On Friday night at Spartans academy, the top two teams in the South East Region youth football league faced off for the Craig Gowan Memorial Trophy, an increasingly high profile trophy in memory of an inspirational young man. On paper it was expected to be a closely fought game, but a 5 minute blitz from Hutchison Vale settled the game and secured them the trophy.
When the bumper crowd settled down in the stands and clubhouse, and with both teams ready on the pitch, the game got underway.
Straight from kick off Hutchison Vale set the tempo and looked to gain the advantage as early as possible, leading to a series of fouls that allowed Vale to progressively move closer and closer to the Tynecastle goal.
The deadlock was broken from of these very set pieces in the 17th minute, as Tynecastle conceded a free kick just outside their area. Lewis Swaney stepped up confidently for Vale and curled the ball into the bottom corner, leaving the keeper for dead. A fantastic free kick, more than fitting to open the scoring in a game of this importance, and Swaney was understandably ecstatic with the result.
In football at any level it is always said that a team is most likely to concede just after scoring, but Vale emphatically ripped up this script tonight; Scoring three goals in less than five minutes to leave Tynecastle shell-shocked.
Straight from the resulting kick off, Vale scored again. This time cutting swatches across the pitch after winning the ball back, passing neatly down their right before the ball was played into the Tynecaslte box and squared to Swaney again, lurking on the left of the box. Finishing coolly, he passed it into the bottom corner.
The third goal of the game from Vale came from a different approach, this time a long ball into the box in the 20th minute. Tynecastle failed to clear their lines, and the result was that Ryan Fox calmly volleyed home from close range. A fantastic finish in a high pressure environment, this third goal effectively killed the game off and allowed them to control the pace of the game from this point to the end of the game.
Tynecastle persevered though, and admirably fought on after what must have been a nightmare few minutes. They grew into the game, and after some wonderful wing play from Mathew McKenzie in the 27th minute, clipping the leg over the outstretched leg of the Vale defender and passing to Thomas Patterson who narrowly shot over from distance.
From here on in Tynecaslte applied more pressure, winning a series of corners and free kicks in dangerous positions. The Vale defence though, as it did throughout the majority of the game, kept its composure and cleared effectively, playing the ball out smartly more often than simply clearing into space.
The increased pressure meant Tynecastle were susceptible to being hit on the break, and this is exactly what happened in the 40th minute. The ball was played long, with Arran Currie using his pace to drive at the Tynecastle defence. With the goal in sight, it took a vital last ditch tackle from Kacper Korpalski to prevent conceding another goal.
This was the template for the remainder of the first half; Tynecastle would threaten only for Vale to hit them from deep on the break. Their closest chance to get on the scoresheet in the first 45 came from a fantastic whipped cross from Thomas Patterson, which teased the Tynecastle forwards as no one could get the final touch, much to the disappointment of the crowd who let out a collective gasp.
The half finished with a tough decision for the referee, as Curries pace proved a thorn in the Tynecastle defence again as he burst through into the box, only to be stopped by two defenders and go down to ground. The referee decided no foul play took place, and the half finished. A 5 minute flurry from Vale had stunned everyone, but Tynecastle had certainly grown into the game.