Musselburgh Windsor 96 and North Merchiston contested the second of two cup finals on a sunny Sunday afternoon in Bonnyrigg. Despite a game jam-packed with chances for both teams, only one side - North Merchi - hit the goal trail and ended up deserved cup winners. An own goal set them on their way before Jake MacDonald doubled the advantage. Hamish Law made it 3-0 at the break and soon after the restart Anton Dowds headed home to put the tie beyond doubt. A further double from Nathan Evans, added to by Law's second of the afternoon, rounded off the scoring at seven. In the midst of that flurry, Dean Ballantyne got a well deserved consolation for Windsor.
For anyone who has followed the 1996 age group over the years, you'll never have a conversation about the top teams without mentioning North Merchiston. Over the years they've been known for a 'ball on the deck' style of play, pleasing to the neutral. From being a good footballing team, but not really a threat to the 'silverware challengers', they have kept the same core group of players and added to it season on season. Last year they weren't far away, in either league or several cups. This year, they have their sights firmly set on the prize. Today's cup final was the first of three they've reached, with the league title and one further cup also on the radar of the Scottish Cup quarter finalists.
Musselburgh Windsor 96 were another team dominated by 1996 born players, that have impressed this season. Although others have several games in hand, you can't rule them out of the title shake up. They are one of three Windsor teams in the Under 19 setup. While the teenage years drop out is a major issue for youth football across the country, this is a quite incredible reflection of the appetite for football in that neck of the woods.
The match kicked off in the sunshine with a good crowd packed into the Midlothian venue and both sides playing high tempo from the first whistle. Windsor were first to go close, when Darren Handling set up Dean Ballantyne, who fired into the side netting.
At the other end Merchi were dangerous from the outset and didn't have long to wait for their reward. A long throw into the penalty box from Nathan Evans was diverted into his own net by the unfortunate Windsor defender.
It wasn't long before the advantage was doubled. A Hamish Law cross was fired back across the penalty area by Evans and MacDonald was on hand to crash home Merchi's second.
Musselburgh then enjoyed one of their best spells of the match. Handling's tricky running created an opening for David Scobie, but his effort was comfortably saved by Darren Mitchell. Handling remained at the centre of the action, pulling a cut back agonisingly out of reach of the onrushing forwards and hitting a cross-cum-shot narrowly wide of the right hand post, with Mitchell scrambling.
Then came a few minutes which potentially turned the game. Windsor were given a set piece opportunity just outside the penalty area. Ex-Haddington Athletic man Anes Subasic stepped up and curled a powerful strike onto the junction of post and bar. Had the excellent effort gone in, who knows what direction the game would have went in. As it happened, not long after Merchi ran up the pitch and hesitant defending was punished ruthlessly by Law, lobbing the goalkeeper with an inch perfect strike.
The rest of the half was played out in an exciting end to end manner, with both sides coming close in the closing stages