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In their last appearance in a final at Saughton Enclosure, Redhall Star under-13s lost to Blackhall and during the course of that game, it appeared to me Blair Salvona scored for Redhall but the ball slipped under the side-net and a goal-kick was awarded. This time round, it was Redhall who emerged the winners and all goals counted in their 2-1 win against Craigroyston in the final of the Polar Foods Cup.
It was a wonderful game of football played at pace and with astonishing commitment from young players who were at times bedraggled in the rain, sleet and driving wind that is parcel of playing at this venue. It was, frankly, a night of hellish weather! However, it was also a night when two squads of young players produced a game that had in it, quite exceptional skills and sportsmanship. Each and every year, under-13 footballers take part in finals that are outstanding and this was another in that bracket.
Redhall looked a bit higher in class than their opponents in the first half of a superb game, with a great display of refereeing from Gordon Bain. Derion Simpson, in the No 13 jersey for Craigroyston looked the part wide on the left, but he ran in to two very good defenders in Marc Daniel Hannah (No 2) and Ross Graham (No 6). Redhall played great passing football in the awful conditions and one move involving Nathan Robertson, Jack Anderson and Blair Salvona ripped open the Craigroyston defence. That good move was halted when a defender stepped in to hammer the ball up the big, rough pitch. But this game raged up and down the pitch and Craigroyston delighted his side’s fans with clever play.
Deroin Simpson continued his good work on the left with a super pass inside but Redhall No 8, Max Dumayne, cleared the danger. Nathan Robertson combined with Lorenzo Parente but, again, the Craigroyston defence held firm. The surprising thing about the first half of this final, to me, was the face the Redhall keeper, Ryan Green, was the busier of the two goalies. Great play again from Ross Graham for Redhall while big No 17, Bockarie Sonnah, was a formidable hurdle for Craigroyston in the centre of the Redhall defence. Redhll opened the scoring, rightly so, in the 7th minute when Parente found the back of the Craigroyston net. The big Redhall keeper, continually, had to come away off his line to clear and on a couple of occasions, made a right mess of it but then produced great saves and crunching tackles. Hannah continued to impresss on the right of the Redhall defence while Craigroyston No 8, Darren Hunter, was the player who took most of his side’s free-kicks and corners. But Darren just could not give his team the vital spark of an equaliser.
Good play again from Ross Graham as the pace of the game increases - in the wind and rain. Then Jack Anderson claimed the spotlight in the Redhall No 4 jersey, Jack had a very good game. Then Craigroyston were hit with a real sucker punch of a goal. Redhall keeper, once again, came away off his line but he was left stranded when Craigroyston No 10, Ryan Shahley - another star performer - rounded the keeper only to fluff his shot at the empty, gaping goal and a Redhall defender got back to clear and the ball was sent away up to No 8, and Max Dumayne set off on a wonderful run to finish off with a stunner of a shot and it was 2-0 for Redhall. Despite the cold and downpour of rain, etc, I thought ‘everything in the garden was lovely’ as far as the Redjall fans were concerned. It was a hammer-blow of a goal to Craigroyston and they trailed 2-0 at the half-time break. It was a quick break, too, as the boys were well and truly soaked.
Half Time: Craigroyston CYFC 0-2 Redhall Star YFC
The game underwent a great change in the second half. Craigroyston were a much improved side on the restart and it took great defending by Redhall to deny their opponents the goal they deserved. Lewis Watson was brilliant on the right and a superb cross was blasted at the Redhall goal, then again from the rebound - but no goal!
The pace of the game was frightening and as the rain hammered down, it was difficult, indeed, to see the numbers. It was relentless as Craigroyston threw everything at Redhall but their defensive play was quite brilliant and the erratic goalie produced save after save, blocked shots at the feet of Craigroyston players and at other times, picked the ball out of the air from crosses.
It was, as they say, quite a final. Then we really had a game on our hands when the very good Ryan Shanley forced the ball over the Redhall line to make it 2-1. Clear the decks! Claims for penalties as players went down in tackles, howls when free-kicks were not given - we had the lot and there must be thousands and thousands of players in youth football with the same name - WEE MAN! The Craigroyston coach was smaller than a lot of his players, but that did not stop this wonderful football man from bellowing out instructions to WEE MAN and anyone else in range.
A free-kick to Craigroyston on the very edge of the 18yd line was delivered, brilliantly, by No 7, Nathan Fallon, only for the ball to skim the top of the Redhall crossbar. The frantic cries from the Redhall fans were evidence of the nerves getting the better of adults as Craigroyston had a real go at getting an equalser. When Redhall broke, it was the Craigroyston fans who ‘did their nut’! Wht a game; what a game, indeed! In another Craigroyston raid on the Redhall goal, the ball bobbed about all over the place. Man, it was frantic! At the other end, Redhall No 12, Nathan Robertson, was denied by the Craigroyston goalie. It was crazy stuff all right! It took wonderful defending by Redhall No 3, Thomas Robertson, to shut down another raid by Craigroyston and then Craigroyston keeper, Jamie Ross, pulled off the save of the game from Nathan Robertson in a thrilling end to the game. Redhall were winners by 2-1. But all credit to Craigroyston on a wonderful second half. It was mad, frantic and a wee bit crazy but there again, I thought we were all nuts to stand out in the open at Saughton Enclosure. But it was worth it and well done, to Redhall. Hard luck to Craigroyston.
Full Time: Craigroyston CYFC 1-2 Redhall Star YFC