Garnock Academy came out on top in a five-goal thriller to lift the Ayrshire Schools FA Cup, led from the back by a commanding performance from captain David Gray.
Garnock opened the scoring early on with seven minutes on the clock, as Matthew Sloan evaded his marker rose high at the back post to meet a corner from the left. He connected with his head and sent the ball back down to earth and it bounced over the line and past Christopher Taylor in the Greenwood goal. Sloan very nearly doubled his account moments later as the winger went on a silky run down the left, leaving three Greenwood defenders in his wake.
Bursting from midway inside his opponent’s half he jinked his way into the box and managed to get enough backlift to pull the trigger form six yards. The ball slipped under Taylor but a terrific recovery from the quick-thinking Daniel Lennox as he rushed over to clear the ball off the line kept the score at 1-0.
Greenwood had been trying to catch their opponents out from set pieces, with corner kicks providing the main route to panic for Garnock. The Dreghorn side had been trying their luck with low, driven corners and eventually it paid off, third time lucky.
From a left-sided corner, Gray could only half-clear the initial ball in and from there it fell to Lennox, the same man who’d made that crucial clearance five minutes earlier. The centre half picked his head up and slotted it calmly into the net from the centre of the box, in the fashion of a veteran striker.
Garnock almost restored their lead immediately, and that end-to-end, to-and-fro nature would come to define the match as a whole. It was another set piece causing problems, this time a free kick on the left hand side.
The ball in caused havoc in the box but Stephen Crawford’s effort was parried away by the scrambling Taylor. The rebound fell to Sloan but he didn’t connect cleanly and the shot skiffed off his boot and away from danger.
Just after the half hour mark, as the game continued to unfold in back and forth fashion, Greenwood stormed in front. Clever footwork on the left wing by Jamie Cook freed up time and space for him to cross from the by-line, sensing the late arrival of Billy Gallone.
He took one touch to control and his second sent the ball towards goal and it looked destined to go in but a cruel deflection sent the ball the other way and made sure of it; Cameron King was left flummoxed at the opposite side of the goal.
But it was time for Gray to step up and lead. The centre back had been spraying delightful passes out from defence all game, and he had a chance to put that wand of a left foot to use in an attacking sense when his team won a free kick 25 yards out.
The captain produced an absolute stunner: it had pace and swerve and it curled away from Taylor, leaving him helpless. That goal meant that the Kilbirnie outfit were only behind for a grand total of two minutes and just before half time they could have made it a case of double trouble for Greenwood but the dangerous Sloan had his shot blocked by Taylor in the latest bout in their personal tussle.