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I was fortunate to choose the Under 17 Scottish Cup clash between Newcraighal Leith Vics and Fair City, from Perth, to bring to an end my enforced absence through illness. It was like a new beginning for me and this was, indeed, the perfect game for me to cover.
The sun was out at Newcraighall in east Edinburgh - I remember when a councillor at the City Chambers asked if Newcraighall was in Edinburgh - the pitch was in excellent condition and the cup tie was graced by the presence of a superb match official in Kevin Ferguson.
Two excellent touchlines as well so it was the perfect setting for what turned out to a great (beautiful) game of football. Both sides gave it their all and the team from the lovely city of Perth had to withstand a great opening burst by Vics. The Fair City defence withstood all that was thrown at them and the home side failed to score from several good chances. Wow! What a start?
And the tide turned with a vengeance in favour of Fair City! Garry McCallum, wide left, started to rampage down the wing and he found an able ally in No 20, Ben Moffat, leading the visitors' attack. These two very good players were given maximum support from No 4, Michael Kennedy and No 3, Ed Seaton. The passes were brilliant and spot-on, the movement and speed of the attacks was fantastic to watch and in due course Fair City got their reward. Boy, and how!
Fair City's first goal came from a pass from David Mitchell, who sent a great ball to left of the home goal and the shot from Ben Moffat crashed behind Kevin Miller in the home goal to put the Perth team 1-0 in front.
Shortly after to the delight of their fans on the touchlines, Fair City scored a second goal, this time Garry McCallum did the word before releasing the ball for Moffat to score again. Vics' right sided defenders looked in disarray and it took a monumental effort by the home team - brilliantly led by No 4, Shaun Lawrence - to keep Fair City at bay.
Vics lifted themselves up and Curtis Imrie and Martin Morrison led the home attacks on the away goal. Yes, it was a superb game to watch and the pace and skill of all the players was sheer magic to me after being away for a few weeks. Joe Fennell got in a shot at the Fair City goal but it was easily cleared by big keeper, David Addison.
The game continued at the same pace with wonderful attacking moves from both sides. Moffat and McCallum continued to look great in attacks on Miller's goal. Morrison ran and ran at the away goal without any luck. Fair City were on top at that stage of the game, but Imrie went close to reducing the two-goal deficit. Lawrence continued to grow in stature in the centre of the home defence as the tie went in to overdrive.
The buoyant Fair City attack continued to threaten Miller's goal, particularly from corner kicks and Miller did well to palm away two crosses in to the danger area in front of the Vics' goal. It was still 2-0 at the break and in an inspired move by home coach, Martin Cook, he changed things around and what a wonderful second half for the home side these changes proved to be.
Half time: Newcraighall Leith Vics 0-2 Fair City
Sean Lloyd, wearing the No 17 jersey, took over to lead the attack. Morrison played further back in the right midfield and all hell was let loose on the Fair City rearguard. I'll say! Twice, Vics found the back of the net in the opening minutes of an electric second half. I have to say two opportunist goals if ever I saw them with Steven Coyle poking Vics' first goal beyond Addison to make it 2-1. 'Could you Adam and Eve it', Vics scored another - a toe poke again - this time from Jordan Grant in to the bottom left-hand corner and Vics were alive and kicking.
Vics laid siege to Dignon's goal and when Grant sent over a wonderful free-kick from the right touchline, there was Imrie about two yards out to score and Vics led 3-2. Were they finished? No way and Lloyd produced just about the perfect pass inside Fair City's right-sided defender and Grant ran on to finish off the move to make it 4-2! What a turnaround, indeed! But that goal spurred Fair City in to action.
McCallum took a sore one on his face from a driven ball and the No 11 was off for a wee while to stop the blood flowing from his nose. It looked painful. I can only say the remainder of the tie was blistering to watch and Vics' goal survived several all-out moves by Fair City.
At the other end, an inswinging corner from the right, taken by Jordan Grant, came off the face of the Fair city crossbar. What great play, indeed, from this very good young footballer! And Fair City went at the Vics' defence with all guns blazing. A goal did look to be on the cards as Miller & Co 'rode their luck' to the full. And the visitors did score again, almost with the last kick of the ball to make it 4-3.
As all who know me realise, I love live active football and I enjoyed every single second of this game. Well done, to Newcraighall Leith Vics and there is something very special about their home HQ. A lot of work goes in to this club and it must have been all worthwhile on Saturday when their under-17s came 'back from the dead' to keep alive their Scottish Cup campaign.
Fair City, well I thought they looked nothing less that magnificent in the first half, until Martin Cook changed things around. The game, itself, was a great credit to youth club football and much of the praise for that must go to all those who were on the touchlines at this great tie. All I can add is my very own thank you to both clubs.
Full time: Newcraighall Leith Vics 4-3 Fair City