FERGUSON PARK in Rosewell was the setting last week for the final of the Scottish Schools’ FA 14s Inter-Regional Cup and it was the highly-talented squad from Mid and East Lothian that walked away with the silverware after beating Lanarkshire 3-2 in a thrilling game.
Past SSFA president, John Gold (Dumfries), was at Whitehill Welfare’s smart stadium to present the trophy and medals on a bitterly cold night, but the non-stop action on the pitch helped the spectators who had braved the wind and drizzle to see two talented squads in action.
East and Mid went into a deserved 2-0 lead in the first half with goals from talented left-sided player Andrew Driver.
The North Berwick High pupil ran on to a defence-splitting pass from Musselburgh’s Kevin Smith to lash the ball into the Lanarkshire net. It was a stunning goal and the same player produced a similar hammer blow to make it 2-0 in the 20th minute.
It was the perfect start for Mid and East but Lanarkshire refused to throw in the towel and they continued to set up chances with their own brand of flowing football and hit back to make it 2-1 before the break with a goal from Scott Gemmill (Duncanrig).
In the second half, Lanarkshire continued to presss forward and it was no surprise when Gemmill beat goalkeeper Chris Castle (Penicuik) to the ball to make it 2-2.
Mid and East had lost the place at this stage and it took a determined effort to force their way back into the game.
With gaps appearing in both defences as the players tired, it was Mid and East Lothian that went on to clinch the silverware when Beeslack midfielder, John Armstrong, fired home from eight yards out. In such awful weather, these two squads served up a cracking game. Mid and East did enough to win, but no-one could have complained if Lanarkshire had picked up the winners’ medals - it was that close.
Mid and East Lothian: Chris Castle (Penicuik), Ian Watson (Newbattle), Gary Whitehead (Dalkeith), Jason Thomson, John Armstrong (both Beeslack), Andrew Doig (Musselburgh), David Gray (Beeslack), Dean Scott (Musselburgh), Alan Cleary (Newbattle), Kevin Smith (Musselburgh), Andrew Driver (North Berwick), Craig Gow (Newbattle), Murray McCrae (Beeslack), Murray Aitken (Knox Academy), Daniel Rowley (Ross High), Cameron Smith (Preston Lodge).
Lanarkshire: Tom Craig, Alan Greenaway (both Airdrie), Barry Grant (Braidhurst), Greg Kelly (Brannock), Scott Gemmill (Duncanrig), Brian Dodge, Derek Anderson, Steven Fletcher (all Earnock), Santino Marini (Hamilton College), John Kane, Jamie McCluskey (all Holy Cross), Craig Glen, Mathew McCoig (both Mearns Castle), David Cornwell, John Neill, Nicholas Weightman (all St Aiden’s).
Meanwhile, Beeslack High School were handed a double gift by an errant Craigmount defence in the semi-final of the Lothian Schools’ FA Senior Knock-out Cup at St Augustine’s playing fields.
The prize for the winners was an appearance earlier today in the final at Pinkie Playing Fields in Musselburgh against St Augustine’s. Although Craigmount enjoyed the better of the game in the first half and missed several clear-cut opportunities - with Ross Gilpin outstanding in the Beeslack goal - the game was goalless at half-time.
However, in the second half, two crazy blunders in the Craigmount defence handed, literally, their opponents two gift goals.
When a Craigmount defender got the ball caught between his legs almost on the goalline, one of the quick Beeslack strikers robbed him of the ball and his excellent little chip back across the face of the goal was perfect for Brian McEwan to head the ball over the line with goalkeeper Chris Rennie helpless.
Even worse was to follow, however, as Rennie spilled a simple cross from the left wing and Michael Wilson took advantage to find the back of an empty net to make it 2-0.
Craigmount did create several good chances but it wasn’t until near the end before they got a consolation goal - and what a beautiful effort it was.
It was set up by a glorious pass from Scottish Schoolboy international midfielder David Greenhill and his fellow cap, the quick-thinking Danny Wheelan, outpaced the Beeslack defenders to show an excellent first touch in collecting the ball on the move before beating Gilpin with a well-placed strike.
That was all Craigmount had to show and this defeat was, for them, a disappointing end to a season for a squad of players that has won both League Championship and League Cup doubles and singles over the previous four years.
Beeslack, on the other hand, were simply overjoyed at the prospect of facing St Augustine’s in today’s final.