One winner, two champions

THE Tommy Cairns Memorial Cup may not be the most prestigious event in the Lothian and Edinburgh Amateur FA, but the final between Lothian Thistle and Breck Hermitage at Newcraighall Park was one of the best this season in the biggest amateur set-up in Scotland.

The attitude of the players and the well-maintained pitch belonging to Newcraighall Leith Vics were contributory factors to making this such a good game.

The playing surface was just about perfect for passing football on a rainy night in east Edinburgh, and both teams responded in the most positive way possible, playing great football from start to finish.

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It was virtually a "walk in the park" for match referee, Gary McKenzie and his two assistants, Stuart Richardson and Campbell Duncan.

Lothian Thistle were the better side in this game and deservedly went on to win the silverware with two second-half goals from Dean Walker.

The alert and quick-moving No.9 finally managed to break through a very resolute Hermitage rearguard in the 57th minute, running with the ball from the halfway line and then finishing off with a brilliant strike past inspired keeper Ross French.

Walker scored again when he showed a brilliant opportunist touch to rob a Hermitage defender of the ball before lashing a shot past French just inside the right-hand post to make it 2-0.

The Hermitage team played out of their skins in this game while French had a game he will likely look back on with fond memories for the rest of his life.

Some of the saves from the Hermitage goalkeeper in the first half were quite magnificent and he kept the scoreline blank at the half-way stage of a final that attracted a very good crowd to Newcraighall Park. Not only fans of both clubs, but people with a deep interest in amateur football, including the amazing Gordon Hall

Gordon is a retired head teacher who spends a great part of his time going around games in both Scotland and other parts of the UK, including nearly every non-league club stadium in England, such is the former school master's love for football, and he enthused at the quality of the Tommy Cairns final along with everyone else at Newcraighall Park.

Hermitage matched Thistle in every respect in a cracker of a first half, but their opponents always looked capable of scoring, while Hermitage did not have anyone up front who could stick the ball in the back of the net.

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In the opening stages it was only the brilliance and daring of French that kept Thistle from taking an early lead.

Thistle did go close to opening their account when Chris Inglis cracked a shot off a post, while a long-range effort from the winner of the man-of-the-match award, David Brown, flew just over the Thistle crossbar.

French performed brilliantly to block a tremendous header from Kevin Swinton and, at the other end, another cracking effort from Steve Frampton went just wide.

Walker was the danger man for Thistle when they went on the attack and they had the bulk of the play in the first half.

But a combination of good goalkeeping from French and bad luck ensured the sides were locked at 0-0 at the halfway stage of a very entertaining final.

Newcraighall Leith Vics official Kevin Miller was at the game to ensure everything went well, a truly wonderful and appreciated gesture by the Vics club leader, even more so considering he was still mourning the loss of his mother last week.

In the second half of a game played in the gloaming as the light faded, it was Thistle that went on to clinch their first trophy of the season with Walker's two excellent goals separating the teams at the finish.

L&EAFA secretary, David Ramage, speaking prior to the presentation of the cup and individual trophies, complimented both sides on their displays.

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He said: "This has been a tremendous advert for amateur football and I want to thank both teams for making it such a good game.

"The quality of football played was exceptional and it was also played in a great spirit with excellent sportsmanship as well.

"I don't think there was one bad tackle throughout the entire game."

Even the presentation was conducted in a lovely atmosphere, with both sides mixing well and applauding each other when the medals and cup were handed over.

It was a great night for everyone at Newcraighall Public Park and there is more to come, with Mr Ramage adding: "It is very helpful for the association to have the use of this venue belonging to one of our member clubs.

"It is a super venue for cup finals and it will be used again for the Blaikie Cup final on Friday with another wonderful game in prospect between Seaforth Highlanders and Edinburgh University."

The kick-off is at 6.30pm and these two sides met at Roseburn last year in what is still considered to be one of the best amateur games for years.

That is not surprising, considering both sides are famed for their positive attitude to the game and they also play good, passing football.

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Breck Hermitage: Ross French, David Brown, Scott Ross, Brian Anderson, David Aitken, Michael Carse, Andrew Stirling, Michael Laidlaw, Steven Frampton, Chris Welsh, Andy Webb, Gordon Allan, Murray Wright, Keith Miller, Mark Cassidy, Ryan Weir.

Lothian Thistle: Andy Leask, Terry Smith, Damon Otway, Jamie Mitchell, Billy Duncan, Paul Taylor, Chris Aitken, Kevin Swinton, Dean Walker, Chris Malone, Craig Yardley, Craig McIntosh, Stuart Smith, Darren Rae, Michael Smith, Steven Smith.

Referee: Gary McKenzie.

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