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An end-to-end game at Recreation Park saw Riverside FC Red lift the Central Safety Trophy this evening. A first-half free-kick from Jack Hill was followed by a Joe McLaren hat-trick to seal a 4-1 win for the Under-15 side.
Milan Boys Club started the game well pressing high on the pitch with Kieran Walsh doing well on the right hand side, pestering away at Riverside's defence, and the no.10 earned his side a number of corner kicks, which Riverside were equal to. In one of these early chances, Taylor Black headed in but the referee disallowed the goal for a challenge on Riverside 'keeper Chris Orr.
Gregor Henderson tested Milan's Antony Keetley from 40 yards after his free-kick looked to move in the air. Milan were to counter soon after and Marcus Fraser managed to recover a cross from Walsh, somehow taking the ball past a defender and the goalkeeper before acrobatically crossing the ball for Black, but the latter failed to see his effort on target. Connor Leonard had a free-kick which was cleared by Henderson, but it fell straight to Walsh who subsequently hit a half-volley which was again cleared by the impressive Henderson.
Walsh was set free down the right as Milan countered but couldn't make up his mind as whether to shoot or cross for his team-mate and ultimately he fired it straight at Orr.
Jack Anderson cynically challenged Riverside's Charlie Sanda on the edge of the D and Jack Hill stepped up to take the free-kick, smashing his effort straight past the wall and into the top right corner, almost like you would in the Roberto Baggio free-kick game when you were younger. 27 minutes were on the clock and Riverside lead 1-0.
Riverside FC Red had a good chance to double their lead before half-time after Sanda played a lovely reverse ball to Nathan Stirling on the edge of the box, but the latter was deemed to be offside.
Half Time: Milan BC 1-4 Riverside FC Red
Riverside dominated the early stages of the second half, with Scott McCoull and Charlie Sanda attempting half-volleys before Louis Stewart produced an excellent run down the left wing, skipping past two defenders gracefully before firing a dangerous effort a couple of yards to the wrong side of the post.
Taylor Black played in Kieran Walsh for Milan with a superb threaded ball but his effort proved tame and they must have been scratching their heads as to how they were not back in the game. Riverside tried to double their lead and Jack Hill set up Joe McLaren with an excellent left-footed pass but McLaren's effort rose just too much before coming back down onto the goal netting.
Jordan Serries did well down the left wing for Milan and set up Jordan Cassidy with a low cross but somehow he failed convert, instead seeing the ball fly over the nearby train track.
Riverside doubled their lead after McCoull set Ryan Moran free on the right and after reaching the bye-line he whipped in a ball towards the back post towards McLaren, who showed his pedigree to rise up and head it past the keeper 15 minutes into the second half. The old cliché about being most vulnerable after you just scored proved true as Milan BC's Taylor Black caught Chris Orr off his line to get a goal back for his team, and with half an hour to go it was game on.
Antony Keetley had to be smart as he was tested in quick succession by McLaren, first after the striker was set up by Sanda and secondly after he played a superb long ball for Hamish Cholertan, but the keeper reacted well to both balls.
Jack Hill tried to take the game by the scruff off the neck and was producing some Roy of the Rovers stuff after powering his way over 30 yards to produce an excellent sliding challenge to win the ball from Milan's Jack Anderson. He followed this up with a great 25-yard strike that just flew over the bar. Hill was the architect again as he wriggled his way into the box and hit a low ball across goal, but McLaren's stretch wasn't enough to see the move fizzle out.
McLaren got his second and the team's third in the 80th minute when he placed a ball past Keetley from just inside the box after the man in the gloves rushed out to close the angle. In injury time he was to get his hat-trick after Hill slipped a through ball into the penalty box and McLaren clipped the on-rushing Keetley to seal the 4-1 win.
Full Time: Milan BC 1-4 Riverside FC Red
Adam McLean shone out in defence with an imperious first half display. Despite being part of a back four that conceded four goals, McLean had a stand-out performance for the best part of 70 minutes with last-ditch challenges, good marking and dominant aerial ability.
Jack Hill controlled the game with an outstanding display in midfield. A cracking free-kick and an injury-time assist was just the icing on the cake for the maestro. Notable mentions must also go to hat-trick hero Joe McLaren, Captain Charlie Sanda and dominant defender Gregor Henderson.