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The freezing fog lingering over Almondvale Stadium prior to the commencement of the first of three West Lothian County Cup Finals on Sunday, did not suggest that the weather was going to be any kinder to the players and spectators than it was the day before when deluge after deluge disrupted the first day of County Cup Finals.
Despite the depressing ‘summer’ weather prompting many to don winter garments whilst imbibing something to offset the effects of the cold, Bo’ness United and Coltswood Colts served up a final that was full of commitment from both sets of players.
Bo’Ness began the match with a rather offensive 3-5-2 formation with Euan Archibald and Finlay Carlin operating as wingbacks. United’s intense pressing was also proving fruitful in the opening stages. Fashioning the first chance on 3 minutes, Ross Brown put through fellow Bo’Ness forward Stuart McIntyre on goal with only Spencer Gallagher in the Coltswood goal to beat. McIntyre’s shot produced a fine save from Gallagher to push the ball over the bar and minutes later McIntyre put a header from a James Rintoul corner over the bar.
A back injury sustained by Coltswood’s number 11 Robbie O’Toole in a challenge which the wet surface seemed to have played its part in, led to Luke Murphy entering the fray to replace the injured O’Toole. Ironically the delay seemed to help settle Colts and allowed the likes of the impressive Lewis Watt to see more of the ball. However, if it were not for both Coltswood centre backs combining to intercept Rhys Stuart’s through ball for the lively Stuart McIntyre, the latter may have improved upon his earlier one-on-one encounter.
Substitutions by both sides near the end of the break began to stifle the fluency that was gradually entering the game. Coltswood also decided to alter their 4-4-2 formation to match up exactly to their counterparts 3-5-2. However, both sides still struggled in creating definitive chances. On 33 minutes a snap-shot by Coltswood’s Conlon Clark from just inside the box flew straight into the grateful arms of Cameron Wilson before a frantic passage of end to end play materialised in the lead-up to the half-time whistle.
Half Time: Bo’Ness United 0-0 Coltswood Colts
The interval had clearly given the Coltswood coaching team some time to debate formation options as when the teams re-emerged Coltswood had reverted to their original 4-4-2 shape. Despite Coltswood’s formation tinkering, Bo’Ness still seemed dangerous on the counter with captain Connor Weir’s ambitious long-range strike keeping Spencer Gallagher alert for the Colts.
Persistent running by Lewis Watt down the Coltswood left allowed teammate Darren McLeish to get a shot away that yielded a save and consequently a corner from which Coltswood captain Rhys Price took advantage of as he rose well at the near-post to power a header from close-range to open the scoring after 42 minutes.
Coltswood’s goal seven minutes into the second half seemed to energise Bo’Ness once more. United thought they had a goal after a speculative cross was headed into the net but the assistant’s flag was raised as soon as the ball was sent into the box. On 50 minutes a great saving tackle from Colts’s Rhys Price prevented his Bo’Ness namesake Rhys Stuart from having a guilt edge chance in front of goal after a marauding run down the right by Stuart McIntyre.
Rhys Price almost doubled his tally for the day minutes later as he attempted to prod home his side’s second following a stramash in the Bo’Ness penalty area caused by Darren McLeish’s inviting free-kick. At the other end, Bo’Ness became increasingly frustrated. Rhys Stuart rose well to meet a perfectly executed free-kick delivery by Connor Weir but the Bo’Ness winger’s header landed on the roof of the net. With 5 minutes remaining a rather innocuous incident led to a Bo’Ness free-kick which centre back Kristian French hit with ferocity from 30 yards, causing Spencer Gallagher to improvise with a low save using his knees.
With the game in added time, Colts applied the finishing blow to Bo’Ness’s cup hopes. Bo’Ness’s Lewis Connelly appeared to misjudge a tackle on his opposite number Darren McLeish inside the Bo’Ness box. As referee Gordon McVicar pointed to the spot, McLeish dusted himself off and stepped up to expertly place the penalty into the left-hand corner of the net beyond Wilson who had guessed the right way.
Coltswood perhaps demonstrated a marginally more composed attitude than their opponents that helped their cause in a game that was full of battling displays-none more so than Colts captain Rhys Price who covered every inch of the sodden Almondvale pitch. The guile of messrs McLeish and Watt ostensibly gave Coltswood that extra level of quality that is so often integral in determining the outcome of nerve-wrought finals.
Full Time: Bo’Ness United 0-2 Coltswood Colts
Ross O'Donnell, the Bo’Ness centre back, showed a maturity beyond his years with some superbly timed interceptions and an overall dominant display that often kept his side in the mix.
Lewis Watt showed composure and a neat touch in a frenetic game, he exuded confidence and demonstrated his credentials with some tricky wing play and well-executed crossing.