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Sunday's under-16 youth club fixture at Leith Links produced a total of eight goals, five of them for the home club’s Colts outfit and three for the visitors from Penicuik, Eskmill. This game was good when both sides concentrated on passing the ball and there were some excellent goals to celebrate. But this game was not so good to watch when the ball was thumped up and down the lovely pitch - in the sunshine!
There was even a controversial moment when a shot from the left of the Eskmill goal, delivered by Leith No 8, Leightion Paterson, appeared to have crossed the line at the inside of the far post but in the melee of bodies in the goal, the ball was hooked away and cleared. Referee, Gordon Bain, who was in a very good position to judge, decided the ball had gone over the line and he awarded a goal to Leith Athletic. I think it is true for me to say Gordon’s decision also upset those on the Eskmill touchline.
The visiting side survived a good opening spell to shock the home outfit with an early goal. The first goal came after a poor clearance from home keeper, Campbell Johnstone, and the alert Eskmill No 8, Louis Norris, collected the loose ball and ran in to apply an excellent finish and that put Eskmill 1-0 up.
From the restart, Leith attacked the away goal and Patrick Ryan, in the No 10 shirt, stuck his shot past Eskmill big keeper, Stephen Baxter, and it was 1-1! Ryan was on target again to put the home side 2-1 in front after excellent play on the right from Lewis Robertson.
I did not dare take my eyes off the game as the goals continued to go in. Soon, it was 2-2, when a shot at the home goal was deflected past the out coming Johnstone by a Leith defender. ‘This just could not go on, could it?’ I thought to myself. On such a beautiful Sunday afternoon, it was virtually raining goals!
For a spell the goals did dry up and so too did the lovely passing play that is now a ‘MUST’ for all young footballers in Scotland to perfect as much as is possible. Ryan, a constant menace to the Eskmill defence, went close to completing his hat-trick with a shot that went narrowly past the outside of a post. A wonderful free-kick for Eskmill, taken from out on the right, caused problems for Johnstone, but the Leith goalie managed to clear the ball under challenge in a crowded goalmouth. At the other end, Ryan rammed another well-hit shot wide of the Eskmill goal.
The visiting No 7, Euan Russell, the smallest player on the pitch was also one of the most natural footballers as well and he continued to play lovely passes throughout the game. Well done, Euan! Then Eskmill No 2, Fraser Cumming, let loose with a real piledriver of a shot from well out and it took a great block, indeed, by the Leith keeper to stop the ball crashing in to the net.
Dale Maitland and Paterick Ryan combined to set up a good chance, but the energetic Dale was well off target with a bit of a wild shot at the Eskmill goal. After the home defence cleared up another raid on their goal. Maitland scuffed another good chance wide of the target. That was followed by more pressure on the away goal after Baxter was penalised for clearing from hand outside the 18 yard box. Ryan set up Maitland again and the Leith No 9 just about broke the crossbar wih a thundering shot than crashed down off the underside of the bar before being cleared.
Half Time: Leith Athletic '97 2-2 Eskmill FC
It was still 2-2 at the break and the second half was a far better game between these two under-16 teams. It started tentatively, with Leith No 2, Josh Reynolds making his mark on the right side of the home defence with wonderful tackles on opponents. Lewis Robertson missed a good chance to put the home side in front then Ryan beat two Eskmill defenders in an impressive run, only to lose control of the ball!
Then came Leighton Paterson’s controversial goal and the home side were in front at 3-2. That goal came in the 12th minute of a very good second half. The Eskmill keeper again had to pick the ball out of the back of his net when Ryan scored from a rebound to make it 4-2 in the 19th minute of the second half.
Eskmill, who always looked capable of scoring again, duly did just that with a goal out of nothing, from Grant Stewart on the right, who finished off a good run with a shot over Johnstone and in to the left hand side of the Leith goal.
That reduced the margin to 4-3 and the game had really taken off at that stage. Passes flowed as both sides attacked in numbers, but the Leith defence were outstanding as a unit and they defended well when Eskmill threatened their goal. Maitland fired another shot wide of the away goal then Eskmill mounted a brilliant attack and No 4, Blair Innes, delivered a great cross in to the home goal, only for Johnstone to make a superb save. Great play, indeed, from both sides.
Then it was the turn of Eskmill keeper, Baxter, to go down bravely at the feet of Murray Dickson to deny Leith another goal. A lovely timed pass inside the Eskmill defender on the right, was picked up by Jesse Tucker and he ran through on his own in front of Eskmill keeper, Baxter, but the goalie deflected Tucker’s shot behind, brilliantly, for a corner on the left.
At the other end, Norris hammered a tremendous shot at the Leith goal and it took Baxter two attempts to get hold of the ball. Super play, again! Then the home side were on target yet again and their fifth goal was created by Maitland who cleverly back-headed a throw-in to Robertson and the Leith No 11 finished off this good piece of play with an excellent finish to restore Leith’s two-goal advantage at 5-3 in the 33rd minute of the second half.
The remaining seven minutes of the game were high octane football with both sides going all out to score more goals. It was a great finish by both sets of players but the score was still 5-3 to Leith at the final whistle. I must say I enjoyed the second half particularly once the players started to play good football.
It was also interesting to see how much work goes in to preparing youth football teams by adults in charge. For instance, Leith officials had to line the pitch prior to the start, carry out the goals and set up the nets and also the corner flags. At the finish, the same again as far as the goals and nets were concerned and the equipment put away.
I am full of admiration for everyone connected with youth football clubs. And grateful, too, to Larry Saldona, a Leith grandparent who never misses a game and every time I cover the under-16s I get a handful of sweets from him. Good luck, too, to both clubs and it was another good afternoon for me in sunny Leith.
Full Time: Leith Athletic '97 5-3 Eskmill FC