Leith Athletic resuscitated their cup dream after trailing 5-2 with just 26 minutes remaining to emerge 7-6 winners over league champions Dunbar United Colts. Even Leith coach Maurice Paterson admitted he entertained no notions of a comebackin the face of a flying Dunbar side.
"Absolutely not," was Paterson's assessment of his side's chances as a three-goal deficit stood between Athletic and their hope for victory. "Earlier in the season, they were beating us 10-2 with ten minutes to go and we called a halt to the game.
"When we got our sixth goal (to go 6-5 up], I thought we'd definitely go on and win it."
That, they did. With the score locked at six apiece during the final eight minutes, Leith's Lewis Park settled the contest with the last act of the game and the "lucky thirteenth" goal.
The epic youth football showpiece didn't take long to burst into life. Dunbar took a fourth-minute lead when Grant Hastie cut in from the left before beating Leith goalkeeper Jack Lacey with a strike into the far corner. Athletic equalised five minutes later, though, as Park latched on to a long ball that evaded the Colts defence, before rounding the goalkeeper, Josh Stewart, and sidefooting home.
Stewart made a smart stop to repel Gordon Kinnear's volley on the turn soon after, and the game's third goal flew in at the other end to restore Colts' lead. Cameron Miller showed good skill on the right flank to beat his marker, and his subsequent cutback was smashed into the net by Liam Dunn.
Jake Johnstone almost extended Colts' lead on 21 minutes, but his strike towards the left-hand corner was magnificently tipped wide by Lacey. However, the Leith goalkeeper could only watch the ball fly past him in spectacular style five minutes later as Hastie's long-range effort put Colts 3-1 up.
Athletic pegged their opponents back shortly before the break after Park's trickery drew a foul on the edge of the box. Osama Mahmoud took the resulting free kick, sending the ball soaring beyond Stewart and high into the net.
Mahmoud's brilliance throughout was tinged with momentary despair early in the second half, as his valiant attempt to tackle Liam Demianczuk as the Colts striker bore down on goal ended with the ball rolling off the boot of the Leith No.9 and past his own goalkeeper. The black and whites' misery was compounded a couple of minutes later as Dunbar's Lewy Cymba rolled the ball to Dunn and he unleashed a 20-yard strike into the net to put his team 5-2 to the good.
Forty-four minutes played – cue the comeback.
A flowing Leith move up the left was briefly intercepted by Dunbar's defence but, as quickly, gifted back to Athletic's Paul Robertson, who, from the right-hand side of the penalty area, finished expertly into the left-hand corner. Eight minutes later, Mahmoud's corner from the left found Glynn Mullen who glanced a header into the net to further rattle Dunbar and, by now, the leveller was almost inevitable. The honour fell to Grant Hollinger, who took his chance in brilliant fashion on 59 minutes, whacking a 25-yard effort high past Stewart.
Park then grabbed his second with a long shot that dropped past Stewart. Dunbar managed to forge an equaliser but their attacking qualities came to the fore all too briefly in the second half. Harry Steel was the player to set up a grandstand finish, hitting the equaliser with eight minutes to go.
Leith, though, duly scored their seventh goal – and the game's winner – as Park rounded off his hat-trick by dinking the ball over Stewart for a dramatic last-minute decider.
While Park provided the goals, Keith Turner was the defensive hero for Leith, blocking an effort by Dunbar's David Armstrong on the goalline deep into injury time to save the game for his side.
Athletic coach Paterson acknowledged that every one of his players were matchwinners in a tempestuous encounter.
He said: "Keith Turner at the back was outstanding for us, Lewis Park got his hat-trick, Paul Robertson was a pest, and Osama Mahmoud had a great game. I think the season's gone remarkably well for the whole team, as they started off getting a couple of doings, but picked up as they went along and handed out a couple of beatings too."
Meanwhile, Stewart Brown, the Dunbar coach, paid tribute to his side after a successful campaign in which they won the league title, the AC Taxis Cup and the Polar Foods Cup.
He said: "It's the laddies' first season at 11-a-side and, as the season's progressed, they've improved, playing good passing football.
"I'm very impressed with how they've learned the way we want them to play football. Their appetite and attitude is first class, and they train the way they play."
Dunbar United Colts: Josh Stewart, Elliot Mullen, Christopher Brown, Dean Muir, Lewy Cymba, Robbie Gemmell, Liam Dunn, Liam Demianczuk, Jake Johnstone, Grant Hastie, Ryan Soso, David Armstrong, Kyle Jeffrey, Cameron Miller, Harry Steel, Oliver Gilchrist, Liam Gallagher.
Leith Athletic 97: Jack Lacey, Jack Brodie, Ryan Colbert, Glynn Mullen, Ally Steel, Gordon Kinnear, Leighton Paterson, Osama Mahmoud, Darren Dinse, Andrew Baird, Jesse Tucker, Paul Robertson, Keith Turner, Grant Hollinger, Lewis Park.