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Hutchison Vale fought their way through to the next stage of the SYFA Challenge Cup with a tight victory over Syngenta Juveniles on Sunday afternoon. In an extremely close match, it was the introduction of Hutchie's Ross McCann that made the difference. His second-half goal was enough to put the home side through after a physical and intense contest.
The game could've gone either way, but the hard work and determination of Hutchison Vale striker Ross McCann and fellow substitute Ethan Nicolson ultimately swung the game in the favour of the home side. Despite the lack of goals, the game was never without incident, and the trainers were called to the field on more than one occasion. The referee was also busy; making several important decisions and keeping control of the game despite some tough challenges.
Syngenta started in their direct style from the start of the game with a shot from kick-off, well wide of the Hutchie goal. The game settled into a rhythm, with Hutchison Vale playing through the wings and Syngenta pressuring and pressing the ball. Vale set up in a 4-1-4-1 formation with Greg Binnie sitting in front of the back four, breaking up play and calmly distributing the ball. Connor Campbell was the lone striker, chasing the Syngenta defenders and trying to create goal scoring opportunities for his team.
The first chance came to Hutchison Vale after Liam Howel's through ball found Samuel Jones. His shot at the near post was saved by Taylor Jackson. Syngenta had an opportunity soon after, when Jordan Paterson chested the ball down in the opposition box and drew back to shoot, having the ball cleared acrobatically by Hutchison's Adam Forrest.
Hutchison found it tough going against a well organised Syngenta defence, and had few opportunities to get in behind. One such opportunity came after some classy flicks from the Hutchison Vale right-back and right midfielder Isaac Thomson. Connor Campbell was just offside when the ball fell to him inside the Syngenta box.
Syngenta's four front players dominated the Hutchison defence in the air, with a height and physical advantage. Their direct style was causing Hutchison trouble, with the Syngenta players winning second balls and knock-downs from long passes. Syngenta grew into the half, with a shot from Gregor Monro narrowly missing the top corner of the net. Peter McGinlay also had a shot go over the bar after the Hutchison defence missed a long pass from the goalkeeper. The best chance of the half came to Hutchison Vale after a Samuel Jones free kick was played to Liam Howel, whose cross to the far post couldn't be turned in.
Half Time: Hutchison Vale 0-0 Syngenta Juveniles
Hutchison made two substitutions at half time, with Ross McCann and Ethan Nicolson replacing two of the front players. Ross McCann made an early impression, with some energetic play drawing a foul from the Syngenta defence. The free kick was taken quickly, catching the defenders out. Ross McCann's shot from inside the box was just wide of the left-hand post and denied the home side what would've been a well deserved goal. McCann continued to play well, linking up with the midfield and holding th ball up for the support of fellow substitute Ethan Nicolson.
The goal came through some great pressure from Ross McCann, who chased down the through ball from the midfield. Taylor Jackson came for the ball but couldn't claim it. McCann rounded the 'keeper, brushed off the defenders and slotted the ball in from a tight angle. A well deserved goal from the substitute, whose hard work and determination gave the home side the lift they needed in the second half.
The goal seemed to spark a response from Syngenta, who piled on the pressure: A free kick was driven just over the bar, and two chances were created in quick succession, with a cross from the right was met by the forward, who couldn't hit the target.
In the end, Hutchison's substitutions proved the difference, with Syngenta's physical and direct style failing to make the impact against a mostly solid home side. Chances were created by both sides, and on a different day the result could have been different.
Neither side looked like scoring until the introduction of the pace and industry of Ross McCann, who linked the team in the final third and caused trouble for the Syngenta defence. Syngenta will feel a little unlucky after such a close game, but ultimately Hutchison Vale deserved the victory and will have to wait to see who they face in the next round.
Full Time: Hutchison Vale 1-0 Syngenta Juveniles