Hutchie were on the verge of defeat when Leith gained the initiative in the second half, before Ethan Feachen forced an additional period with a strike in the dying minutes.
Hutchie coach Tam Smith felt the impact of his substitutions played a key role in deciding the outcome of the match. He said: “We started great and created a hatful of chances which, eventually, we took. They were certainly the better side from the beginning of the second-half, but we made a couple of changes midway through. This settled us and we managed to get a grip of the game again.”
Hutchie carved out the opening chance within minutes of referee Norman Brown’s whistle. Feachen found space on the left and delivered a teasing cross which the unmarked Ryan Fox got his head on, but he fired high over the bar. Hutchie continued to dictate play, containing the Leith players to their own half with most of the ball going through the influential Sam Birch.
Hutchie took the lead after ten minutes and Birch was at the heart of the move. His delightful interchange with Brandon Archibald provided Fox with a clear view on goal and he knocked the ball beyond Leith’s Jordan Pettigrew.
Birch then went on a surging run from the heart of the midfield, playing in Fox for a second time, and he should have done better from 12 yards as he knocked the ball wide.
Both Feachen and Regan Hendry had chances to increase Hutchie’s lead before Leith created their first opportunity of the match. A free-kick from the left touchline by Frazer Paton picked out Jamie Chapman at the back post, but his shot on the turn went high into the Gorgie stand behind the goal.
Birch then played a short pass to Sean McKirdy at the edge of the area and his effort forced a good save from Pettigrew who had to dive to his left to turn the ball behind.
However, for all of Birch’s good work in the first half, the teenager was hesitant on the ball, which led to Leith’s equaliser just before the break. After Paton dispossessed him, the winger had space to run down the left flank, and with a reluctant defence standing off, the No. 11 delivered a great cutback for Chapman, who had taken up a good position to strike the ball into the back of the net.
The Leith side, clearly buoyed by their equaliser just before the break, started the second-half at a blistering pace.
Goalscorer Chapman tried his luck again, this time from distance, but fired over before Calum Smart almost got on the end of a Conal Prior pass. Then, after Hutchie failed to clear, Prior produced a stunning 25-yard strike which rattled off the underside of the bar and in via the back of Byron Gibb to give Leith a 2-1 lead.
Hutchie threw everything at their opponents and just as it seemed Leith would hold on, Feachen showed great prowess to lash the ball into the top corner to send the game into extra time.
Having regained the momentum, Hutchie found that extra step their opponents craved and added two goals to seal the tie. Firstly, Feachen added his second with a cool finish, before McKirdy tapped in from close range.
Leith coach Colin Scott was thrilled with his side’s showing and believes they more than competed against a strong Hutchie side.
He said: “It was a brilliant game with two good sides. Hutchie are the benchmark for teams to beat and I think we competed. We went in at half-time lucky to be level, but the lads were fantastic in the second half and just ran out of steam.”
Hutchison Vale: Byron Gibb, Cameron Milne, James Ahari, Sam Birch, Cameron Begbie, Brandon Archibald, Murray Sutherland, Aiden Quinn, Ryan Fox, Ethan Feachen, Regan Hendry, Cameron Sclater, Sean McKirdy, Cameron Fraser, Innes Goodall, Cameron McAlpine, Lewis Swaney, Jack Cook.
Leith Athletic: Jordan Pettigrew, Ross Aitchison, Euan McGachie, Murray Scott, Jamie Chapman, James Burt, Lewis Mackay, Calum Smart, Murray Campbell, Frazer Paton, Conal Prior, Calum Sandison, Jay McManus, Marco McBride.