The two teams at the top of the South East Region Youth Football League division one went head-to-head at Spartans Academy in the final of the Craig Gowans Memorial Trophy. Despite being second to their rivals in the league, Hutchison Vale came away comfortable winners with three goals in the space on four minutes in the first half, adding icing to the cake with half an hour to go.
The sun set on a warm evening as the teams came out of the clubhouse astride each other geared up for an early opportunity to win a trophy in this, an increasingly recognised and significant competition, in memory of the inspirational young man, Craig Gowan.
The game kicked off with an upbeat tempo and the sides probed for early weaknesses with stretched forays into attacking positions. After nearly ten minutes, Kieran Young swung in a good corner and it came in towards goal on an angle, Stewart Johnston caning his neck to get a forehead on the ball and possibly getting a slight touch to direct it inwards. Amazingly, no-one else nudged it either way and it sped past the far post.
With quarter of an hour passed, Tynecastle were showing increasingly incisive forward play. Hutchie on the other hand were taking their opportunities to be direct and were passing the ball around the pitch well, getting in width and finding good positions for attempts into the area, as Kieran Young put in a cross and nearly found the head he was aiming for.
A couple of minutes later and a free kick was called for Hutchison just a few metres outside the box and Lewis Swaney took a look. He fired a left foot curler in past the wall and swerving right, fast and low the keeper dived but it crept into the near side post and Hutchison had broken the deadlock to take the lead. Swaney was ecstatic and he had right to be, it was a quality set piece.
Only moments after the restart Hutchison were bearing down on the Tynecastle back line. The passing into the area was accurate and clever, moving the ball on as the attackers timed their runs well on the outside. Two passes across the face of the area and Swaney was there waiting at the back stick to pass the ball low into the near corner of the goal. Suddenly he had found two goals in quick succession and earned an important advantage with less than twenty minutes on the clock.
Again Hutchison swarmed forward straight from the restart, the bit firmly between their teeth but tempered, this was a team that knew when to strike. Young drove through the middle, leaving the ball nicely for Thomas Prior to put in a mean cross as they looked for a critical third goal.
It came via a quality lofted ball on the twentieth minute, Johnston looking up to see the run from Ryan Fox into the area from deep. The run deserved the ball but the spot deserved the finish, if only because the execution let it drop perfectly onto Fox’s pacing. He showed incredible technique to follow the ball onto his instep and deftly touch it in to the goal to the left of the onrushing keeper. It was three-nil to Hutchison Vale and the game had changed entirely in the space of four minutes.
Tynecastle did not look flustered at all though, and they continued to play their game, adeptly pressing on knowing that they had it within them to turn this around. Some of that was curtailed by a hard challenge on the assist provider Johnston which eventually resulted in a break in play for attention.
The play lengthened and became very much end-to-end whilst Tynecasle managed to find deep crosses now as Hutchison’s three man defence naturally dropped deep as the attacking energy in the wing backs kept them pinned higher up the pitch.
Tynecastle’s traction rose and Matthew McKenzie produced an incredible spun-flick around his man that he received himself and knocked a ball into the chest of Sonny Swanson. He brought it down, rolled a foot over it and laid it off to the oncoming Thomas Patterson who was able to look for a shot.
The pair continued to demonstrate a tacit understanding of each other’s movement off the ball, interchanging passes and positions to work a move deep into the left wing, and earning a free kick. The ball was whipped in and Arran Currie pulled off an incredible diving header clearance for Hutchison getting it high and clear from a foot off the ground next to the goalline.
At the half hour point, Hutchison were attacking with Reyce Kay who got it on to Young in between the centre backs when Tynecastle’s Kacper Korpalski showed how to deal with a high bounce under pressure, getting it well cleared, so well it landed on the roof of the stand and caused a booming metal echo that got some laughs!
By now Lewis Swaney was seemingly roaming the field picking the ball up everywhere and demanding attack after attack for Hutchie, with Currie assisting him readily and bursting in between the centre backs before the keeper Kieran Ross came out quickly and smothered the chance.
With five minutes of the first half remaining, Swanson for Tynie cleverly left a cross from Patterson out on the left and had his head in his hands as the whole crowd joined him in thinking it had crept in. It carried on past the back stick.
For Hutchison, Thomas Priors shepherds the ball out well before his teammates upfield repeat a previous approach by getting between the defenders at pace but one of them got a toe and hooked the ball clear.
Good play by Luke Dwyer of Tynecastle finds space for a ball to Daryl Henderson down in the right hand corner area but as Aaron Nugent comes in to support him, Hutchison Vale did well to close in the space and they forced the ball out.
Soon after, the whistle went for the end of the half and Hutchison had a three goal advantage. They deserved their three goals for the quality of their attack and persistence. Tynecastle would have felt the recovery was possible and that such a margin was hardly reflective of the comparable quality of the sides. They were possibly wondering though, what the conditions could be that would allow them to break down a well-structured and fluid Hutchison side.