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I had time to sit and think about all the good football I saw during Edinburgh City under-19s wonderful 3-2 win against Stirling Albion in their SFA Scottish Under-20 Cup tie at Meadowbank! This, indeed, was a game that tested the nerves and commitment of everyone connected with this famous Edinburgh football club.
I think I can safely say ’Edinburgh City have seen it all in a long career in Scottish Football, done themselves proud and have the history to prove it! Now they are well and truly ’stuck’ in the usually gaunt, crumbling Meadowbank Stadium. The under-19s were blessed, however, with brilliant weather for the first of the two Scottish Cup ties ever staged by Edinburgh City. It is, I suppose, quite unusual to have such wonderful weather for football in our country. It was well nigh perfect, I have to say.
On a personal level, it was indeed a ’great day’ for me as well. A magnificent programme set aside for me - possibly the best football programme I have ever seen in my life - team sheets, superb welcome and so on and on. Great young referee in Duncan Smith who had assistants on both touchlines to help him out and on and on. Stirling Albion ’contributed’ to City’s success with the most astonishing misses - some of them in front of the City goal - particularly in the first half of what I thought was a terrific and exciting game to watch.
I have to admit, it must also have been torture for the Stirling Albion coaches! They in particular were made to suffer as their young side created chance after chance in an electric start to the tie, only to be denied deserved goals by the heroics of City’s stand-in keeper, Chris Anderson - and woeful shooting! Chris was nothing less that magnificent in every way. I was positioned at the end of the pitch defended by the team from Edinburgh. Albion threw everything at City from the start and it was ‘all hands to the pumps’ in the home defence as the visiting side went at it hell-for-leather!
Oh, dear me, what a nightmare it was for Stirling Albion on this special day for them. Any chance they had of establishing an early lead was well and truly spoiled by some of the most erratic shooting I have seen from any team. There was nothing wrong in Stirling’s approach play and the brilliant Sandy Cunningham, watched in this game by and English senior club scout, did EVERYTHING BUT SCORE! Sandy, Sandy, my boy, how I felt for you as you missed a succession of good, clear-cup chances. Some in front of goal, too! And when Sandy and No 9, Scott Jarvie, did get shots on target, the truly inspired Chris Anderson both denied and deprived them of the goals their play deserved.
Gradually the tide turned in favour of the Edinburgh club. The home defence had weathered the storm and play flowed towards the visiting goal and it was only then that the class of the City attack manifested itself. Liam Ireland and Corey Gilmour, operating on both wings, tested the Stirling defence along with Mark Osborne, Ntando Ntshangase, and Mark McConnell.
Albion No 11, Chris Paton was another of the visiting players who missed an early chance to score and No 7, Steven Forbes, on the right, was yet another player who just could not get the better of Chris Anderson!
In front of Anderson were local heroes galore and John Sanderson was a ‘rock’ in the centre of defence. And, surprise, surprise, it was Edinburgh City that opened the scoring - against the run of play! The goal came in the 15th minute and what a shock if must have been to the visiting side when Sanderson sent through a great ball to the brilliant Liam Ireland on the left and this excellent wide player and he set up Mark Osborne to stick the ball behind Stirling Albion keeper Steven Denholm! Glory be, Edinburgh City led 1-0!
Would it be correct of me to say fans of the visiting side were shell-shocked! Stirling attacked the City goal from the restart but it was all in vain and a wee bit desperate as well as time passed with any reward for Stirling Albion! Chris Anderson was truly immense in the home goal with ‘big boomer’ John Sanderson, another ‘giant’ of a player for Edinburgh City. The home side conceded corner after corner as the pressure on their goal built up but the Stirling defence looked less than safe when they were subjected to attacks. They were fully stretched by the exciting wing play from the Capital outfit.
Shortly before half-time, it was akin to a gift from heaven when City want 2-0 in front. Great play on the right exposed the frailities of the Stirling defence once again and the ball was played across to Ntshangase who stroked it over the line! Cue right to Graeme Higgins on the City touchline! He was in ‘agony’ as he celebrated seeing the hom side go 2-0 up - unbelievably! I do not know what to say, was it ‘poor Graeme’ or what? His beaming smile answered that question and it was 2-0 at the break. As team boss, Jim Brown headed towards the dressing room for the half-time team talk, he said: “We rode our luck out there!” Yes, I think you were right there, Jim. But as your team were two goals in front, it was a satisfying first half for Edinburgh City.
Half Time: Edinburgh City 2-0 Stirling Albion
On the restart, Stirling made tracks towards Anderson’s goal once again and, good God, their No 2, Lee Hamilton, fired wide from a good position to the right of the home goal! Was that groans I heard coming from the Stirling fans in the huge stand? Whatever, it turned out to be a great second half and the visiting side did manage to score, when Steven Forest scored from their opening goal from the penalty spot, after Cunningham was broght down in the box. Stirling celebrated as if they had won the cup, but I suppose it was a relief to the visiting players to show they could actually score after so many glaring misses.
That goal from a spot-kick, in the 50th minute, took the game in to what I can only describe as over-drive. And Edinburgh City gave as good as they got, even better than that when Mark Osborne restored City’s two-goal lead with a wonderful penalty (pictured, right), in the 56th minute. That goal signalled another change in fortunes in this exciting game. City were boosted by the goal but Stirling, I thought, tried even harder.
Play flowed from end to end on the lovely prepared big pitch and, indeed, it was great to watch as both sides produced exciting and absorbing football. With 20 minutes left to play, Scott Jarvie had a truly wild shot at the City goal and the ball disappeared from sight! Jaxon Wishart was tremendous in defence for the home side, clearing brilliantly when Albion attacked. Wishart, I thought, was another star in the City line-up! He had a great game - along with everyone else in the home squad!
With ten minutes left to play, Stirling scored a second goal and it Sandy Cunningham who set up Scott Jarvie to make it 3-2! If the game was good prior to Stirling’s second goal, it got even better in time left and big Albion No 5, Jamie Clark showed all the passion and commitment expected in a game at this level. Wonderful effort, Jamie, but no matter what you or any of your team-mates tried in the run-up to the closing whistle from Duncan Smith, this was Edinburgh City’s day.
To add to the anguish of the visiting contingent, City No 17, Kyle Brown, cleared a shot off the home goal-line! And City held on to win 3-2! And I enjoyed every second of the game and I was on hand to offer my congratulations - and condolences - to Graeme Higgins for his side’s magnificent triumph and also for his self-inflicted injury. Who ever heard of a team coach injuring himself when his side scored a goal! Surely, that is anoher ‘first’ for Edinburgh City on this memorable day at Meadowbank.
My thanks to both clubs and to all the players and match officials. It was a great day for football in every sense and wonderful sportsmanship as well. Just the way it should be.
Full time: Edinburgh City 3-2 Stirling Albion