minute, despite great attempts by ‘Houses keeper, Jack McMillan, to keep the ball from crossing the line. That goal was overdue and for the remainder of the first half, the Easthouses goal had a charmed existence. How North Berwick managed NOT to score more goals is a puzzle to me. When ‘Houses broke, it looked like one of these days when nothing would come right for the smartly turned out team from Midlothian. Chance aftter chance was missed, mostly at the Easthosues end of the lovely prepared pitch. The people who look after New Dundas Park care for young people and not only was the playing surface in brilliant condition, so too were the toilets and café at this popular venue.
And so the North Berwick players huffed and puffed in the sunshine at Bonnyrigg, but they did not manage to blow down ‘Houses. As the all-action second half roared on to its eventual conclusion, there was a feeling one goal was not going to be enough for North Berwick. But they looked sound in defence, really sound and well organised until ‘Houses broke and - as is the way in cup finals - the soft centre of the North Berwick defence opened up and Euan Chalmers it was who ran at the North Berwick goal and, woe is me, goalie Jamie Wallace came away off his line to boot the ball clear - only to miss it completely and Chalmers ran on to score and make it 1-1. Well, would you Adam and Eve it? Fate had dealt a rough hand to North Berwick while the Bend it like Beckham man on the terracing went run about as he celebrated.
What a travesty for North Berwick to lose such an unfortunate goal so late in the game! But worse was to follow in extra time! A ball delivered to the left-hand post in the North Berwick goalmouth somehow or other managed to go over the line and that OG was to prove the winner for Easthouses. One of their coaches said: “Aye, luck was on our side, but we will take it when it comes our way!” And the answer to that, my friends, is blowing in the wind, the answer is blowing in the wind. Words from a Bob Dylan song but how well they applied to North Berwick in this final. They did not deserve to lose and, indeed, should have scored the proverbial barrow-load of goals. But they didn’t and how they paid the price for that.
As for Easthouses, it all came good in the end and they had every reason to celebrate their enormous stroke of luck. East houses ‘got out of jail’ on so many occasions, with shots coming back off the posts, etc, etc. You get my gist! But, the end justified the means and it was the jubilant Easthouses side that left New Dundas Park with the silverware. North Berwick left with their heads held high and I for one have never seen a team show such dignity after losing in such a cruel fashion. Therefore, it was, indeed, another great, great day for football.
And a cracking display from referee Jules Cattenach.
This game would have been an absolute stunner if both sides had taken their chances. I cannot put in to words what happened after Easthouses equalised, but that goal gave them such a boost. After that, Easthouses looked like winners. What an amazing turn-a-round in the fortunes of these two teams. That is the magic of football!
Full Time: Easthouses FC 2-1 North Berwick Colts (AET)