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St Johns won the AFYFC U16 League Cup final on Sunday with a convincing 4-1 victory over Glenrothes Athletic at Central Park, the home of Lochore Welfare Juniors. The outcome was defined to a large extent by an early sending off, and Glenrothes will wonder what might have been had they been able to compete with 11 instead of 10.
After a day of constant rain on the Saturday it was a relief that Lochore Welfare was able to host this encounter. The park was in good condition, even if slick with the fine, misty drizzle which engulfed the raised playing surface. The teams emerged to healthy, vocal support for both sides and Glenrothes Athletic kicked off on the stroke of 11am. They were first to threaten too, with Rhys Sneddon’s left foot shot sailing narrowly over the bar with only a minute on the clock.
As both teams tried to settle into the game there were some fairly “robust” challenges flying around, as each sought to control midfield. Glenrothes seemed to win that early battle and opened the scoring on 4 minutes when James Houston rose at the back post to meet a well flighted free kick and nodded the ball down and past the despairing Matt McGregor in the St Johns goal.
The Kirkcaldy side were reeling somewhat as Glenrothes enjoyed a period of possession in which they played with pace and aggression, a speculative 35 yard effort from Jack Wilson all the St Johns boys they had to show for their efforts.
The match turned on the 12 minute mark however when James Mackie of St Johns was felled by Glenrothes’ Calum Ballingall, defending a breakaway. It was a hefty challenge and after some time for treatment the referee dispatched Ballingall with a straight red. He could have no argument with the decision.
It was Glenrothes’ turn to feel under pressure now as St Johns pressed home their numerical advantage, Ryan McEwan unlucky to see his 35 yarder well palmed aside in 16 minutes by Robbie Paterson in the Glenrothes goal. It took St Johns only a further minute to make the most of their pressure though when Lee Foster’s defensive header sailed over his own keeper’s head and into the empty net, Liam Brown of St Johns following it in to ensure it would count.
The tide had turned. St Johns were now enjoying extended periods of possession with Glenrothes resilient in defence and trying to hit on the break. Kieran Mullen, Jay Rough and Ross Stevenson all went close to extending St Johns lead, whilst Craig Lowrie was unlucky with an overhead kick for Glenrothes, so as half time sounded it was a little surprising that the score was still 1-1.
Half Time: Glenrothes Athletic 1-1 St Johns
Early in the second half Ryan McEwan’s free kick eluded everyone in the Glenrothes box and drifted harmlessly past the far post by a matter of inches, but on 46 minutes Liam Brown made it 2-1 to St Johns with a nice shot from 18 yards which whistled past the keeper, low to his left.
St Johns were well on top now, and Liam Brown was causing the Glenrothes defence no end of trouble lurking just the right side of offside and being involved in most of the attacks. He was unlucky when Robbie Paterson made an excellent parry from his ferocious shot in 50 minutes, but the ball fell to the inrushing Jay Rough and he made no mistake from close range, smashing St Johns into a 3-1 lead.
Glenrothes were not giving up the ghost quite yet though, and they took the game back to St Johns, causing their coach to call for his charges to play with more width and exploit their extra man. Craig Lowrie was impressing for Glenrothes, having come on as a sub, and the roles seemed to reverse for a while; St Johns on the back foot and relying on the counter attack whilst Glenrothes bossed the midfield.
It couldn’t last though, and with substitutes appearing with increasing regularity for both sides St Johns extended their lead on 68 minutes, Aidan Martin tucking away a nice right foot shot to finally dampen the enthusiasm of the Glenrothes boys.
As time ran out St Johns continued to press, with Thomas Douglas and Aidan Martin again unlucky not to add to the score, but at full time the Kirkcaldy boys were worthy winners. Glenrothes had fought heroically and with 11 men it would have been a much closer encounter, but this time round, the silverware went to St Johns.
Full Time: Glenrothes Athletic 1-4 St Johns