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Cracking goals, ferocious challenges, end to end football, near misses, a sending off, controversy..
They often say cup ties have a bit of everything but if there ever was a model for an entertaining cup tie; this was it.
Leith Athletic and Victoria 19’s produced a battle of football on the green grass of Leith Links which at times looked like it could be heading towards abandonment, more so than extra time, with the equaliser the home side merited.
The visiting side from Airdrie find themselves in the last eight of the Scottish Youth Cup, yet Athletic, who went out of the competition at the first hurdle, matched them for the whole 90 minutes and can only blame themselves for failing to level the scores.
The home side made no mistake when presented with their first opportunity of the match after only three minutes. Darren Gallagher did well to work his way past a defender to get to the byline, before a delightful cross to the back post was met by striker Ryan Ward who evaded his marker and headed into the net.
Athletic could have found themselves three-up after only ten minutes when two chances to Ross Davies followed the opening goal. Davies had a shot from inside the penalty area saved by Victoria keeper Fraser Richardson before a header from Davies came back off the inside of the post.
The home side would be left to rue these two missed opportunities when Victoria took the lead with two goals in three minutes.
A free kick on the right from Lee Jack to the back post was headed back across the face of goal and Darren Cooke found the net with a header.
Victoria grabbed their second of the afternoon when a cross-come shot from the left flank found the back of the net. Jordan Rennie, on the left wing put in a cross which was misjudged by Reece Smail in the sticks for Leith and it nestled into the corner of the net. No doubt Rennie would’ve claimed he meant it, but his gaffer, Derek Gamble claimed it was a ‘fluke’ after the match.
Despite losing two quick fire goals Leith showed immense character to try to force themselves back into the match and had most of the pressure, but they just couldn’t find the killer pass to level the score line before half-time.
Half Time: Leith Athletic 1-2 Victoria F.C
Straight from the restart, Victoria could have stretched their lead. Andrew Laird played a through ball into the path of Cooke who hit his strike wide when he really should’ve got it on target, but Athletic defender Josh Riddell had done well to put him off.
Llyndon Learnard, the diminutive centre back for Leith was putting in a great shift in defence in his sweeper role to disrupt the Victoria attack with his tough tackling and last ditch defending.
His determination from the back seemed to flow through towards the midfield and attack as they went in search of an equaliser.
First, Ward had another opportunity with a header at the front post which went just over the bar before a corner from Callum Mein flashed across goal, with no one able to find the required touch.
Leith and Victoria traded opportunities on the hour. Riddell’s shot looked to be heading for the top corner after he had surged forward from the back, but Richardson was equal to the effort as he leapt to his right. Jack then played in another dangerous free kick for the visitors which, Niall Fitzpatrick nodded just wide.
Ward almost grabbed his second for his side with a header that rolled across goal, before he was forced to take the gloves of Athletic ‘keeper Smail who was given his marching orders with a straight red for violent conduct, with only ten minutes remaining.
From then on, Leith found it difficult without Ward’s presence upfront and they were unable to find an equaliser. Victoria now face Hillfield Swifts in the final, set to be played in New Countess Park, Dunbar on 1st June.
Full Time: Leith Athletic 1-2 Victoria F.C
Leighton Jones, secretary of Leith Athletic, said: "We are fairly disappointed that we didn’t get an equaliser, the boys played well. We have plenty more to play for, hopefully we can pick up a bit of silverware. They gave me 110% and at the end of the day that’s all you can ask for."
Derek Gamble, head coach of Victoria, said: "It was the worst we have played all season. They are a very good side clearly, but I don’t think that game did either team justice. We are delighted to get to the final."