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Tranent Juniors won the last of this season’s under-21 finals when they beat Hutchison Vale at the home of Penicuik JFC. This was a tough game for both sides, particularly when it came to scoring goals. No goals were scored throughout normal time and in extra time as well. The magnificent trophy, therefore, was won by Tranent in a penalty decider. But, even then, it went to ‘sudden death’ before Tranent won 5-4.
On my way to this neat and tidy stadium with its very own spectacular backdrop of the Pentland Hills, I came in to Penicuik by the back road and passed the sunlit park opposite to the local high school. Archers were setting up their targets for this most dedicated of sports and it must be difficult for all archers to hit the quite small target, with the bullseye in the centre of the circle. It must, indeed, take a lot of practising.
Both Tranent and Hutchison Vale could also have done with a lot more practise when it came to hitting the target in this very enjoyable cup final. The number of chances created by both sides - and missed - was astonishing. Vale keeper, Chris Malcolm, and the monster mash in the Tranent goal, Ross McMullan, both had great games, but to say both sides had an off-night when it came to scoring goals is for me to be economical with the truth. While standing among the fans on the terracing, I felt the frustration when chances were set up and scorned, time and time again. And, for that, I also can point the finger at the respective defences. Sorry, I missed out ‘outstanding’ defences!
Why are the players I saw in action at Penicuik not playing at a higher level? There were great performances on that pitch, yes, yes, I know, both keepers were outstanding! But what about Tranent No 4, Mike Porteous. He had, I thought anyway, a great game. Blair was in good company, with others in the Tranent rearguard also very impressive. In the famous colours of Hutchison Vale, from goalkeeper out, they looked as solid as a rock (and a hard place)! During the game and extra time, I had to add that, attacking moves at both ends of the well-prepared pitch came to grief. Thou shalt not pass! You bet and having mentioned the word ‘pass’ I will go on a wee bit and moan my guts out - as I do occasionally (but no one takes any notice any more) about the number of misplaced final passes in this game. Oh, me, Oh, my! Free kicks in abundance, and none of them produced a goal! Corners to the right of them, corners to the left of them - huge throw-ins and these two bloody spoilsports Malcolm and McMullan, performing brilliantly in keeping shots from entering both nets, aye, it was certainly frustrating. ‘Give me my bow of burning gold, give me my arrows of desire’! Attacks, we had a few, too few to mention etc etc!
Yes, indeed, both Tranent and Hutchison Vale did it their way. Possibly, they knew it would go to a penalty decider and, therefore, they kept their ‘powder dry’! If you know what I mean - does anyone know what I mean, you may ask? Still, it was very exciting and the action was, shall I say, non-stop! Defences dominated however! And some of the clearances from both defences made me wince! Did the ball (balls) really deserve that sort of treatment? At other times, lovely spells of passing and movement. That is my kind of football, long forgotten I think at the top level of the game in Scotland! So, a wee look at my notes! There, I had down the name of Tranent No 5, Blair Murray. Also, No 11, Ross Parker (another good player); No 7 Cameron Reynolds! In fact, there was no hiding place out on the big pitch, so I will name all of them (if I can read the names scribbled down quickly in the referee’s room).
Oh, Billy Connor was in charge of this game, and he was also top class. Caused a wee bit anguish at times among the players on both sides when he turned down impassioned pleas for penalties and other fouls. Come on, come on, Tranent and Hutchison Vale, it was a game for men, not wimps! And what is this I see before me - the name of Tranent No 10, buzz-bomb Anton McKillop. Anton will, I think, want to forget his attempts to score. Oh, Anton, dear me, dear me! I don’t think I have to say any more and the climax for him came in the penalty decider. I will say not any more other than ‘come fly with me’ in relation to where he sent his spot-kick! Possibly, at this point, you will allow me to speak about the setting sun over the Pentland Hills? No! OK, I will leave out that beautiful moment and concentrate on the game.
I could go on to repeat the names of every player that took part. Damn, I could even add the names of all the kind people watching the game. How kind and polite they all were to me. Huh, you again, I thought you were deid! Oh, no, not you! I am just being silly, as I was overwhelmed by the welcome I got at Penicuik. Lovely place, lovely people! And George Park was collecting the entrance money at the game. Now, George is one of the finest men I have met in my entire life. An absolute gem of a human being if I could add. As for finding a ‘gem of a goal’ on the pitch, well not at this game until the penalty shoot-out took place. Before then, I noted down the names of Vale’s Ali Adams, of James Gay, of Robbie Mason, all with so much to offer except then it came to sticking the ball in the pokey! And so on... and so on! Miserable buggers the lot of them - no goals! It was all planned, I know it.
It was such a lovely night in Penicuik and once again, I will try to mention the sun setting over the Pentland Hills. No, you don’t want to know about that! OK, on then to the penalty decider. The tenseness I experienced when watching Gary Cooper (who) in that film, decades ago, was nothing compared to what went on in the centre circle and the terracing at Penicuik.
Hutchison Vale went first. Gay missed. The cheers and groans from everyone watching started! Craig Wojtowycz, scored for Tranent. Liam Grant netted for Vale and it was 1-1. Blair Murray restored Tranent’s lead at 2-1. Ryan Davidson scored and it was 2-2. David Ross made it 3-2 for Tranent. Mark Mitchell rammed home his spot-kick and it 3-3. Up stepped Sean McGinn for Tranent to make it 4-3. Robbie Mason equalised and it was left to Anton McKillop to wrap up the proceedings with Tranent’s fifth penalty. The Tranent No 10 was left holding his head in his hands as the ball took flight and disappeared away over the covered enclosure behind the Vale goal. Cheerio ball, good night Anton.
Vale were back in contention after each side had taken five spot-kicks. But, bloody hell, Sean Guiney fired his spot-kick off the right hand post. As Mike Porteous walked the walk to take Tranent’s next spot kick, assistant referee Kevin Lindsay, said to me: “If this penalty goes in, best to get out of the way of the Tranent players mad dash to congratulate Porteous. The Tranent No 5 did score and the Tranent players were off running. Anton McKillop et al!
And now I finally come to the greatest moment of all in this cup final. The presentation of the individual awards and the beautiful cup in memory of Stuart Brown, a young man who played in the under-21 age group until his death at an early age. Stuart’s brother, Keith Brown, did the honours once again and before the losing Vale players got their medals, the Tranent squad formed up in two lines for an avenue for the Vale players to walk through to applause from the winners Vale then did the same for Tranent and it was all sunshine and smiles at the end of a great great night for football. Such wonderful sportsmanship and respect shown by all the players and officials deserves as much publicity as possible. For me, it set a new bench mark for all other youth club football teams to follow.
Full Time: Hutchison Vale 0-0 Tranent Juniors (Tranent Juniors win 5-4 on penalties)