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Stalemate between Academy rivals

James Hamilton Academy 1

Grant 50

St Joseph's Academy 1

Fletcher 74

Kyle Brown | YFS South East Region Journalist
Author's Bio | Articles by Author | [email protected]

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. 
Both teams were trying to play football in the weather, but more often that not, half-chances were being created by long balls on the counter attack - the play was scrappy for the most part. Everyone was fighting tooth and nail, and together with the weather, it made it impossible for total football to be played.
 
Just as half time was concluding, St Joseph's player and friend of mine Michael Grant came over to me and said "Kyle, make sure I have a good write up here!" Quickly as ever, I told him that for that to happen, he better give me a reason to do so! 
      
And boy, did he give he a cracking reason to just four minutes later. He found himself in a bit of space to the right-centre of the goal, and scored what I can assure you is the best goal I have ever seen in youth football - the best I have seen at any level for a while. From fully thirty-five yards, he ripped that ball into the opposite top corner! The ball moved away from Stuart Cowan's despairing dive magnificently, and the ball crashed back of the back of the framework of the goal. 1-0. An onlooking spectator said in shock: "You won't even see a better goal in the World Cup!" Hats off to you Mr Grant, that was a cracker.
       
Anyway, that was against the overall play of the first half. I would say St Joseph's two chances from corners were the best ones so far, but the All-Blue of the James Hamilton had saw a lot more of the play in the first period. Inspired by that goal however, the away side really kicked on, pushing the James Hamilton right on the back foot. Five minutes after the goal, Cowan was forced to make a good save low down from the ever-attacking Josh Rodgers.  If it was not for some real last ditch defending from Blair McLaughland and Chrissy Hamilton St Joseph's would have scored a hatful - the two makeshift centre halves were playing out of their skin. That gave them a bit of hope, and after the referee strangely awarded them a corner, they almost equalised. Krissy Kerr's corner almost curled straight in, but Luis was on the front post to dive and head the ball away.
    
Briefly, the play returned to being a scrappy affair again, and ten minutes with nothing of note passed, before Findlay put a superb cross in for Kerr. The ball was aching to be headed home, but instead he opted to bring the ball down and turn in on himself, and he ended up losing the chance. 
       
St Joseph's bounced back, however, with two chances of their own in quick succession. They were both from set pieces again; firstly, a long free kick came to Rodgers whose cut back almost found the way to his Bellfield club-mate Luis but it was cut out after the ball had crossed the goal face. Then, Patrick Hammill headed a fee header over from six yards - de ja vu from the other two headers in the first half. 
      
They were left to rue those missed opportunities five minutes later. A fee kick about twenty five yards out was screaming to be hit by ex-Kilmarnock pro-youth player Chris Fletcher. The left footer hardly took one of his fine shots though, and he was probably briefly disappointed. That was until, the wind moved the ball and deceived Platt, and the free kick went straight through to the back of the net for 1-1. After their defeat to other rivals Loudoun last week, the James Hamilton showed their relief with some exuberant celebrations. They had equalised with just eight minutes left!
       
Tantalisingly, they nearly won it too - Kerr curling a shot about a foot wide from twenty yards.  However Platt let the ball go so he probably knew what he was doing. Hammill then had the last say in the match, the St Joseph's central midfielder blasted a volley from twenty five yards that also went about a foot wide but Cowan was not taking any chances - his outstretched arm making the shot look closer than it was, some even thought it had gone in.
 
A game of two halves perhaps, but probably overall the game was even in terms of possession stats and chances created. I would say that from set pieces, the away side looked a real handful, and perhaps they will be left a bit downbeat they just couldn't take advantage. Not to worry however, it was an entertaining match, with two very good sides in action. For the return leg, I will be hoping to see more of the same as today. 

Lineups

James Hamilton Academy
St Joseph's Academy
1. Stuart Cowan (gk)
2. Blair McLaughland
6. Chrissy Hamilton
5. Stevie Dixon
17. Josh Caldow
8. Kyle Mason
10. Chris Fletcher
11. Krissy Kerr
4. Martin Findlay
7. Ally McCloud (c)
3. Matthew McGhee
12. Martin Barr
14. Danny Dixon
15. Kieran Heaney
1. Jordan Platt (gk) (c)
2. Aidan Julyan
4. Josh Rodgers
5. Liam Wilson
6. Declan Smith
3. Michael Grant
8. Patrick Hammill
7. Stevie Campell
11. Joao Luis
10. Declan Lavan
9. Ryan Crolla
14. Adam Orr
12. David Mottram
17. Dylan Murphy
15. Mark Rumble
Star Player
James Hamilton Academy
St Joseph's Academy
Chris Hamilton. The makeshift centre half was a class act through out, solid in the tackle and in the air, as well as displaying elegance on the ball with a wide range of passing
Michael Grant. The powerful centre half was pushed slightly forward to defensive midfield, and he used his power to good effect, often dribbling the ball very far. It could have been a closer contest if that screamer didn't quite hit the back of the net though!
Magic Moment
James Hamilton Academy
St Joseph's Academy
The James Hamilton played lots of good football, but the magic moment for me was the celebrations after the equaliser. All the players and the sidelines just looked so happy to have gotten back into the match.
I bet everyone can guess what I'm going to say here, but can you blame me? What a sensational goal Michael Grant scored.
Club Views
James Hamilton Academy
St Joseph's Academy
Chris Hamilton, James Hamilton MOTM said: "A draw is probably a fair outcome if I'm honest. We had lots of chances and Jordan [Platt] made a an excellent save in the first half. They picked up a bit after their goal, but it was something completely out of the blue!"
Michael Grant, St Joseph's MOTM, said: "Good, even game. We should have scored more with the three headers we put over the bar - we just weren't tough enough to get stuck right into them and take those chances, and it has cost us in a derby. Delighted with that goal though!"

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