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I was in attendance at Dunbar Grammar's semi final of this competition, and being 2-0 down to Woodmill High School with just over 10 minutes to go, it didn't really look like they would feature tonight in this SSFA Under 15's Final at Tynecastle Stadium. However a a small miracle from Dunbar and striker's Ewan Stark and Cameron McAlpine ensured they would make an appearance here in the final.
Exactly the same as the semi final, Ewan Stark was the talisman for Dunbar as they once again fought back from two goals down with a short period of time remaining to snatch a draw against an excellent Bannerman side. Andrew Taylor's 20 yard free kick and Jack Cook's tap in cancelling out Sean Hughes' second half double for Bannerman, sending the large Dunbar support into raptures.
I was informed before the match that Dunbar were bringing over 170 pupils in support of the boys. This created an electric atmosphere which was certainly conveyed onto the pitch. The match was the pick of the matches I have attended this season. The Bannerman crowd playing their part as well.
Now, onto the action. Dunbar kicked off the first half on a night that started brightly, weather wise, and immediately Stark was using his pace and power down the right hand side. He cut inside of Lewis Warnock but Darroch Murdoch was on hand to block Stark's early effort for Dunbar.
The first corner of the match was won by Mark Lamont of Bannerman. Lamont took the corner but the towering figure of Dunbar captain Jack Cook rose well to clear the danger. The ball was hooked back in by Sean Hughes but the ball nestled in the hands of Stuart Aiken in the Dunbar goal.
A burst down the right hand side from Sean Hughes put Bannerman on the front foot once again. He looked to latch onto Cameron Foy's long diagonal pass, but the slippery surface assisting the ball in skidding out for a goal kick.
Stark held the ball up well to wait for support to arrive, but instead he turned Christopher Foy, and Foy was forced to give away a free kick. 35 yards from goal, Jamie Chapman lined it up, and his dipping effort had to be tipped over by Ross Elliot in the Bannerman goal. From the resulting corner, Cook almost put Dunbar ahead. His header however was superbly blocked by Ross Mitchell at the far post.
Dunbar were the teaming having the better of this match, but a slack pass from Chapman in midfield allowed Cameron McKay to drive down the right hand side. Dunbar keeper Stuart Allan commiting himself, but he lost the ball and Mark Lamont had a great opportunity to take the lead for Bannerman, but for Pilbeam on the line to clear for Dunbar. Aiken a very thankful man. A great block from Rory Pilbeam.
Bannerman were starting to get a foothold in the match now and another corner from Mark Lamont was cleared by Cook but straight back to Lamont but his strike was wall over the bar. Lamont again down the left hand side for Bannerman was the driving force for his side. He cut inside and unleashed a strike which seemed to be heading in but it flew just past the post and the diving Allan had no chance.
Ewan Stark was really causing Bannerman problems. His pace and power down the left this time winning himself a free kick after numerous fouls from three different players. He managed to stay on his feet, credit to Stark for this. The free kick was whipped in by Chapman, headed out by Foy but straight to Stark on the edge of the box, but his shot was wide.
Cameron McAlpine was causing real problems for the Bannerman full backs too. This lad has unbelievable pace. Cameron Foy had at least a 10 yard head start on McAlpine to the ball, but McAlpine still beat him to the ball. His trickery allowed him to beat Foy and find Coll Reekie on the edge of the box but his shot was poor and easily saved by Elliot.
Bannerman could have taken the lead through McKay. His trickery allowed him to beat Pilbeam and Reekie before being presented with an opportunity 6 yards out but a phenomenal block from Prior kept the scores deadlocked at 0-0. Prior came sliding in from nowhere to stop McKay from scoring the opening goal.
Dunbar were keeping posession well in the middle of the park and their latest burst forward was from McAlpine's through ball to Ryan Young, who took a touch to compose himself before rattling a shot off of the underside of Elliot's crossbar and Foy cleared and resulting danger. The East Lothian side were getting closer to the opening goal. A wonderful strike from Young.
McAlpine driving down the right hand side just before half time resulted in Stark receiving the ball on the edge of the box and his fierce strike was blocked by the backside of Cameron Foy. A unique was of stopping the shot from Stark. From the resulting corner Foy was on hand once again to get a faint flick on the ball with the back of his head to take the ball away from Cook at the back post who would have put Dunbar ahead.
The last action of the first half was another Chapman free kick for Dunbar wide on the right. On this occasion Ross Elliot claimed the ball well in the crowd of players and that was that for the first half here at Tynecastle.
Both sides look lively in the first half and Ewan Stark was really taking the match by the scruff of the neck and along with Cameron McAlpine they were the driving force for Dunbar. For Bannerman, the front trio of Hughes, McKay and Lamont were causing Dunbar's back three some problems. Lamont's set piece delivery especially.
Half Time: Bannerman High School 0-0 Dunbar Grammar School
Dunbar were back out sharply for the beginning of the second half, at least five minutes before Bannerman or the officials made the entrance back onto the pitch.
The second half got underway and immediately Bannerman lost posession. McAlpine pouncing on a loose pass, cutting in and out confusing Murdoch and then firing a low shot which was turned round for a corner.
Trickery down the left hand side from Bannerman's Hughes presented a shooting opportunity after he beat Prior easily but his low shot was well wide of Allan's right hand post.
A brilliant turn and pass in the centre circle from Reekie released Stark down the middle but Elliot was quick off his line to clear the danger. Stark had another chance but yet again Christopher Foy was there to block his shot. Foy being the brick wall at the back for Bannerman.
As the rain began to get heavier it had me scrambling for shelter in the Wheatfield stand at Tynecastle and the tackles started to fly in. Bannerman's Jonathan Martin receiving the first booking of the match for a mistimed sliding tackle on Stark. Jack Cook stood over the ball and his curling effort was put just over the bar.
Jamie Chapman, the midfield maestro for Dunbar was in serious pain after he clashed with the advertising boards and he had to be substituted. He was replaced by Luke Archibald.
The next attack brought the breakthrough in the game. Another Lamont corner to the front post suprised everybody. Everybody but Sean Hughes who met the ball with his head and flicked it into the net past helpless Allan. The departed Chapman in more pain at his side losing a goal rather than his injury.
The next attack, the next goal. Mitchell Barclay's wayward effort found Hughes on his own on the left side of the box. There was a question of offside but there was no question about the finish. One touch with the ouside of his right boot and he looped the ball over the onrushing Allan and it looked like he had sealed it for Bannerman. Hughes was booked for taking his shirt off in celebration.
Going two goals down seemed to wake Dunbar up with only a short period of time remaining, just like their semi final. Handball on the edge of the box gave Dunbar a free kick 25 yards out. Taylor stepped up and fired an unstoppable swerving free kick underneath the bar and into the net. An outstanding strir from Taylor and Dunbar now had the momentum to go on (click here to watch video of goal).
Bannerman were now panicking and McKay lost the ball from the kick off. Reekie picked up the loose ball and fired a low skidding shot, which brought out the best of Elliot. Tipping the ball round the post low to his right hand side, preserving Bannerman's lead.
Not for much longer though as Dunbar were level. Stark causing problems in the box. His volley forced a wonderful save from Elliot but Cook followed up from 6 yards out to level, sending the 170 plus Dunbar pupils into raptures. The Bannerman players with their head in their hands. Their lead had vanished in the blind of an eye.
Dunbar had the momentum to go and win it now, as Bannerman committed almost every player forward for a corner. Another clearance from Cook allowed fellow centre half Prior to run almost 80 yards with the ball and his low shot across Elliot clipped the outside of the post.
Referee Lloyd Wilson blew his whistle for full time ime at Tynecastle, and both sets of players knew that their fate would be sealed through a penalty shootout.
The Penalty Kicks took place at the Gorgie Road end of Tynecastle. Dunbar missed 2 out of their 5 penalties, their first and last, and Cameron McKay sealed the win for Bannerman with an emphatic penalty to give Bannerman the SSFA Under 15's School Shield, 4-3 on Penalties.
Congratulations to both teams on reaching the final of this competition as reaching the final is an achievement in itself. The Dunbar players heartbroken and their massive support proud of their achievements. Both teams with represent Scotland in the British Cup at Toryglen, Glasgow the weekend of the 24th, 25th and 26th of this month, playing against Wales, Ireland and the Auld Enemy. Best of luck to both teams on what i'm sure will be a very special ocassion.
Full Time: Bannerman High School 2-2 Dunbar Grammar School (Bannerman HS win 4-3 on penalties)