Not for the first time in the last few weeks, I happened to find myself outside in the freezing rain and gusting winds to watch a youth football school match earlier today. As ever though, the match I saw was sheer entertainment at its best, as St Joseph's Academy Seniors drew 1-1 with The James Hamilton Academy. The schools are rivals, both being situated in the New Farm Loch area of Kilmarnock, and everyone knows one another; this only added to the must-see occasion. A stunning goal from Michael Grant looked to have given St Joseph's the three points, but a somewhat bizarre goal from last week's MOTM Chris Fletcher stole a late point for the James Hamilton.
The match was a James Hamilton home game, but as they don't have their own AstroTurf park, the match was actually held in St Joseph's own backyard. This did not really give them the lift they wanted though as play was scrappy for the first fifteen minutes. However, it was the 'away' side that created the first chance - from a corner Declan Lavan found himself lots of space to get his header away after a superb leap, but he could not hit the target from close range.
It was on the half hour mark the match really burst into life though. After some superb play from Kyle Mason(beating two men, winning a fifty-fifty and spraying a superb cross-field pass) Martin Findlay managed to get a shot away, but he just missed the target. That seemed to revitalise the 'home' side and they pegged back St Joseph's and made some good chances.
Alistair McCloud was at the heart of these chances. He first attempted a half volley from the edge of the D, and fired about a yard wide of the far post with goalkeeper Jordan Platt well beat. Then, a hopeful long ball from centre half Stevie Dixon was controlled elegantly by McCloud, before he fired a dipping shot from fifteen yards. However, this could not beat Platt - the goalkeeper made a tremendous one handed stop, watching the ball all the way and then being alert enough to gather the loose ball. Whatsmore, the St Joseph's captain had had little to do prior to that save in these horrific conditions, so perhaps that was an ideal way to show his class, and why he was selected YFS South West Region Team Of The Year as goalkeeper last season.
McCloud must have thought he'd scored moments later when he was through on goal, his blast had beaten McCloud but somehow the versatile (today a centre back) and pacey defender Liam Wilson made a superb and outrageous block to deny a certain goal. From the corner, Findlay's thumping header was parried upwards by Platt into the air, and the ball dropped tensely, but where would it land? It bounced off of the bar, not once but twice and then into the grateful clutches of the goalkeeper.
That almost brought about the end to the first half, but the away side almost snatched a lead from a corner of their own. Almost identically to Lavan's chance earlier, Joao Luis flicked the ball over the crossbar from close range - had it been on target it would have been a certain goal.