Kemnay Academy put double digits in the goals column on Thursday, to see themselves victorious over Portlethen Academy in the S2 AFC Trophy Final. Four for striker Taylor Mason broke the game open, as the 10-4 scoreline was a fitting reflection of a pulsating fixture which gets top marks for the entertainment served up by both schools.
Portlethen were first to strike in the opening minute of the match. The referee adjudged a foul on the edge of the area following an initial freekick delivery by Lennon Brown. Cody Whyte stepped up for the second set-piece and drilled it superbly beyond Owen Forsyth to give Porty the early advantage and get the fun started.
Dean McDonald's shot called Forsyth into further action moments later. At the other end, Finlay Wilson was alive to stifle the running of Anton Chauvin, the tricky midfielder thwarted on his dribble through, as both sides tested the water.
Kemnay's equaliser arrived on 12 minutes. Again here, Chauvin's neat footwork was the catalyst. Picking the ball up twenty yards out, he sidestepped delicately, rolling the ball square for MacKenzie Taylor to fire home a lovely curling effort.
They would pick the lock twice more over the next five minutes. First, a fine team move turned the match on its head. Tightly congested, Kemnay pinballed their way to the net with precision. Callum Duncan was key in the smooth interchange, laying it on for Josh Buchan to slot away for 2-1.
Mason had his first say on the quarter hour. Orchestrated down their right, McKenzie Taylor turned provider, whipping a terrific centre across the face. Timing is everything. All the forward had to do was guide this header. In the cold of Cove, there was daylight.
Surely the match would have to calm, but no lull was forthcoming as the teams went end-to-end, toe-to-toe.
Unperturbed, Portlethen gritted their collective teeth, and the deficit appeared to ignite fresh vigour in their performance. The charge was led by the twisting Tristan Baxter. A tireless worker throughout, the exciting winger was brave in the challenge with Callum Duncan, catching an inadvertent high boot. Portlethen loaded the box for Ramsey Davidson's delivery, which was met by Cody Whyte to steer them back into contention.
It's amazing what goals can do for the confidence of any team, and wonderful to watch their impact on the natural enthusiasm of young and talented players, such as the sides in this Final. The Balmoral Stadium crowd were getting their fill of thrills, with more on the horizon. Buoyed by their rapid response, something special was about to happen to restore parity.
Stand up and be counted, be applauded, Tristan Baxter.
On 22, Kemnay keeper Owen Forsyth did very well to mop up some Portlethen pressure. His lengthy clearance was won back by Baxter at distance, nipping in, and he took aim. In one swipe, he smashed the ball from fully 35 yards, if not more, sending it crashing back beyond the stopper. A stunning, memorable finish, and the tie was back in the balance.
So, 22 minutes gone, six goals shared, and time to get the calculators out. Told you this was fun...
In no mood for drama, Kemnay would answer Portlethen’s resurgence with a swift pair before the interval. Callum Duncan converted with composure from a lofted forward pass to edge them ahead again. Taylor Mason was obviously taking notes, stretching away in similar fashion, this time to round the goalkeeper for the fifth by 31.
Two goals born of determination in a footrace, but with Portlethen still asking questions of their own, who would cross the line first remained anyone’s guess at the break.