Fixture: Whitburn Juniors v Dunipace Juniors
Competition: Under 19's South East Region Cup, Semi Final
Another winter full of reasons to give consideration to the idea of summer football meant the Young Pace heading to Whitburn for this rearranged Regional Cup Semi Final one weekend shy of 3 months with a solitary completed fixture, that coming at the end of January. Given the winter weather thus far, the mild, dry and sunny afternoon was a welcome change for players and spectators alike, with a reasonable crowd in attendance to find out who would reach the May final and face AC Oxgangs.
Dunipace had defenders Hepburn and Taylor back in the starting line-up following niggling injuries, but were still without Swords suffering from a knee problem and recent signing Jordan Paterson who was cup tied. Mitusch, just back from holiday, started on the bench with McIntyre in front of Black on the right.
Playing in yellow the young Pace started brightly, moving the ball reasonably well following an initial 3-4 minutes where they felt their way into the game. Indeed, playing against the breeze, they could have taken the lead through Brown within 5 minutes as the striker narrowly failed to get on the end of Steven's through ball, the home keeper diving at the strikers feet to smother the ball.
The Westfield men didn't have to wait long for the opener though, going in front on 13 minutes. Some good passing play involving Taylor, Meade and Maclaren found Steven behind the home midfield. Steven played a perfectly timed reverse into the path of Brown on the diagonal, heading away from goal on his left. The striker fired a ferocious drive first time, the early strike catching the home keeper by surprise with the power on the drive taking the ball beyond him at his near post before he knew it.
The young Pace could have extended their lead moments later as Weir, aided by an excellent dummy run on the outside from Steven, found McIntyre in the area with the keeper making a decent save to turn the effort around the post.
20 minutes in and Dunipace relatively comfortable, controlling the the game in the opening stages, without playing at their best, with Jackson in goal only really fielding from long shots and long balls in a relatively trouble free opening.
As the game passed the 20 minute mark though, as is becoming a frustrating habit for the young side, they simply stopped. It was, again, as though someone had flicked a switch and it was pretty obvious for all watching leading to a series of chances for a home side looking to take advantage and get themselves back into the tie.
Indeed they were unlucky not to do so from a corner where the the home player rose above anyone in yellow at the back post and saw his header crash back off the post, Dunipace snuffing out the rebound with some last ditch defending.
Jackson in goal was tested by a series of long range free kicks before some more last ditch defending by Black and Balmer scrambled the ball away at the back post when it looked to be a certain goal.
Skipper Balmer picked up a booking for a foul midway inside the half as the home side broke 5 on 3, the defender making the decision that taking a yellow for the team was the right call at that stage of play before Jackson in goal was asked to field another effort from a free kick.
With the home side now finding themselves on top and Dunipace conceding a number of free kicks around their box it was somewhat predictable that the equaliser came from one of them. 25 yards out slightly to the left. Jackson in goal anticipated the ball over the wall protecting his right and made an early move, only for the ball to be played low around the wall to the keepers side, unable to adjust and get back over.
1-1 and on the balance of play in the latter stages of the half Dunipace may have considered themselves fortunate that their lapse hadn't cost them more than 1 goal.
It proved to be a wake up call for the youngsters who from kick-off after the goal started playing again and immediately created a chance for McIntyre. Taylor and Steven linked well on the left before Maclaren played into the run of Brown. Brown picked out McIntyre who shot narrowly wide.
As the half drew to a close Weir nearly grabbed the goal his own personal first half performance merited as his clever flick from 6 yards turned the ball towards goal from a tight angle. Having beat the keeper though it was cleared off the line by the covering defender.
1-1 at half time with Dunipace more than a little disappointed at their application during the first 45. With a bit more composure in their finishing and but for, free kick aside, good handling from Jackson in the Pace goal the home side could have found themselves at least one goal up at the half.
Half Time : Whitburn Juniors 1-1 Dunipace Juniors
As the second half started it was clear from the off that the content of the half time chat was having the desired effect. The young Pace were doing everything sharper, with more purpose and vitally going in both directions. The willingness to do the defensive shift, which looked lacking during the first 45, was back and gave the Pace a platform on which to build.
There were a couple of early changes, Hepburn and Taylor suffering from recurrences of the injuries that have been ailing them for a while, Walker coming on at centre back in place of Hepburn with McIntyre moving to the unfamiliar position of left fullback, Mitusch taking his place on the right of midfield.
It didn't take long before Dunipace were asserting themselves on the game once more and Brown tested the keeper with a drive from the right. Steven then pulled a fantastic save from the home stopper as he spotted him off his line and fired towards the top corner from 35 yards, the stopper getting fingertips to it to tip over the bar.
It was the last action for Steven, having one of his very rare off days, replaced by Comrie with Weir moving to left midfield.
The changes gave a freshness to the Dunipace attack, Comrie impressing from the off combining with Weir and Maclaren before skipping beyond two challenges on the left and picking out Brown in the centre. His shot was smothered by the home defence but Comrie was alive again to poke the loose ball to Maclaren 20 yards out who unleashed a rasping drive that clipped the bar on the way over, the keeper helpless.
McIntyre had slotted into left fullback as if he had been playing there for years, linking well with Weir on the left and Mitusch on the right was giving the home defence a new problem with his trickery. In fact, the wide man turned inside a challenge superbly on the wing before picking out Meade who helped on, Weir narrowly missing out at the back post.
There was a goal coming for Dunipace and when it did it was from the penalty spot, Weir fouled inside the area following an excellent flowing move that was more like the Dunipace we are used to seeing.
Balmer and Walker played the ball out from the back, finding Black at right back. Mitusch dropped in to bounce the ball back to the fullback before finding Comrie in the right channel. The young attacker did superbly to protect the ball before turning a clever pass inside to Maclaren. The midfielder, who had controlled the game in the second half, turned away from his man superbly with a drop of the shoulder before playing into the path of McIntyre at left back. The fullback played first time into Weir who showed his own bit of skill 1v1 to move away from his defender, the last ditch sliding tackle missed the ball, felling the attacker for a clear penalty.
Excellent football all round and Brown stepped up to dispatch the penalty with confidence.
Comrie and Brown linked well again soon after to release Mitusch once more on the right, his cross narrowly missing Comrie in the centre looking to make it 3.
Weir, tiring after turning in another impressive display, was replaced by King who was immediately into the action, linking well with McIntyre and Maclaren before playing a lovely cross field pass into Mitusch on the right. The winger once more linked with Comrie who played in Brown, the keeper smothering out for a corner.
There was one scare in front of goal for Dunipace though as Walker and McIntyre looked sharp to block an effort from 6 yards, allowing Jackson to gather comfortably.
Dunipace were though well on top in the second half and made the tie safe with a third with 15 minutes remaining. More good football between King, Maclaren and McIntyre found Meade who played in Mitusch on the right. His cross found King at the back post who fired towards goal only to see his effort blocked superbly by the keeper. Comrie though was on hand to smash the ball into the net on the follow up with his left.
Cherrie replaced Black at right back, the big defender rested for the final 12 minutes and Cherrie nearly found Brown over the top, the striker frustrated at not getting it down first time as the keeper rushed out to claim. A little harsh on himself, in all truth!
3-1 it finished which was probably a fair reflection of the game, won by a second half performance in which everyone in yellow lifted their levels following a lacklustre first half display. It has become somewhat of a habit for this young side and something they will surely be working hard on in the coming weeks. That said, there were some very good individual performances, particularly in the second 45.
Full Time : Whitburn Juniors 1-3 Dunipace Juniors