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Swifts strike late to pip Spartans to cup final berth

Hillfield Swifts 2

Aitken, MacNamara

Spartans FC Youth 1

  • Tuesday, 04 February 2014
  • Gyle Park
  • Under 17´s
  • Michael Moran League Cup - Semi Final
Hillfield Swifts hosted Spartans in the first of the Michael Moran League Cup semi finals, on a blustery Saturday afternoon at Gyle Park. After a deadlocked first half, an all action second saw Hillfield go ahead from the spot, courtesy of Euan Aitken, before a second penalty was well saved by Brendan Agnello. It looked like the miss would haunt Swfits as Ryan Love's wonderstrike put Spartans back on level terms, but David MacNamara's late header sealed victory for the delighted Fife outfit.
It was a hard match to call ahead of kick off. Hillfield went in with the slight favourites tag, due to their league form taking them to the top of Division 2 Section B. Spartans were in third spot in Section A. Both sides had been impressive in qualifying from the group stages of this competition, before Hillfield saw off Newcraighall and Spartans beat Currie Boys, at the quarter final stage.
The match kicked off with a heavy wind blowing diagonally across the park, into the face of Spartans' left side. After a frantic start, which saw Hillfield nearly sneak ahead inside the first minute, play began to settle down as both teams got to grips with the conditions.
Spartans were showing composure on the ball as they played it out from the back at every opportunity, but Hillfield were the more dangerous in the final third. The lively front pairing of Euan Aitken and Daryl Healy were causing headaches from the first whistle for the Spartans back line - despite their physical prowess, the big strikers didn't lack anything in technique.
It came as no surprise that it was a combination of Aitken and Healy that produced the game's first two opportunities. The first came when Aitken laid the ball into the path of his striker partner, but Healy's shot lacked power. 
The next chance saw a role reversal. Defender David MacNamara did excellently to mop up a Spartans attack, before giving Healy a foot-race, which saw him show his marker a clean pair of heels. Healy then took the ball around the onrushing Brendan Agnello, but was forced too far wide to take on the shot. His cut back couldn't pick out the run of Aitken, who had been tracked by Aidan Smith in a show of determined defending.
For all of the good technique and composed passing, Spartans were struggling to make any inroads into the Hillfield defence. They did earn one set piece opportunity, after a surge up the park was brought to a halt by a foul. Calum Paton stepped up from 25-yards, but couldn't find the left hand corner, with the free kick drifting wide.
The final chances of the half fell to Hillfield's Ryan Barry. His first effort brought a good save from Agnello - inspite of play being brought back for offside. The second was a closer call, with Barry stealing in to capitalise upon a defensive error, but his sliding effort dragged agonisingly wide of the post.
  • Half Time:
  • Hillfield Swifts
  • 0-0
  • Spartans FC Youth
The second half kicked off with the wind at the backs of Spartans, which provided an additional obstacle for Swifts to overcome. However, as any coach will say, 'playing against the wind allows us to get the ball and play football'. And this certainly proved to be the case.
Despite a couple of early balls into the box from Spartans, it was the Fife outfit who drew first blood. A late tackle on the left edge of the penalty box saw the referee show no hesitation pointing to the spot. Aitken stepped up and slammed a clinical spot kick into the top left hand corner.
Five minutes later more Hillfield pressure was rewarded with another spot kick. Healy had his legs taken from him inside the box and in true 'makers takers' style, stepped up to the mark himself. However on this occasion Agnello was equal to the effort, saving to his right to keep his side in the match.
Agnello was busy again a couple of minutes later.  Brodie Hamilton and the Spartans keeper collided in a fairly contested 50/50, with the loose ball making its way to Barry. However, the Swifts wide man couldn't keep his shot down, with the goalkeeper in no man's land.
Spartans hadn't been enjoying the best of spells, but while they were just a goal behind, they were right in the tie. And so it probed. Ryan Love picked the ball up on the half way line, surged down the left wing and with everyone expecting him to drive towards goal, he unleashed a left footed thunderbolt from all of 30 yards. The shooting position was on the left wing and the ball sailed through the air across the goalkeeper and into the top right hand corner. It was simply breathtaking.
It was now anyone's game as the play raged from end to end. Extra time appeared to be looming, but there was one final sting in the tail. A ball into the Spartans box lead to a scramble. Aitken found space to drive a shot goalwards, which Agnello was equal to, but the Spartans goalkeeper couldn't hold onto the ball. On the scene was Swifts defener MacNamara, who looped a header goalwards. After what seemed like an eternity in the air, the ball landed in the back of the net and sparked celebrations amongst the home contingent.
The final couple of minutes came and went, before the referee's final whistle sent Hillfield into their second cup final of the season. Spartans can be commended for the football they played, but the better team on the day certainly went through.
Hillfield Swifts now await the news on who they will face in the final, with Edinburgh United and Edinburgh South Reds set to contest the other semi final.
  • Full Time:
  • Hillfield Swifts
  • 2-1
  • Spartans FC Youth


Hillfield Swifts
Spartans FC Youth
1. James Donaldson
2. Marcus Hall
3. David MacNamara
4. Alisdair Wallace
5. Mark Higgins
6. Aidan McGuire
7. Daryl Healy
9. Frazer Cook
10. Brodie Hamilton
12. Calum Murray
14. Thomas Russell
15. Ryan Barry
16. Hamish Michie
17. Stewart Hamilton
18. Euan Aitken
1. Brendan Agnello
2. Aidan Smith
3. Adam Muir
4. Daniel Brennan
5. Jack Brodie
6. Jordan Lock
8. James Hamilton
9. Shaun Begbie
10. James Cairns
11. Eoghann Douglas
12. Gavin Cross
14. Aaron Heinemeier
15. Ryan Love
16. Calum Paton
17. Kristian Dixon
20. Joe Dudgeon
Star Player
Hillfield Swifts
Spartans FC Youth
Euan Aitken was a defender's worst nightmare. Despite having to feed off scraps for long periods, he was a constant thorn in the Spartans side and took his penalty excellently.
Spartans defended well throughout and Aidan Smith was a pick of the bunch.
Magic Moment
Hillfield Swifts
Spartans FC Youth
Extra time appeared to be on the cards before David MacNamara's late header, which sent the Hillfield players and sideline wild.
Ryan Love's goal was one in a million. It wouldn't have looked out of place on the international stage.
Club Views
Hillfield Swifts
Spartans FC Youth
Hillfield Swifts coach Gregg McNeill said: "They scored a cracker of a goal but overall I think we were well worth our victory."
Spartans coach David Hiddleston said: "Both teams were a credit to their clubs - not great conditions for football and losing a last minute winner in semi final is a hard one to take."
  • Match report and photos copyright Youth Football Scotland.
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