Plucky Peebles take the lead, but fall at final hurdle

Peebles Rovers' Sean Conaghan finds it tough going against Leith Athletic in the Alex Jack Cup final

Peebles Rovers' Sean Conaghan finds it tough going against Leith Athletic in the Alex Jack Cup final

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Leith Athletic 4

Peebles Rovers 1

Leith Athletic celebrate with the Alex Jack trophy

Leith Athletic celebrate with the Alex Jack trophy

Peebles Rovers manager John O’Hara believes fitness levels counted against his side in their Alex Jack Cup final.

Despite taking a first-half lead, Rovers conceded three second-period goals to cup holders Leith Athletic and had Johnny Flockhart sent off as the heavy Victoria Park pitch took its toll.

But O’Hara was proud of his side’s showing against the East of Scotland Premier Division leaders.

O’Hara said: “Leith will walk their league, but we have competed with them for 60 minutes.

“Their fitness showed in the second half and they deserved to win, although at half-time I never thought we would lose 4-1.

“All of my players gave 100 per cent and that is all I ever ask. We have come from the depths of the First Division, when we were a laughing stock, to where we are now, competing against the Premier Division leaders.”

Peebles went into the final as First Division frontrunners, and had knocked out Premier teams Tynecastle and Easthouses Lily in the process of making the cup final.

But Leith were a tougher proposition, sitting three points clear in the Premier, and aiming for a hat-trick of Alex Jack wins.

However, there was little difference between the sides in a first half devoid of quality.

The sticky Victoria Park surface did not help the standard of play, and it also played a part in the opening goal in the 10th minute.

Rovers left back Daniel McAleavy played a lofted through-ball which Leith goalkeeper Iain Gordon looked likely to claim until he slipped and pulled down Scott Sutherland for an obvious penalty. Centre half Jim Young converted and Rovers were ahead.

McAleavy and Sutherland almost set up a second, but the latter’s shot was saved, this time by Gordon.

The usually free-scoring Athletic looked unlikely to net until Peebles goalkeeper Darren Walker spilled a Jamie Lauder shot, and Keith Murray fired in the rebound 10 minutes before the break.

An even first half was replaced by a second period dominated by Leith, and Derek Riddell’s team went ahead when Robbie Mason’s 63rd-minute corner was bundled into his own net by Geri Rossi.

As the Tweeddale outfit attempted to push up the park for an equaliser, they left themselves exposed and were duly punished by Leith striker Murray to claim a hat-trick.

He beat Peebles’ offside trap to round Walker and slot in after 74 minutes, and four minutes later the impressive Grant Burns played in Mason, whose pass saw Murray make it 4-1.

Flockhart’s protests for the fourth goal – he incorrectly argued Murray was offside – earned him a second yellow card from referee Evan Cairns to round off a disappointing, but not season-ending, cup final defeat.