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The fourth round of the John McConnell Memorial Cup looked guaranteed to provide one of the ties of the weekend between a high flying Hutchison Vale and an impressive Spartans Whites side at Under 15’s level and it did not disappoint.
The match was played at a high tempo from the start and early Hutchison Vale pressure nearly paid off within the opening five minutes when Bruno Davidson checked in from the left flank and let fly with a looping effort that crashed off the underside of the bar. Spartans number one Dylan Tas watched on as the ball bounced to safety on this occasion, but this was to be the beginning of an impressive duel between the two players.
A few minutes later and Hutchison Vale were on the front foot again. A clever through ball from Lewis Foster released Davidson down the left again but Tas was quickly off his line to narrow the angle and force Davidson’s effort across goal and out for a goal kick.
With increasing Hutchison Vale pressure mounting on the Spartans defence, the impressive Malik Zaid slipped Davidson through once more. On this occasion he got the better of Tas by skipping around the keepers challenge only to watch Daniel Conafray make a heroic goal line clearance to keep the game goalless.
10 minutes later and Hutchison Vale created an identical chance once again for Davidson, although in similar fashion to the previous efforts Tas was alert and quickly off his line to make a smart save and turn Davidson’s effort wide for a corner.
From the resulting corner Spartans had cleared the danger well before some smart build up play opened some space for Keir Brown to attempt a curling effort from the edge of the box, but yet again Spartans crossbar came to the rescue.
After weathering the initial storm Spartans began to get a foothold in the game and began to cause a few problems of their own. Ryan Turner was fouled by Aaron McKie out on the left flank and from the resulting set-piece the former put in a delightful cross which found Logan Ritchie unmarked but he could only put his free header over the bar.
Hutchison Vale's Zaid was becoming increasingly influential in the middle of the park and this time set left back Danny Chisholm galloping down the left flank who also rounded the brave Tas in the Spartans goal only to see the ball agonisingly trickle out of play before he could reach it.
Spartans hit back with an attack of their own when the energetic Ritchie used his body well to shield the ball and then run at full-back Chisholm who he initially beat before a great recovery from the left back meant that Ritchie and his side had to settle for a corner. 
From the resulting corner, Hutchison Vale dealt with the danger and launched a lightening counter attack where Jake Houton was hauled down on the edge of the Spartans box. Davidson's delivery was met by Jacob Comerford who was disappointed to see his header travel inches past the near post.
With the half drawing to a close, the game became end to end with chances a plenty. For the first time in the cup tie Spartans had picked the lock of the resolute Hutchie defence and a defence splitting pass seen Luke Fyvie race through on goal but a slightly heavy touch allowed Lucas McGarry in the Hutchie to close the Spartans number seven down and make a smart save before smothering the ball at the second attempt.
The last action of the first half provided the highlight of the half. A moment of brilliance from two players that summed up the opening 40 minutes perfectly. The elusive Davidson twisted and turned from two, then three white shirts before unleashing a wicked shot from 25 yards that was flying towards the top left hand corner of the net. A superb stop from the excellent Tas ensured that the teams were level at the break and also gave warning to Hutchison Vale that it would take something special to beat him.
Sunday, 13 January 2019 01:23

Vale OK, down South

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A single goal, scored seven minutes from the end of an otherwise evenly contested tie, ensured Hutchison Vale progressed in the Federation of Hibs Supporters Cup at Edinburgh South’s expense. With chances hard to fashion, Luke McMahon’s left boot did the damage, and stout defence did the rest.

With both sides holding similar positions in the league, this was likely to be a close match-up. Thus it proved, with a first twenty in which South started stronger, Vale grew, and each side had one serviceable opportunity. Had a third minute centre by South’s Ryan O’Donnell found the boot of Misu El Boghady, or Hutchison’s Kye Hutchison’s free kick not been tipped over, the flavour of the game may have changed.

As it was, most attacking was conducted outside the box. For South, Alastair McWhirter - playing as a deep-lying striker - showed touch and vision that was alas too far from goal. Vale’s McMahon, meanwhile, preferred driving at the defence from halfway, which caused consternation and, on the half hour, a chance for Kieran Somerville. Ciaran Pugh, with his knees, made another strong save.

As the half ticked down, South suddenly found some shooting boots. A beautiful free kick from El Boghdady nearly located the top right corner, but thudded the crossbar instead. A deflected cross nearly looped over keeper Bryce, who did wonderfully to fall backwards and claw the ball out. McWhirter attempted to neatly bend the ball into the bottom corner from 25 yards, but Bryce was again alert to parry. We reached the interval goalless.

Sunday, 09 December 2018 09:36

Compact Star defy Spartans Reds

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Edinburgh City Star progressed in the U19s David Murray Cup after a wafer-thin 1-0 win over Spartans Reds at Forrester High School. In a match between two even teams eyeing the top of League One, it was apt that only a rebound from a saved penalty could distinguish a victor.

It was a game that started with a lot of kinetic energy but little momentum; fifteen minutes in there had been as many bookings as shots (one). Both teams hurried the ball forward with such haste that strikers and midfielders were chasing in hope, and the defenders could sweep up, play back, or clear out any ball.

Possession was even but the style of play better suited Star. Captain Ryan Foggo and defensive shield Joseph McGinty are a stout combination, while striker Kieran Richmond doesn’t mind being offside three times if he escapes on the fourth. He had put the ball in the net once already - albeit offside - before he got loose in the 21st minute. Only the right boot of keeper Craig Wylie kept parity, an excellent save.

Reds’ best chances in the opening half came within a minute of each other not long after that reprieve. A cute dink over the centre backs by Glen Aitken nearly got Angus O’Connor in. A strike from 20 yards by David Whalen was whipped only a yard over the bar.

Yet Star still offered a threat by beating offside. A stroke of fortune had midfielder Jordan Mackie clear from halfway, but he hit well over on the run. A nice turn by Cameron Burns fed Richmond, who took the long way round before crossing inches beyond partner Owen McGreevy. However, the half ended without a goal.

Portobello put eight past Currie Star in the space of 29 minutes as they turned on the second half style and romped to victory at Meggetland. 

In what was to be a closely contested cup tie on paper, the first half was lacking a great deal of quality, and there wasn’t much between the sides. However Portobello came out after the break and showed a desire, and an energy level that Currie Star couldn’t match - and in fact they were blown away.

The away side, who have scored more than seven goals in each round of the competition, set up an intriguing tie at Salvesen, who sit fifth in the league - with a place in the South East Region Cup final up for grabs.

The only goal of the first period came just two minutes in. Josh Crolla was the architect, a common theme, as he worked a yard and fired a dangerous low ball to the back post, where Taylor Hamill was on hand to tap in from close range.

From that point onwards however, there wasn’t an awful lot to shout about, as the sides fought for scraps in a toughly contested midfield battle. Chances came few and far between; making it crucial that when they came about - the finishing was ruthless.

Unfortunately, this wasn’t the case as the only other meaningful chance of the half fell to the goalscorer Hamill, following some neat footwork from Declan Bryne. The wide man, from about eight yards, was leaning back as he fired over the crossbar. Luckily it wouldn’t have too much of an impact on the final outcome.

Something that may well have had an impact on proceedings were the conditions. Just a few degrees above freezing and not helped by the fact the rain began to lash down - the game moved into the second half with just the one goal in it.

A dominant second half performance and a hat-trick from Sam Gormley ensured Cavalry Park strolled to victory over Earlston Rhymers in the Craig Gowans Memorial Cup at Portobello High.

The first half remained goalless until the death when Gormley pounced and from that point onwards, there was only going to be one winner, as Cavalry Park began to rack up the goals after the interval, and advance to the next round.

In the early stages, Tom Davies proved to be a real handful for Earlston, firstly forcing the keeper to tip behind, before he fizzed a ball across the face - to which there were no takers.

Andrew Mackenzie fired over from distance before Murray Lockhart missed the target when the ball dropped to him from a corner.

They continued to spurn chances, although none clear-cut. James Stewart was next following a cross in from the right, and then Mackenzie lashed the rebound goalwards, only for it to be cleared off the line.

One of the better chances of the half fell to Davies on 23 minutes, who got on the end of an inviting delivery from the left and nodded the bar down into the ground - however keeper Finlay Dodds was alert to it and managed to claw off the line.

Despite their ascendancy in the first period, half an hour in the home side still had nothing to show for it. Rhymers managed to play some decent stuff out from the back, with Alisdair Buchanan and Jack Bell linking up well on the left side, but for the most part, they struggled to negotiate the Cavalry Park high-press.

Cavalry turned it up a notch in the closing five minutes of the half, increasing the tempo in search of an opener. Davies again found himself in scoring positions, but again was denied by Dodds - whose heroics kept his side in it in the first half. Scrambles and goal-line clearances followed, but the score remained level.

That was until Rhymers lost possession at the back and Cavalry Park took full advantage. Davies turned provider, running the channel and picking out Gormley with a pinpoint cross. The skipper did the rest as he adjusted to loop the bouncing ball into the far corner in the dying seconds of the first half.

Sunday, 28 October 2018 10:24

Spartans use goal torrent to march past Oxgangs

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Five goals in sixteen decisive minutes helped Spartans Youth see off Division 2’s AC Oxgangs 6-1 at Ainslie Park, advancing them to the next round of the Craig Gowans Memorial Cup. In a display involving some great one and two-touch passing, the home team combined aesthetics with goals as they seek to return to the final.

Matters did not begin smoothly for last season's runners-up, however, with passes the wrong side of runs and Oxgangs offering dangerous pace on the resulting breaks. Rory Ferguson and Leo Neil both nearly got beyond the last man as the visitors threatened, their endeavours coming either side of a Spartans shot by Keir Russell that keeper Lachlan Bradford saved with his legs.

Yet by the quarter hour the Division 1 team had their shape. Midfielders Adam Dodds, Jack Crombie and Rory Hamilton made a fluid central three, with forward Reece Mason dropping to give another give-and-go option. When things got congested, the ball went wide to Russell on the right, or Joseph Evenden out left.

It was Evenden who set-up the opening goal in the 17th minute, getting beyond the fullback and crossing for Kieran McCallum to conclude his near post run with a neat flick home. Spartans were one up and quickly after two via Evenden, left back Luke Morris, and Mason. Offering mirth amongst the flurry of efforts, the referee accidentally waved a red card instead of a yellow, inspiring some good-humoured chuckles.

Possession, and the high defence it allows, can be a team’s downfall. Ten minutes before half time an Oxgangs through ball suddenly split Spartans’ centre backs, sending Ferguson roaring through. Keeper Josh Scoon spread himself to save with his shins. When a Joe McGowan free kick evaded everyone and bounced just past Scoon’s right post a minute late, it was a reminder this was still game on.

A single goal, scored in the first minute of the second half, separated the teams as Edinburgh City withstood Dalkeith Thistle’s pressure to claim a tough 1-0 victory in the South East U15’s Division Two. Featuring even teams and occasionally uneven tempers, it was a match in which fortitude was prevalent but a moment of skill was decisive.

The first half nearly began with a bang when City’s Finley Pattman was played through seconds into the game. His shot went wide left, but it was indicative of a start in which the home side pinned Thistle back. Clearances were calmly picked up and the encampment continued. Possession was liberally one-sided.

Nonetheless, chances were rare, and the opening twenty minutes raised few efforts on goal. Indeed, Dalkeith had the best opportunities, with Ryan Wilkinson beating keeper Danny Smith to a long ball but subsequently running out of pitch, and Jamie Kennedy unable to make full contact on a free kick to the far post. Edinburgh City’s two shots were from Patryk Zawislak and James Mullen, and both from a distance too far to properly stretch Thistle’s Mackenzie Ewing.

A quarter of the game had thus passed when a true chance came. With play evening out, Thistle’s Kennedy sent in a cloud-grazing cross from the right that caused problems, leading to Wilkinson and Adam Cairns both eventually having goes in the scramble. There was no way through, but the game was beginning to suggest a goal was imminent.

That opener could have come for City twice in the last ten minutes of the half. First Pattman, and then Luke Taylor, found himself running clear at goal. But whereas the scramble at one end had ended under a blanket defence, Ewing now proved himself a one-man wall. Staying big even as he saw the whites of the strikers eyes allowed him to repel both forwards, and half-time arrived goalless.

Musselburgh Windsor defeated Calvary Park for the second time in a week, scoring three times from set pieces in a 4-2 win, to advance into the third round of the South East Region Cup.

The two revved up sides began the game at a frantic pace, with both passing presentable chances wide within the first three minutes. It thus came as no surprise that by the sixth minute the game had a goal. Cavalry’s Robbie Walker was deemed to have been tripped in the box, and Tom Davies duly pummelled the penalty unstoppably into the top right corner.

Matters were soon level, however, as a dead ball at the other end provided an equaliser in the 14th minute. Ciaran Young’s free kick was too bold to handle, ending up over the line, bringing very different emotions to the respective teams.

A second nearly came immediately, with Kacper Michalak sliding Ben Tracey through, but a covering boot deflected that effort towards the side-netting. Calvary, and Andrew Mackenzie in particular, were then denied twice by Windsor keeper Ross McRae, first from a close-range header and then after a run clear from halfway.

Goals seemed due, and arrived as two corners in quick succession swung the game in Musselburgh’s favour. In the 31st minute Young’s ball from the right fell to captain Robbie Wilson to turn home for 2-1.

Two minutes later, Tracey’s winding run and shot forced another set piece, which was met with a meaty header from Connor Fitzpatrick for Windsor’s third.

Hutchison Vale managed to come from behind to defeat Edinburgh South in a closely-contested tie in the SERYFA Jewel Miners Cup. 
Hutchie did well to come back from a 2-1 deficit at half time to eventually triumph 5-2, assuring their place in the next round of the Jewel Miners Cup.
The first half was packed full of action with both teams playing well and it took just two minutes for the deadlock to be broken when Hutchie drove down the line and forced a save from Darcy Munro. South went on to clear the ball but it could only reach James Clare who hit it over Munro into the roof of the net from 20 yards out.
Although Edinburgh South had lost an early goal their heads did not go down and resumed play looking fierce. It was only four minutes later until they found an equaliser when Hutchie 'keeper Dean Brownlee tried clearing the ball only for it to rebound off Rory Harrison and fall to Artur Ziebarth who easily placed his shot into the bottom left corner.
The next 20 minutes were less eventful than the first few, however both teams had glimpses of goal but were denied by good saves from both Brownlee and Munro. This all changed in the 24th minute when Brownlee's clearance fell to Louis Conlon 30 yards out who fired into the top corner to give Edinburgh South the lead.
Hutchie were much more threatening towards the end of the half and were close to scoring after having a couple of chances. Fortunately for Edinburgh South they held on for the half time whistle.

The contest between Division 1’s last unbeaten teams concluded with Edinburgh City Blacks victorious, overcoming an early deficit to defeat Leith Athletic 2-1. Gavin Mabon’s second half goal, slotted home just after the hour, was the difference in a match of thin margins.

It was not a result that had looked overly likely in an opening twenty minutes in which Leith were on top. Three early strikes at goal - from Cameron Kerr, Rory Hunter, and Robbie King - produced just a single save from Blacks keeper Alistair Corbet, but Leith were not in the mood to be denied. In the 13th minute King lined up another shot, left-footed and from 20 yards, that found the top left corner.

With wide forwards Kerr and Sulaiman Ashraf supporting Hunter, and midfielders King and Cameron Stewart pushed up to block any out balls, Athletic had Blacks pinned back. However, a move in the 20th minute suggested Blacks were devising a solution. A stretch from Keiran Miller suddenly put the ball beyond the Leith press, with Jack Mathison free down the left. He in turn found Evan Gillespie in the box, but his effort rolled wide of the right hand post.

This was a catalyst for a more even affair. For Leith, King shot over and Kerr drove a ball across the six yard box; Mathison’s snap shot for Blacks was held by Athletic’s Jamie Smith. Then, in an instant, Blacks were level. Mathison did well on the left to get the ball in towards the six yard line, to where Max Clark had crept completely unnoticed. One touch, 1-1, and half-time approaching.