Gala Fairydean Under-19s 2
Edinburgh City 3
EoS YOUTH LEAGUE CUP FINAL
KENNY PATERSON reports from Victoria Park
AS far as cup final defeats go, this one must rank as one of the cruellest.
In their first ever cup final, Gala Fairydean Under 19s had bravely fought back against a team who had already beaten them four times this season, following Jack Hay’s 89th minute equaliser.
But a lack of concentration saw Chris Anderson’s team concede an injury-time goal, costing the teenagers the chance to take on a tiring City side for an additional 30 minutes in which they would have been favourites.
It was especially tough on Gala’s Allan Smith.
The striker secured an unwanted double cup final defeat in two sports – scoring in Selkirk Youth Club’s Scottish Cup final loss at Murrayfield on Saturday, before netting against Edinburgh City at Innerleithen on Sunday.
However, Anderson, who was coaching his final game with the Fairies, said: “It sounds strange to say, but I have never been so happy after a defeat.
“The team have come a long way since the start of the season.
“We have suffered heavy defeats to City this season, but it was a different game today.
“We were on top for large parts of the match. The boys are heartbroken.
“It would have been nice to have won in my final game. I would like to thank the players, parents and first team coaches for their support this season.”
Gala started the stronger against a City team captained by Earlston’s James Elliot and who had beaten their Borders rivals 6-0 and 7-1 last month.
In an even first half, City almost snatched the lead on 29 minutes, but James Kerr put in a brave challenge to deny Ryan Ma from close range.
But Ma was not to be denied five minutes later, as he volleyed Daniel Gillie’s cross past Tom Kerr.
However, the Dean replied in 39 minutes as Ryan Sclater’s long throw was flicked by Hay into the path of Smith, who headed past Ross Burns.
Going behind again 10 minutes after the break was not part of the Netherdale team’s plan. But defender Calum Irvine, who looked composed throughout, sent forward a long ball which fell behind Gala centre half McBride and keeper Kerr, for midfielder Elliot to score his 16th goal of the season from 10 yards.
Smith started to become more involved – and showed why Dunfermline Athletic are interested in taking the forward to East End Park – with a bustling run past five Edinburgh defenders, only for Burns to palm his shot away.
The defining moment of the match looked like it would be Hay’s miss with 20 minutes to go.
The skilful striker seized on to a long ball from Tom Kerr, but could only slide his effort wide of the post with just the keeper to beat.
However, Hay redeemed himself with a minute to go when he leaped high to head Smith’s perfect cross past Burns.
Just three minutes later, however, Gala’s defensive fragilities were exposed. A long throw-in somehow made it to substitute Craig Healey, who, despite Gala appeals for offside, bundled the ball over the line.
It was tough on Gala, and tears were shed. But for City captain Elliot, it capped a fine season which could yet yield more silverware.
The 18-year-old told TheSouthern: “It was too close in the end and definitely our toughest match against Gala.
“I have signed a two-year deal with the senior team and have played with them a few times this season. I am enjoying my football just now and hopefully that can continue.”
Despite their defeat, Anderson expects a number of the squad that he is leaving for Spartans will go on to better things.
“A number of them are still 16 or 17 and are more than capable of making it into the senior team,” he added.
Gala Fairydean: T. Kerr, R. Sclater, J. Kerr, C. McBride, D. Leckie, D. Halley (B. Runciman 83), B. Lochrie, B. Miller, A. Smith, N. McGurn (A. Stavert 71), J. Hay.
z Gala Fairydean Under-19s are currently recruiting Borders footballers to play in the East of Scotland Youth League for next season. Anyone interested should contact Ally McCulloch on 07971 198344.