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One of the season’s great matches saw the ever talented Hutchison Vale record a narrow 1-0 victory over an equally strong Harmony Row. The victory sparked triumphant cheers from the fans and players of the Edinburgh giants as they now move forward into the Scottish Cup final. But what a tight affair it was.
It was a bright day at Broxburn’s Albyn Park, though the strong winds that were gusting across the park were always sure to be a potential hurdle. But this was nothing compared to the furious football and storming fans that accompanied the titan fixture of Hutchison Vale vs Harmony Row, Scottish Cup semi-final. When the referee’s watch ticked on to 15:30, the Red’s of Row and Black and Yellow stripes of Vale took their positions for kick off.
Hutchison Vale took the kick off with Ryan Fox’s pass to Cameron Fraser marking the beginning of a highly anticipated clash. Hutchison looked to take initiative straight away with Eathan Feachen Hamilton linking onto a promising run from Gabri Auriemma and Lewis Swaney firing a low cross into the area after 2 minutes. A well delivered freekick saw the first attempt of the match for Vale as Cameron Milne headed well.
The good attacking pressure saw a number of decent chances for Vale within the first 10 minutes. The most promising of which came on 7 minutes when Goodall launched the ball into the box from the halfway line before Hamilton fired into the side netting. A minute later and Ryan Fox forced Harmony keeper Iain Cassidy into a low save after more pressure.
Despite the Vale pressure in the first 10 minutes, this was not without answer as Harmony Row looked to launch a counter attack through Ryan Fitzpatrick. Fitzpatrick certainly looked handy and even after he was shepherded away by the defence, he had worked hard to force a throw in. The attack ended as Lewis Smith’s shot lobbed out of play.
The match certainly looked more end to end after this point. Auriemma looked very useful on the ball and had several runs, beating players as he went. Combined with the efforts from Hamilton, Vale were still looking confident that they could take the lead.
Meanwhile Harmony Row were looking to Sean Lynch as he took the ball past 3 players, showing very clever footwork. Aaron Millar was also looking to give Row the advantage through a series of dangerous set plays. His freekick on 17 minutes was sliced just wide.
The first 20 minutes were certainly tense for both teams, with Auriemma and Fraser dictating play well for Vale.
The first Harmony Row attempt came after 24 minutes after Fitzpatrick turned his marker in the middle of the park and having a shot at goal. The effort was just turned away by Byron Gibb. Another skilful drive and low cross from Stuart Faulds was almost turned in by Daniel Levy.
The ball was then carried towards the opposite end as a very quick Cameron McAlpine dashed towards goal for Vale and his shot was just blocked by Cassidy. Another two efforts had Harmony Row pinned back after Fraser shot just wide and Hamilton, Fox and McAlpine displayed excellent teamwork before the ball was dragged too wide.
The half hour point was marked with a dangerous freekick for Hutchson Vale. Hendry had battled well for possession before McAlpine was brought down. Although Hamilton blasted the set piece wide, Harmony were having to work hard to avoid succumbing to the pressure of an impressive attacking display.
Fitzpatrick was proving to be their main outlet for any attacks of their own and some quick footwork saw him set up Levy after 33 minutes. The ball was laid off well and was just a whisker past the far post.
Arguably the best chance of the half came from Vale’s Swaney after 35 minutes. Fox played the ball from midfield to McAlpine, who had dribbled into the area before the ball was pinged to Hamilton and then Swaney. The excellent build up couldn’t have been ended with a better attempt as Swaney hammered the ball towards the top corner. Only a magnificent save from Cassidy denied a Hutchison goal.
The half was played out with Hamilton for Vale challenging Cassidy a further 3 times. Each time the striker linked well with Fox on a series of attacking plays where Fox proved capable of heading the ball down and playing the correct passes to meet Hamilton’s shots. Each time, it flashed just wide or was denied by Cassidy.
As the half time whistle sounded, it was definitely Hutchison Vale who looked most likely to break the deadlock. They certainly could not remove the foot from the gas however with a goal still to find and a few dangerous Harmony counter attacks to remain vigilant about.
Half Time: Hutchison Vale 0-0 Harmony Row
Millar passed the ball to Levy to resume the match after the break. Vale won the ball and went straight on the attack however, with Fox looping the ball over his man before it was cleared just in time.
Harmony Row edged more into the match after this point. A rousing counter saw the ball deflect on to Millar’s run. A well placed shot but a great save from Gibb saw the ball fall for Fitzpatrick. Row fans were almost in raptures at this point, but the ball was fumbled narrowly wide. Vale’s Sheridan and Milne were calm enough to block the coming Harmony attacks, but the boys in red certainly controlled possession much better from this point.
Edge of area shots from the ever dangerous Auriemma and clever striker showed that Row could not relax with shots deflected wide on the 49th and 50th minutes of the match. The reds were still in control after 56 minutes however as Levi split the Vale defence and played the ball into the path of Millar. It looked like we had reached a breakthrough at this point as Millar approached Gibb one on one, however after choosing to square the ball to Fitzpatrick the ball was sent trailing out of play off the foot of Millar.
A furious run up to the hour mark saw several drives forward from Lynch and Fitzpatrick of Row and Swaney and McAlpine of Vale.
But the magic moment came after a total of 62 minutes of play. The ball was driven down the left side of the park with Hamilton. A crashing strike from a very wide angle saw the ball rattle the corner of the upright and loop into the box. It was at this point that the collective breath of the Hutchison Vale erupted into a roar of salvation as Ryan Fox slid the rebound home into the bottom of the Harmony net. 1-0 to Hutchison Vale.
As Harmony Row kicked off play again after following behind, they were in no way down and out as they looked to manoeuvre the ball into any space possible. Twice this was almost undone with Fraser Paton of Hutchison intercepting the ball and breaking free of the Harmony passing game. Paton showed unbelievable pace as he twice sprinted towards goal on the 66th and 68th minute of the match.
But it was the linking play of Fitzpatrick, Lynch and Millar of Harmony Row that looked more threatening. The Glasgow side were trying hard after conceding to pick their way through the Vale defence. Graeme Wallace linked with Lynch after 72 minutes of play to deliver the ball into Millar. Again however, the shot was fired just wide.
Another 2 Millar strikes and several winding runs from Fitzpatrick had Hutchison pinned back as the match began to reach burn to its embers. As always however, Vale were quick to spring into life in attack with Fox very nearly putting the game to bed after heading a cross from Auriemma narrowly wide. Sean Lynch’s last gasp clearance over his own bar after 77 minutes again stopped Vale doubling their lead with very capable crossing.
The match was reaching its end but was in no way easing up in terms of excitement. The passing game of the Harmony Row midfield, which had been an extremely impressive force throughout the game, was working at top speed to find a gap in the strong Hutchison backline. The ball was cleared right into path of Millar as the final minute of the match was passing. It was Owen Crumlish who next got a shot away for Harmony but his lob was carried inches over the crossbar.
On 3 occasions during stoppage time, the ball was knocked into the path of Millar who was being well blocked by the defence. 2 minutes into the stoppage period came what was undoubtedly one of the highlights of the match. Millar again drove the ball to the edge of the area before laying the ball in front of Lynch’s ferocious strike from well outside the box. The effort looked destined for the top bag but was met by an unbelievable save as Byron Gibb flew through the air to block the ball at full stretch. An appreciative clap from both teams’ spectators was more than deserved after a save of that calibre.
A final second flurry saw Fitzpatrick almost flick the ball through to Kelvin Cham. A total of 4 shots were blocked by the organised Hutchison Vale as harmony Row tried desperately to slam home a last ditch leveller. However, it was not meant to be as the referee gave three short blasts of the whistle to signify the end of a classic semi final and a hard earned victory for Hutchison Vale.
Overall both teams had shown a level of teamwork and linking football that represented the grassroots game at it’s very peak. It was the strength of the Hutchison Vale attacking game that proved to be the edge, and the ‘Hutchie’ boys will be hungry for the silverware as they progress to the final stage of this year’s Scottish Cup. We can all be certain that whoever they face at the last hurdle will have a tremendous game on their hands. Vale await the winner of the tie between last year's finalists, Dundee United SC, and Craigie United of Ayrshire, to see their Airdrie opposition.
Full Time: Hucthison Vale 1-0 Harmony Row