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On the first time this trophy in memory of the late Colin Greenhill, who worked on the Evening News Sports Desk and contributed to the popularity of Local Heroes in the paper, it was Tynecastle that ran out deserved winners. The Leith Athletic players, who have won promotion from Division Two to the top division for next season, it was surely part of a lesson they must take on board if they are to play with the big boys. Tynecastle set the tone of this final, played in front of Mrs Gillian Greenhill and members of her family, and it was a times a test of character for the Leith outfit. Gillian Greenhill was very pleased about the good spirit in which the game was played in front of a good turnout of spectators at the home of Bonnyrigg Rose JFC.
There was so much to enjoy in this game, particularly the play of the Tynecastle players. Recent winners of the SJFA Scottish Challenge Cup in Airdrie, they looked like winners from the opening whistle from Borders referee, Jim Darling. It was a game that needed a strong referee, and Jim fitted the bill exactly. He had to red card a Tynecastle defender early in the second half - last man when the defender brought down a Leith attacker on a run at the Tynecastle goal on the right.
There was an incident when the Leith coach thought the Tynecastle goalie, Billy Taylor, had handled the ball outside the 18 yard box. I was in line with Taylor at the time and on the same side of the pitch and I can assure everyone, the goalkeeper was not outside his box when he got his hands on the ball. However, I did think it was a pass back and possibly the keeper should have had a free-kick awarded against him. That did not happen, but it surely upset the Leith coach.
Tynecastle were a squad positively bristling with class players at this level and, my, how well did they play with the advantage of the slope of the pitch. The Leith defence were forced back as No 14, Ciaron Small, ran riot on the right for Tynecastle. Another of the best players in maroon jerseys was No 19, Joe Walker, and I thought he had a great game. Leith goalie, Campbell Johnston, was the busiest player on the pitch and he was definitely in the firing line in the opening stages when the Leith goal was virtually under siege. Ryan Currie, No 15, was another dangerous player in attack for Tynecastle.
The first of the seven goals in this final came in the 9th minute, when Ciaron Small scored from a pass from Greg Kerr. I feared for Leith at that stage, as I did not want to see them over-run. But, with the hour, cometh the man - in this instance, Leith No 5, Keith Turner! Playing in the centre of defence, Turner was nothing short of magnificent. What a star and he went on to deny Tynecastle time and time again with good tackles and interceptions. Leith No 11, Lewis Robertson, delighted his team’s fans on the terracing with some great skills. That was followed by a surging run on the left from Tynecastle No 3, Calum Cowan, who ended his run with a super strike at the Leith goal. Johnston saved that but he was beaten again when Ryan Currie tapped home goal number two for Tynecastle, from a pass from Matthew Graham.
It was all going the way of the team based in Balgreen, close to Saughton Park, where they have two of the best maintained pitches in Edinburgh. It was Tynecastle No 8, Jason Kerr, who had a role in all of his side’s best moves. Then Leith had a good spell and Leighton Paterson showed up well in good raids on the Tynecastle goal. But no breakthrough! Another thumping shot from Joe Walker troubled Robertson in the Leith goal and Robertson only managed to get a hold of the ball at the second attempt. At the Tynecastle end, goalie Billy Taylor booted a shot from Paddy Ryan off the line.
The game turned to the other end and eager beaver Tynecastle No 15, Ryan Currie, led the hunt for a third goal. His shot went wide of the target, then Greg Kerr was caught offside. Calum Cowan (No 3) had, I thought, a field day out on the left for Tynecastle and he easily brushed aside the challenge from a Leith player to set up more and more attacks on Johnston’s goal. Robertson set up Brandon Brammar to have a go at opening Leith’s account, but the No 15 shot wide.
Play, again, switched to the Leith end and once more it was No 14, Ciaron Small who was involved in the move that saw Joe Walker grab a third goal for Tynecastle when he fired home a loose ball in the Leith goalmouth. There was no sign that Leith were going to score a goal at the top end of the ground, but they surely did just that, with Paddy Ryan earning the thanks of his team-mates. And all this had happened in the first 30 minutes of the final. Keith Turner halted Ciaron Small on another great run with a superbly timed tackle. Great play, indeed, from both players.
There was always the threat Tynecastle could score more goals, each time they attacked the Leith goal. Matthew Graham (No 11) had a very good spell for the boys in maroon. With half-time looming, Tynecasle went 4-1 in front, this time a good cross from the left, delivered by Calum Cowan going in to the net off a Leith defender.
Half Time: Leith Athletic '97 1-4 Tynecastle FC
At the start of the second half, a Tynecastle player was red carded for a last man tackle that brought down Murray Dickson (No 14) on a wonderful run on the right. The free-kick was just outside the 18 yard box and my oh my, Brandon Brammer fired the ball past the Tynecastle wall in to the net at the right-hand post and it was 4-2.
Was it the moment in the game for Leith to take control of the game? It just did not happen and for a while the exchanges got just a wee bit tough, can I say?
Brammer hit another shot from long range at the Tynecastle goal, but it did not trouble Billy Taylor. A free kick on the left to Tynecastle resulted in a good effort from Matthew Quinn. This exceptionally good defender shot wide of the Leith goal.
Tynecastle got back their rhythm and soon, they were celebrating another goal. It was a lovely goal at that, with Kyle Mitchell sending the ball over Campbell Johnston in to the Leith goal and that made it 5-2 for Tynecastle.
Leith lifted themselves and played their hearts out, but they were up against a very good, well coached and disciplined outfit. The pace of the game did not slacken for one second and Tynecastle contined to look the better side as they mounted attack after attack on the Leith goal.
Before the final whistle, Tynecastle No 4, Matthew Quinn, sent in a great ball at the Leith goal and No 17, Liam Thomson, got his head to the ball only for Campbell Johnston to pull off a great save.
It was still 5-2 at the final whistle and on to the prize giving with Mrs Gillian Greenhill, widow of the former Evening News Sports Sub-Editor, doing the honours in a lovely closing ceremony to the first time the handsome trophy was played for. And that, my friends, is match report.
Full Time: Leith Athletic '97 2-5 Tynecastle FC