History would be made today as one of the two teams contesting today’s final would be the first to lift the famous SSFA shield for their respective schools. On one side were a team in gold and red from north Glasgow who arrived here in Airdrie to play their first game of the season away from home having enjoyed the luck of the draw in every round so far but coach Craig Thompson was keen to stress that it was the togetherness of his squad and not any kind of good fortune that had got his boys here today.
As we stood on the Astroturf watching his team warm up he was keen to stress how unique he felt his team was in this respect; “The thing about these boys is that they’re absolutely committed to schools football, they love playing for the school, they’re all friends and they love the team aspect of representing the school”
St Ninians coach Mark McKean was no less proud of his team although he himself had a little more personal motivation going in to today’s game than most. When asked about St. Ninians history in the cup he admitted that his family had previously come close to tasting glory; “My younger brother, when he was a St. Ninians pupil in 2006, captained the side to Hampden where they lost on penalties and that was the closest the school has come [to winning the cup]”
The crowds were in boisterous mood as the teams lined up to start the game and St. Ninians stood in the centre circle to take the kick off, the boys from Giffnock imposing in their all black strip got us underway and the fight for the trophy was on. Husnain Mansoor’s early corner was just missed by Mark Toner and minutes later another was palmed out by Springburn goalie Jamie Brown only to see the ball lifted straight back into the box but Toner’s attempt was just wide as saints made the most of the early going.
No one could question the commitment of either side and Blair Lyons showed some deft early touches for the boys in black whilst Springburn’s Scott Forrester was never short of pace when he got the ball. Saints James Lamont collected the ball 20 yards out and his well struck shot took a lethal deflection but was well saved to his left by Brown.
Springburn’s Captain Logan McIntyre then had his own effort from distance saved as he thumped a free-kick goal wards for fully 35 yards before Forrester took the chance to show us just how deadly his pace and movement could be. He took the ball inside from the left and moved quickly towards goal, as the last man moved out to close him down he laid the ball off to Ross Mclean in the box and as goalie Marc Waters dived low Mclean shot high and his team had the lead.
As the sun set and the winds picked up the teams re-emerged for the second half and Springburn looked to start as the y had finished the first but St Ninians weren’t looking to give up just yet. Replacement goalie Ewan Forsyth tipped a shot on to the post and away before Mansoor’s beautifully lofted free kick missed everyone except the diving Kas Maloku who connect well with his head only a few yards out and looked for the entire world to have levelled the score. But unfortunately for the legions of travelling fans the ball travelled just inches past the post and the deficit remain.
A cross then came flashing in from the right for saints but it missed everyone and trickled across the face of goal before being cleared and it was looking like if anyone was to score it would be them but then a corner swung in for Springburn was flicked on by McLean and Forrester took the chance to bullet home a header from only a yard out and help his team put one hand on the trophy.
If that wasn’t bad enough Matt McLuskie was then sent off for a late challenge as his marker went to streak past him and as much as St Ninians were trying not to let their heads drop the task at hand was becoming more difficult with every passing minute and when Stuart McCann received a ball over the top for Springburn you could feel the inevitability of what was to come. Despite stumbling on the slippery turf he regained his composure to race 35 yards, taking the ball to the goalie’s left he then slid the ball under him to make it three nil and cap a fine performance for the Glasgow boys.
That was the end of the action for this match and all that remained was for those in gold to lift the majestic old shield and bask in the adoration of their friends, fans and family. This may have been the first time they’d ever been national champions but on today’s performance I wouldn’t be surprised if it wasn’t their last.