On a cold Sunday morning when most games had fallen victim to the freezing temperatures, Middleshot 3G in Prestonpans played host to a thrilling battle in the latter stages of the Under 16 inspireSport Scottish Cup between Longniddry Villa and Rowallan SC.
As expected in a fixture with so much at stake, the action started right from the opening whistle and much like the large crowd in attendance, the Rowallan defence were caught cold. As the ball came in from the right hand side, the Rowallan defence could only partially clear to the edge of the box where Adam Matthews swept home a controlled finish in to the bottom left hand corner to give Longniddry Villa the lead with only 55 seconds on the clock.
Instantly after Rowallan had restarted the game, Villa had their tales up from the early goal and began to press the visitors at every opportunity to regain possession. This led to Tyler Bolochoweckyj robbing his man of the ball and feeding in Aiden Walsh who broke the offside trap and lifted the ball over Taylor Callaghan in the Rowallan goal but could only watch on as it went agonisingly past the post.
Moments later Bolochoweckyj switched the ball to Walsh again who drilled a perfect ball along the six yard box that was parried by Callaghan. The ball broke to Jack Macdonald who hit a powerful effort towards the left hand corner that was blocked by a sea of Rowallan bodies on the goal line.
Pressure was beginning to mount on the Rowallan defence and once more Longniddry Villa came close to doubling their early lead. An inswinging corner was met with a towering header by Ben Wright however Callaghan smartly caught and held his effort to the keepers left.
Further heavy pressure from the home side led to another half clearance by the Rowallan defence which Matthews very nearly doubled his tally with. Another strong left footed effort to the goalkeepers right hand post, this time just narrowly whistling wide.
Matthews then turned provider for Walsh who again sprung the offside trap and raced in on goal. Callaghan was alert once more and rushed from his line to win a vital 50/50 with the Longniddry number 11.
After a scrappy period in the game and having weathered the initial storm, Rowallan hit back with a goal of their own. A long ball over the top was not dealt with by the Villa defence and Barrie Preston pounced immediately, getting the wrong side of his man before unleashing an emphatic finish past a helpless Sam Capes in the home goal.
Longniddry seemed to use this minor set back as wake up call for not taking their earlier chances. Straight from kick off once more, the ball was worked out wide to Walsh who brilliantly skipped by the Rowallan full back before hanging up a delightful cross at the back post for Bolochoweckyj to head in from close range.
Down the other end saw Rowallan's best move of the half. Preston received the ball in to his feet with his back to goal and played a clever one-two with Keir Miller before rifling another fierce attempt at Capes' goal which the keeper smartly stopped with his feet.
However every Rowallan attack seemed to spur the home side on further and almost cause Villa to shift up a gear in retaliation. Macdonald cut back for Euan Donaldson who had a snap shot on the volley but could only direct it straight at Callaghan who held it well.
The half hour mark brought the best move of the half. Macdonald held the ball in around 25 yards out with his his back to goal, he shrugged off his man and slipped a great ball out to Bolochoweckyj on the left wing who delivered a wicked first time cross for Walsh at the back post who was inches away from adding to his sides lead.
With half time approaching, Rowallan launched a counter attack where the dangerous Preston was tugged back in cynical fashion and a freekick was awarded to the right of the box. The visitors worked a set piece from the training ground to nullify the Longniddry wall by rolling the ball across the 18 yard line for Andrew Spencer to hit, however he could not get over the ball amid pressure from the onrushing defence and blazed his effort well over.
With the game still finely poised, there was a moment of controversy as Longniddry wrongfully had a goal chalked off. Walsh was slipped through one-on-one with Callaghan and after rounding the Rowallan keeper the winger lost his footing. Bolochoweckyj was alert and ran in on goal to tap in to the empty net before being incorrectly flagged offside.
Seconds later however and the home side had the third goal that their performance deserved right on the stroke of half-time. The impressive front three of Bolochoweckyj, Macdonald and Walsh all combining once again with the former feeding the ball in to Macdonald who was able to release Walsh on the remaining defenders. The mercurial winger beat his man before checking inside of a recovering defender and calmly sliding the ball past Callaghan.