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Four of the Best: Youth Football Title Races

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There are defining moments in famous title races that will live long in the memory of particular generations: Kevin Keegan’s frantic outburst in response to the mind games of Sir Alex Ferguson, Sergio Aguero’s last minute title-clinching strike against a resilient Queens Park Rangers, and Scott McDonald’s 88th minute equaliser and 90th minute winner for Motherwell which sunk Celtic before he made the move to the Scottish giants. 

The 2014-15 youth football season in Scotland was a memorable one with several leagues at various age groups going right to the wire and, at times, concluding in spectacular circumstances. We decided to have a closer look at what we believed to be the four most exciting title races of the season.

1) Hamilton Accies BC win C&KDYL League A in play-off match

Hamilton Accies BC were the victors in the Cumbernauld and Kilsyth District Youth Under 16 League A Division after a tantalising run in which saw Milngavie Wanderers finish the season level on points. The league would be decided by a playoff. As was the case in the normal season, the teams could not be separated and the tie was decided on penalties following a stalemate. Accies coach John Rowan reflected on the play-off victory, saying: "All of the boys did well in a really tough game. Even though it was 0-0, it was an end to end game with two really good footballing sides."

Rowan praised all of his players for their contribution throughout the campaign, citing the character shown in league matches against teams such as Knightswood as a foundation for their success. On a Tuesday night in May, Accies were 2-1 down with seven minutes to go before turning the game on its head to win 3-2 and emerge with a crucial three points. 

As well as the character shown, Rowan commended the remarkable consistency shown by his side. He said: "The boys won 13 and drew one of their last 14 games and then to go and win the playoffs in a penalty shootout shows character. To put that run together in one of the strongest leagues in Scotland with the number of quality sides was really something. At one point there were still four or five teams with a chance of winning the league."

2) Penalties needed for Rossvale Thistle to claim league victory

Rossvale Thistle claimed the title in the Cumbernauld and Kilsyth District Youth under-17 League after a playoff with Moorlands. In a fascinating spectacle, the sides were level at 2-2 following 90 minutes and Rossvale led 3-2 in extra time until a last minute equaliser took the tie to penalties. Thistle kept their calm to win the shootout 4-1. 

Thistle coach Stuart Giltinan reflected proudly on Thistle’s success and believed team spirit was key.

"The boys pulled together. They realised they were up against a lot of issues, like every club, with injuries and exams. They pulled together and started playing as a team and as a unit. Our players rallied together and we saw a vast improvement in our team ethic," he said.

"On the play-off game itself, Giltinan remarked: “We had 13 boys that day and it was physically exhausting. They were extremely tired so winning that game against a good Moorlands team who were really consistent all season was an achievement. It was a hard-fought game and it could have gone either way so it was a good reward to win." 

This will be Rossvale Thistle 1998s final season together as a group, with some of the players moving on to under-21 football, some fulfilling work commitments and some leaving for other clubs. Giltinan said that winning the league was a good way to end, saying: “None of the coaches will ever complain about what Rossvale achieved this year.”

3) Cove BC come out on top in four-team title race

Cove BC emerged victorious in the Aberdeen & District Juvenile Football Association 14s Soccer World League B but it was a contest that went right to the wire between no less than four teams. Cove BC, Banchory BC Hawks, Middlefield Wasps and Colony Park all finished the season within three points of one another. 

Coach Brian Forrest applauded Cove’s rivals, saying: "Banchory and Middlefield were both part of a thrilling end of season finale to the league."

Youth Football Scotland asked Forrest what he considered to be the defining point of the season and his response was a home draw with Banchory Boys. Forrest said: “After this game, we were two points behind Banchory and they still had to play Middlefield. Banchory won that match which meant Middlefield couldn’t catch us on points, and we still had a game advantage on Banchory.” 

It was clear that Cove knew what they had to do to take home the league. "Our last two games were simple, win both games and we win the league by a point," 

What makes the achievement even more remarkable is that Cove BC had just been promoted from the C league. Forrest spoke of the importance in the development of the players: “Cove believe in developing the players and eight of the squad have been with us since they were seven years old so to watch them grow has been an absolute joy and a privilege.”

4) Head-to-head result gives North Merchiston league title

North Merchiston 15s edged Bonnyrigg Rose to the South East Region YFL Division 2 title in incredible fashion. After battling all season, both sides finished the season with a points tally of 67 points. It was to be the head-to-head result between the two that acted as the decider and North Merchiston came out on top having won their encounters by an aggregate score of 9-8. Until the concluding phase of the season, four teams had their eyes on the division title but North Merchiston were the ones celebrating, and a place in the top table of Edinburgh youth football awaits next season. 

Team secretary Colin Steedman hailed the team's achievements, following a league and cup double.

"I should give special mention to the coaches Harry Connor and Dave Newman. This was their first full season in charge of the team and their aim at the beginning of the season was to see if the team could win something. To win a league and cup double was a fantastic effort from them and all the players involved over the whole season," Steedman said. 

Steedman also praised the consistency shown by the Harrison Park-based team.

"The boys have generally been very consistent this year in terms of winning their games as the league table shows with only five defeats and a draw from 28 league games. Three of these defeats were on the run-in which made for a very tense and exciting end to the season with any one of four teams in with a realistic chance of winning the league with four or five games to go," Steedman said. 

North Merchie’s encounters with Bonnyrigg Rose were entertaining spectacles, cruising to an 8-2 victory in the first league meeting before Bonnyrigg exacted revenge with a 6-1 result with just three games of the season left to play. Securing a goal in the second half of the second match proved to be the decisive moment as North Merchiston went on to secure the title in dramatic fashion. 

Congratulations to all of the teams Youth Football Scotland thought to be involved in the four best title races of the season.

Jack Thomson | YFS Falkirk Senior Reporter
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