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This was the third time in as many days that I was at Tynecastle Stadium. On Wednesday I was reporting from a fantastic Under 15's School Shield final, and Thursday I was playing myself in the Federation of Hearts Cup Final. Back to the job of reporter for the Under 19's East of Scotland Challenge Cup Final between Spartans and Edinburgh City.
City took the lead earlier on through striker Mark Osborne from the penalty spot, and it was emphatically tucked away. However, his strike was cancelled out by Matthew Underhill who equalised for Spartan's after an unfortunate error from City Keeper Chris Anderson. With City having 2 men sent off Spartans scored with less than 5 minutes of extra-time remaining, through an unfortunate own goal which trickled into the net.
Spartans started the brighter of the two sides, and immediately were on the attack. Matthew Underhill the bright spark for Spartans. Driving at the City defence and winning a corner in the first 30 seconds of the match. The corner taken by Harvey McIntosh from the right hand side, in-swinging to the back post, and Alex Imlah rose well but his header was over the bar. Early scare for City.
Spartans were completely dominating the play, and City keeper Anderson had to be quick off his line to beat McIntosh to the ball on the edge of the box. A great ball over the top from Bradley Raiker into the path of McIntosh but Anderson was alert to the danger.
Spartans must have had at least 70 percent of the posession in the first 15 minutes of the game, and completely against the run of play, City opened the scoring. A free kick around 25 yards out from Liam Ireland smacked the underside of the crossbar, and Spartans left back Reece Cochrane attempted to clear, but what appeared to be a foul by City striker Osborne on Cochrane forced the full back into the ball striking his arm and the referee pointing to the spot with no hesitation. Osborne made no mistake with the penalty kick though, firmly placing the ball to Iain McTurk's left, with the keeper going the right way, but the ball was places perfectly into the corner of the goal. 1-0 to City completely against the run of play. From what i recall, their first real attack of the game.
Spartans didnt seem too phased by City taking the lead, and almost immediately hit back with an equaliser. McItosh's wicked left-footed delivery from the left hand side, inbetween the 6 yard line and penalty spot for captain Martin Lackie to attempt to head home, but Anderson stood firm and held onto the ball.
Spartans had another free kick on the left hand side, and it was taken short quickly to McIntosh, but his first time cross was blocked for a corner. Sean Stewart this time delivered from the left hand side, and his delivery found Imlah again at the back post, but his volley cross was saved well by Anderson.
City's next attack was very promising indeed, and almost brought the second goal. Liam Ireland beating 4 Spartan's players and cutting inside to first a low drive but McTurk was equal to the striker, tipping it round the post for a corner. The corner resulted in a free kick to Spartans for pushing by City striker Osborne in the box.
In the last action of the first half, City left back Greg Powrie was booked for persistant fouling. How he managed to escape a booking before now was beyond me! A few meaty challenges from both sets of players, and the referee trying to keep his cards in his pocket.
Half Time: Spartans FC 0-1 Edinburgh City
The first action of the second half was in the Spartans box, and it was a a piece of outstanding action all round. Shaun Turnbull turning in the box and firing a striker which seemed destined to double City's lead, but McTurk produced a brilliant piece of Goalkeeping by reacting very sharply to tip Turnbull's effort round the post. Great save, but also a great turn and shot from Turnbull.
A great chance for Spartans for equalise, this time from substitute Jack Cousin. He found himself in some space on the left side of the 18 yard box, after a great switch pass from Stewart, but Cousin's shot was wayward. Another wasted opportunity for Spartans to get back on level terms in the match.
At the other end of the pitch, City striker Corey Gilmour weaved in and out of the Spartans defenders and went over in the box, but no hesitation from the referee, he booked Gilmour for diving. Not something you see everyday in youth football, but his decision was 100% correct, and there were no complaints from Gilmour either. A few of his mates were in attendance and giving him some stick for the dive. Some claiming he could get an oscar for that performance.
The match was very much end to end now with City trying to double their lead, and Spartans trying to find an equaliser. A great diagonal pass into the path from Raiker into the path of Underhill, the ball was taken down and poked goalwards by the striker, but once again Anderson was equal to it and preserved his clean sheet and kept City ahead.
However, Anderson couldnt preserve his clean sheet any longer, with under 10 minutes of time to go, Spartans found an equaliser. Callum Donnelly's through ball to Underhill looked to have been cut out but City keeper Anderson, but he misjudged the bounce of the ball, his missed it completely and Underhill had the empty net to score into to equalise for Spartans.
This was the final goalmouth action of the Second half, however City right back Connor Pont received his marching orders from the referee, as he received his second booking for a foul on the halfway line. Unfortunate for City as the linesman on the near side had signalled that the Spartans player was offside when the ball was played, and he rose his flag before the referee had blown for the free kick and sent off Pont. This decision angered the City bench.
Full Time: Spartans FC 1-1 Edinburgh City
Despite City being down to 10 men, they put up a great battling performance in extra-time to keep Spartans at bay for as long as possible. The first attack of extra time came from City in the form of star performer, and now lone striker Mark Osborne. He drove at the heart of the Spartan's defence and his powerful effort was heading towards the back of the net, but for the fingertips of McTurk in the Spartans goal. However, the ball appeared to have crossed the line after McTurk had tipped the ball onto the underside of the bar. Osborne was outraged at the linesman, and he clearly felt that it was a clear goal.
City were then reduced to 9 men. Left back Greg Powrie receiving a second yellow card for a foul which prevented Spartans from having a clear attacking opportunity. City now had their backs to the wall in hope of keeping Spartans out and taking the game to penalty kicks. Unfortunately for City, this was not to be. From the free kick given away by the departing Powrie, Raiker floated the ball into the packed City box, and a slight touch from a City player diverted the ball past on-rushing keeper Anderson into the corner of the net, much to the delight of the Spartans players, and to the dismay of the City players. A real sucker punch for City as they battled hard for extra time with 10, then 9 men.
In the very last minute, City managed to win a corner. Everyone apart from keeper Anderson in the Spartans box. Kyle Brown swung the ball in, Jaxon Wishart managed to get his head on the ball, but it ended up over the crossbar to the relief of the Spartans players.
The referee blew his whistle and joy filled the faces of Spartans, but dismay for City.
A very entertaining game here at Tynecastle, which finished with a result that was probably justified with the overall complex of the game. Both sets of players producing moments of magic. However, on the flip side, eight yellow cards were shown and two red, and all appeared to be the correct decisions from the referee. A few meaty challenges were thrown in, but didn't overshadow the good footballing nature of the match.
Final Result: Spartans FC 2-1 Eidnburgh City (AET)