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Tuesday, 20 October 2015 11:40

Hearts thwarted by organised St. Johnstone

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Hearts had much of the possession on a chilly night at Ochilview but were undone by a compact and organised performance from St. Johnstone. The Perth side absorbed plenty of pressure before breaking and scoring what would be the winner in clinical fashion through Craig Thomson’s 22nd minute effort. 
 
Despite having the lion’s share of possession with Arnaud Djoum and Sea McKirdy impressing in the middle of the pitch, Hearts were stifled by St. Johnstone. The Edinburgh side’s best chance of the early stages fell to Ian Smith in the 8th minute. Dario Zanatta burst to the byline and teed up Ian Smith but the winger’s placed effort was blocked and cleared. 
 
Hearts continued to assert pressure but St. Johnstone held firm and exploited the opportunity to break the deadlock. Greg Hurst displayed excellent physical strength and intelligence to kill the ball and bring his teammates into play before bursting down the left to receive it once more and cut a low cross back towards the edge of the area. The ball found its way to Thomson who curled a looping effort beyond the outstretched arm of Kelby Mason.
 
Hearts almost responded instantly when Gavin Reilly raced on to a long ball in the 26th minute. The striker flicked the ball over his marker’s head but could not direct a left-footed half volley on target. A minute later it was Ian Smith’s turn to try and level the game, meeting a byline cross from Reilly in the air. Smith’s headed effort was denied by the St Johnstone defence and cleared. 
 
Robbie Neilson and Craig Levein were watching on from the stand and will have been encouraged by the combination play on show between the midfield and overlapping fullbacks but Hearts could not get the decisive touch in front of goal. Limiting the Edinburgh side to efforts from set pieces, St. Johnstone were containing the opposition well. 
 
St. Johnstone almost had a second with the last clear cut chance of the half. In the 39th minute Greg Hurst was released on the left by Greg Page. Hurst displayed a great piece of skill to jink and pirouette beyond two defenders but the wide player could not connect cleanly with his strike and Mason gathered to ensure the score remained at 1-0 going into the break. 
Monday, 05 October 2015 12:24

Goals galore as Central Boys emerge victorious

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It was a cold and misty morning at Inchyra Park in Grangemouth but Central Boys FA’s league encounter with Bonnybridge Youth FC offered a ray of sunshine to warm up the spectators. Three goals at the conclusion of the first half were followed by a further five in the second, confirming the early suggestions that both teams had turned up to play attacking football. 
 
Neither side required time to settle into the match and within the opening minute Bonnybridge had almost opened the scoring. Louis Reid raced clear in a swift counter-attack but arrowed his effort narrowly wide of the left-hand post. Central Boys responded almost immediately and opened the scoring in the 3rd minute. It was Jack Hanlon who would find himself on the end of a threaded through ball and outmuscling his marker, the nippy striker displayed immense composure to slot the ball into the bottom left corner of the net. 
 
Bonnybridge continued to combine well as they sought an equaliser, focusing on possession and two-touch football. A great piece of improvisation by Caleb McNeil in the 7th minute allowed the player to turn his marker and find space in the box but his effort dropped just wide of the left-hand post. 
 
Central Boys were the next to exchange consecutive blows in the 13th minute as Hanlon nodded the ball on for Raymond Sloan who lobbed the ball just past the post. Minutes later Jack Shand began to ask questions of Bonnybridge, expertly crossing from the right to supply Hanlon with an opportunity to put Central further in front. Hanlon diverted his header on target but Bonnybridge goalkeeper Luke Milne produced an excellent stop with his feet before the defence cleared. 
 
It was end to end stuff as Bonnybridge mounted an attack in the 20th minute, McNeil knocking the ball past his marker before delicately placing the ball into the path of Reid. The striker drove towards goal but Central Boys goalkeeper Rory Windross managed to make enough contact with McNeil’s effort to kill the pace on the ball and allow his defence to dramatically clear the ball off the line. Agonisingly close for the away team. 
 
Reid was rewarded for his persistence, however, when in the 22nd minute he broke clear on the left. The striker confidently rounded the goalkeeper and stroked the ball into the net to level proceedings. 
 
Central Boys were ahead again in the 27th minute, however, scoring the last clear-cut chance of the half. The ball was played with precision from the right wing into the stride of Sloan, who calmly finished the move and made it 2-1 going into the half-time break. 
Eight second half goals saw Bonnybridge Youth complete a remarkable second half turn around against a hardworking Stirling City side.
 
They had trailed at half time to a James Ward goal but a three minute hat-trick from Ryan Waddell shortly after the restart set Bonnybridge on their way to a comfortable victory. Further goals from Kieran Morrison, Neil Mackie, Jamie McCaughey, Danny Noble and another from Waddell put further daylight between the teams in a match that had been so tight for so long.
 
Neither team could assert any real dominance in a first half that was hugely competitive but devoid of many clear-cut chances. For Stirling, Lloyd Grassick held the ball well and was a threat up front whilst the towering figure of Dylan Cameron at centre back made a number of crucial tackles and interceptions.
 
It wasn’t until Sam Eastcroft played a brilliantly weighted pass into the path of Ward that the match had its first clear cut chance. Opening his body, he confidently slotted low to keeper Gregor Forsyth’s left into the bottom corner from the edge of the box to break the deadlock and give Stirling the narrowest of halftime leads.

The match between these two sides took place on the great looking new surface at New Douglas Park and in great weather conditions for both players and fans. Hamilton Accies dominated from the first whistle until the last and proved to be well worthy winners. 

The first attack of the match came when the Accies Steven Boyd made a decent run from midfield, playing a nice one-two with the trialist before sending a dangerous cross low in front of the goal mouth, defender Robbie Halliday got a foot onto the ball and tried to guide over the bar. Instead it headed straight for goal but fortunately keeper Robert Hamilton managed to touch over the cross bar for a Hamilton corner.

With 21 minutes on the clock, Hamilton managed to win a questionable penalty when the keeper brought down Ryan Tierney after it looked like he had lost any goalscoring opportunity from a blocked Armstrong shot on goal. Tierney stepped up and struck the penalty kick well enough but Clydebank keeper Robert Hamilton pulled off a decent diving save.

With the next attack on the Clydebank goal, Accies took a well deserved lead when Boyd sent a corner kick beyond the far post and the unmarked Darian Mackinnon, a former Bankie, brought the ball nicely under control with his chest before hammering into the back of the net from a pretty tight angle, leaving the keeper with no chance to react in time, 1-0.

Thirty-seven minutes had passed when Hamilton added to their goal tally, Armstrong made a beautiful 30-yard pass from halfway, Tierney read the flight of the ball and timed his run perfectly and lobbed over the goalkeeper from 20 yards with his first touch, 2-0. 

Milton were crowned Central Region League Cup winners after an emphatic 5-1 win over Auchterarder Juniors on Sunday morning. Calum Findlay opened the scoring for the eventual winners in the first half, before second half goals from Josh Blyth (two), Josh Hope and Reece Ferguson sealed victory for Milton. James Carchrie grabbed a well-deserved consolation for Auchterarder who, despite what the scoreline suggests, performed well throughout in a hard-fought cup final.

Both sides started off at a frenetic pace showing no signs of trying to ease their way into the game slowly. However, much of the play was confined to the midfield with chances in the opening stages few and far between.

The first real chance for either side resulted in the deadlock being broken after 10 minutes. A long ball was played over the top of the Auchterarder defence from inside the Milton half for gFindlay to chase. Findlay looked second favourite to get there, but continued to chase nonetheless. His persistence paid off when a mix-up between goalkeeper and defender resulted in the ball rolling clear for Findlay to stroll through on goal and tap the ball into an empty net.

There would be only one more notable effort on goal before the half time whistle, this time by Auchterarder’s Cameron Rattray. After some good, free-flowing build up play, Auchterarder’s attack had broken down on the edge of the Milton penalty area. However, after some good persistent work to rescue the move coupled with excellent feet and tenacity to get a sight of goal, Rattray fired his left-footed shot just wide of the post from a difficult angle.

Auchterarder continued their search for an equaliser before half time. Lee MacDonald went on a lung-bursting run covering the length of the Milton half, during which he showed great skill and strength in order to reach a crossing position. However, he only had one teammate to aim for and his resulting cross was cleared away comfortably.

Milton probably deserved to go into half time 1-0 up, although the Auchterarder players would inevitably have felt disappointed to be trailing after a competitive, end-to-end half.

Cumbernauld Colts defeated Jimmy Johnstone in the Cumbernauld & Kilsyth U14s DYL Cup Final at Broadwood Stadium.

Jimmy Johnstone started the match and were the first to create an opening with a sweeping move up the left wing only to be stopped by Colts’ Calvin Love with a fantastic sliding tackle. Colts began to get back into the game, creating more chances and looking the more likely of the two teams to score. They came close to making a breakthrough when a promising run from Allan Stevenson cut through the Johnston defense, only to be stopped by Henri Nziza.

Jimmy Johnstone were the first to make a breakthrough when a fantastic solo run from Ben Shaw led to a curling shot which nestled in the bottom right hand corner of the Colts’ net.

Jimmy Johnstone’s lead was almost cancelled out straight after the kick off when Allan Stevenson hit a looping shot from 30 yards, which hit the crossbar.  After a Jimmy Johnstone free kick came to nothing Colts made a quick counterattack that resulted in a corner. From the corner Colts leveled the score. A high cross from Lee O’Hara was met by a towering header from Allan Stevenson who levelled the score.

Both teams continued to press high up the park looking for another goal. Jimmy Johnstone came closest when Kyle Bowden in the Colts’ goal spilled a long-range effort. The keeper recovered well however to keep the teams level at half time.

West Park United lifted the Michael McGinley Shield with a comprehensive 5-1 victory over Cumbernauld Colts Blues on Sunday.

A clinical first half saw United take a four goal lead thanks to strikes from Brandon Manners, Connor McLachlan and a double from man of the match Kyle Berrie. Sharjo Jammeh made it five after the restart, before Jack Govan grabbed a late consolation for Colts.

It took just thirteen minutes for West Park to break the deadlock. Christopher Tolland’s long throw bamboozled the Colts defence, and Manners was on hand to spectacularly volley United into an early lead.

Tolland’s long throw continued to cause numerous problems, and it wasn’t long until it was the orchestrator of the second goal of the game. From an almost identical position, McLachlan latched onto the throw before turning and rifling a low shot past Colts keeper Andrew Wilson.

Scorer Manners almost turned provider when, after a delicately lofted pass into the path of Tolland, the shot over Wilson landed a whisker wide.

Midway through the first half, Colts launched a rare attack. A bursting run from Craig Shields almost caught out the United defence, and only a perfectly timed sliding challenge thwarted a promising venture forward

West Park then added a third and fourth goal in a five minute spell, in which impressive defender Kyle Berrie netted both. First, from Tolland’s corner on the left was met by the unmarked Berrie’s front post run, and he made no mistake, volleying high into the net.

Then, from Tolland’s corner on the right, Berrie grabbed his second. This time an intelligent far post run, Berrie rose highest to glance in his second and his side’s fourth of an impressive first half. 

Despite the damage having already been done, Colts continued to battle and had their best spell of the match with five minutes of the first half remaining. Patient build up play almost resulting in a couple of goals, with only the assistant’s offside flag twice foiling Colts.

It was Blantyre who performed better on the day as they beat Dunblane SC 4-2 to win the SYFA Central Region Cup on a sunny day at Stenhousemuir. Their perseverance against a tough Dunblane side was shown as they came up against a clinical striker in Ross McGowan.

Connor Gaffney, Aidan Tierney, Dominic Piwowar and Daryll Ballantyne scored for Blantyre In what was a dominant showing with Ross McGowan scoring both of Dunblane’s goals as he tried to keep his side in the tie.

Blantyre scored after 4 minutes through a corner. The first corner take saw Ballantyne’s shot fly wide but when the second corner was swung in by Peter Copland it was headed in from 4 yards by Connor Gaffney.

Ross McGowan was starting to have an influence on the game for Dunblane as he shot over the bar after 8 minutes. His first goal and Dunblane’s equaliser came on 22 minutes as Alexander Clelland’s cross found the run of McGowan with his headed effort flying into the net.

McGowan nearly scored again on 32 minutes when his shot from the edge of the box was just wide of the right post with his weaker foot.

Coltswood had to go through the daunting penalty shoot out to defeat a very tough opponent in Wishaw WW. With the final score locked at 3-3 it was Coltswood who held their nerve to win the Scottish Youth FA Central Region Cup at Stenhousemuir.

Goals from Robbie O’Toole, Rhys Pryce and McCann could not win the game outright for Coltswood as Wishaw kept in the game with a brace from Lee Hadden and a goal from Mark Kyle. However Athletic did prevail on penalties after ‘keeper Jack Weir made the winning save in what was a nervy penalty shoot-out.

It was the eventual winners that opened the scoring after 7 minutes. Ross Inglis’ cross found the head of No.11 Robbie O’Toole and his well placed header evaded the ‘keeper and nestled into the corner of the net.

Wishaw got their equaliser through Lee Hadden. After Adam Blair made a good tackle to dispossess the Coltswood attack Dom Lunny drove through the midfield unchallenged. His shot from range troubled the ‘keeper and Hadden was there after the ‘keeper spilled the ball to knock in the rebound to equalise.

Wishaw were increasing the pressure as Hadden had another shot on goal after a through ball from Gary Torrance, his shot was just wide of the right post. Wycombe were very unlucky not to increase their lead when a minute later when Torrance’s free kick was missed by the keeper and it was unlucky for Euan Leonard when the ball agonisingly hit him in the midriff with him unable to control it but bounced wide with the goal gaping.

It was Coltswood Athletic who went in front again however as Darren McLeish showed the full back a clean set of heels with his cross finding Rhys Pryce who, despite the ‘keeper changing the flight of the ball, managed to squeeze it in the near post to make it 2-1.

Wishaw kept up the pressure as Hadden had another chance when his turn opened up space, his resulting shot was just wide of the left post.

A long ball from defence was the assist to the next goal as Wishaw drew level. Hadden expertly controlled the ball and from 25 yards on the left side of the box he dipped a volley under the crossbar into the far side of the net in what was a great goal.

Syngenta Juveniles sealed Regional Cup glory with a last minute goal against Airdrieonians BC. The Cumbernauld and Kilsyth DYL champions didn't have it easy though as they had to battle back from behind twice to see of their Central Lanarkshire YFA opposition. In the end though, Kieran McLaughlin's goal was enough to seal victory.

It was Airdrieonians who started the better of the two sides. Centre forward Cole Starrs drove into the box from the right and his shot flew past the keeper only to be crucially blocked by a Syngenta centre half to keep the score at 0-0 after two minutes.

Syngenta had their first chance of the half when Guy Lindsay was put through on goal on 10 minutes. His shot was not as he would have hoped however as it was straight at the keeper.

It was on 17 minutes that Airdrie finally opened the scoring. Cole Starrs did excellently to hold up the ball and in turn played a perfectly weighted pass to Euan Lindsay who did not hesitate to curl the ball first time into the near post from 20 yards.

Five minutes later Syngenta were back in the game through an exquisite free kick from Tristain McArthur. Aaron Whitelaw was brought down on the right edge of the box and McArthur stepped up to the task of taking the promisingly positioned free kick. His great effort flew over the wall and curled into the far corner with the keeper helpless to make his team level.

The teams were separated again through Starrs, who was having increasing influence on the game. He showed great determination to break into the box past defenders after picking up the ball and his powerful finish was past the keeper into the left side of the net from 15 yards to make it 2-1.

Airdrie were piling on the pressure up towards half time. Jed Young made an important save as he stood strong to deny Starrs after he was through on goal from a Jack Hart through-ball to keep the Juveniles in the game.

Young’s save would prove crucial when, after 33 minutes, Eli Allan shot from 25 yards into the roof of the net. Guy Lindsay’s shot was blocked and the ball fell to Allan who needed no invitation to smash the ball in through the fingertips of the opposition keeper.