Having been soaked twice while covering games the day before, it was a real boost to see the sun out for the start of what proved to be an engrossing cup semi-final between two well-matched young teams. Leith sponsor, Paul Pentland, owner of Murray Carpets based at Western Corner was present for an official picture to mark the handover of the immaculate new gear to the home squad and Leith celebrated by reaching their first final of the seasonl. They have the chance to make it through to another final this coming Sunday when they are involved in the semi-final of another of the domestic cups in the South East Region Youth FA. It was still quite windy at the start of the game against Edinburgh South and the young players involved gave it their all from start to finish. Leith’s Jesse Tucker went close to opening the scoring in a spirited attack on the Reds goal. The visitors took a wee while to get used to playing again after such a long enforced break due to the estreme weather. Big Leith striker, Patrick Ryan - wearing 99 on the back of his shirt - fired another shot off target and Leith looked likely to score. They duly did just that, with Lewis Park finding the back of the Reds net after good work by Tucker. At the other end, Reds big stricker Elias Mukkora tried to get his team going but the Leith defence looked sound and well-organised. It was Leith’s very alert goalkeeper, Campbell Johnston, who denied the visitng side an equaliser when he came away off his line - throughout the entire game it must be said - to clear up dangerous situations. In fact, the young keeper played as a sweeper and a very good one at that. Johnston also showed bravery when he went down at the feet of Ryan Martin to save again. It was a really good, exciting cup semi-final and the Reds showed they had found their feet with very good attacking moves up both flanks. Edinburgh South scored a deserved equaliser from Bradley Kay - another class act in this game - and the score was 1-1. The celebrations on the visiting side of the big pitch did not last long as Patrick Ryan sent a great shot swirling over the head of Reds goalie, Harry Cairns to put Leith back in front at 2-1. The very open nature of this game led to the belief that more goals were still to come. Edinburgh South went on the attack looking for another goal and Declan Grealis tested Johnston with a good strike at the Leith end. It was exciting to watch and when Leith livewire, Lewis Park, was on the ball he too looked capable of adding another goal. The Edinburgh South defence found Park to be a real handful in this game and he was one of the best players on the pitch. In another run at the Reds goal, Park shot in to the sidenet. At the other end, Johnston continued his heroics with brillaint clearances away out of his goal. Quite a character, this goalkeeper/outfield player - take your choice! Reds kept up their good attacks on the home goal and another good effort was just too high. It was still 2-1 for Leith at the break.
There were a lot of free-kicks awarded by brilliant referee, James Sim, in this game but most of these were waster efforts, either overhit or poor deliveries. None of them really bothered either keeper. At the risk of repeating myself, I have to say Johnston kept coming off his line to clear dangerous attacks. Possibly, against the run of play, Leith went 3-1 up and the goal came when the ball was cleared up field to the waiting Lewis Park. This good young player went on a searing run at the visiting defence, showed good control and a lot of strength to both beat and hold off the big Reds defenders before finishing off his glorious run with a thumping shot past the unlucky Harry Cairns. The goal of the game without any question. Well done, indeed, Lewis Park. That goal came in the 7th minute of the second half but the Reds lifted their game and they were unluck not to add to their tally, denied once more by Johnston who was well outside his 18yd box to clear on this occasion. His clearance was blocked, and the ball spun in to the path of Bradley Kay who sent it back in to the middle and it was eventually knocked behind for a goal kick. It was an exciting spell of play, indeed. Leith were at full stretch on several occasions after that to keep the Reds at bay. At the other end, Lewis Park continued his personal battle with the Edinburgh South defence every time he got the ball. In another of these lightning breaks, Park was just off target to the relief of the visiting contingent. Free-kicks continued to be overhit and chances were lost at both ends. Paul Robertson was another of the home squad to impress as spaces opened up as players tired. Elias Mukora continued to do good work for the Reds and the home side gave away several corners to keep Edinburgh South out. Then the Reds got their reward and it was Mukora - who else - who reduced the deficit to 3-2 to ensure a great finish to this cup semi-final. The goal came when a clearance from Johnston was picked up by the big No 9 and he managed to get the ball in to the Leith net. Game On! Denim Collins and Bradley Kaye pumped up the pressure on the home defence with good attacking moves and a free-kick to the Reds looked likely to produce an equaliser, but the whistle had gone for offside. Phew! Johnston, once more, cleared up brilliantly in another Edinburgh South attack while Lewis Park was outstanding in taking the game to the other end. The final whistle brought to an end a terrific game of football full of excitement, great effort and fantastic sportsmanship from all the players. And, believe it or not, the sun was still shining at the finish. Do I love going to see games such as this at Leith Links? Yes! Yes! Yes! I was among real friends as well. It does not get any better than that. Good luck to both these young squads of players. Personally, I thought they were all quite brilliant!
And the referee was superb as well!
Leith Athletic Reds - Campbell Johnston, Andrew Baird, Osama Mahmoud, Ryan Colbert, Keith Turner, Neall Lloyd, Jesse Tucker, Leighton Paterson, Lewis Park, Murray Davidson, Lewis Robertson, Gordon Kinnear, Jack Brodie, Patrick Ryan, Jordan Harrison, Paul Robertson.
Edinburgh South Reds - Harry Cairns, Liam O’Malley, Declan Grealis, Darren Clegg, Liam Evans, Elias Mukora, Connor Burke, Calum Wilkie, Brendan McCole, Denim Collins, Bradley Kay, Zain Asif, Lewis Mapira.
Referee - that nice James Sim.