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The two best teams in Lanarkshire this season met at Larkhall Thistle's Gasworks Park to contest the Lanarkshire FDA League Cup Final. Meeting for the second time in a week were Gow Valley and Wishaw Wycombe Wanderers in a repeat of last year's final, which Gow won 3-1 to complete the league and cup double.
Fast forward a year and the stakes were similar. Like last season, Gow had already claimed the league title, with Wishaw finishing runners up after the side's league deciding meeting last Tuesday had finished 4-2 to Gow, who wrapped up a second consecutive title. In this match, Gow were looking to complete their first ever treble having claimed the Central Regional Cup just three days ago at Broadwood Stadium.
Wishaw, however, were desperate to stop their rivals claiming a clean sweep of the honours and pick up their first trophy of a season which had saw only two league defeats, both to final opponents Gow, who had also dumped Wanderers out of the Central Region cup.
The build-up promised much, and immediately after the first whistle Wishaw were on the hunt for possession in front of a packed main stand, not allowing Gow Valley the space and time on the ball that they usually enjoy.
Inside the first five minutes Wishaw had their first sight of goal, as Gary Torrance fed Christopher Buick on the right wing to cross to the near post to Cameron Pow, but his effort landed wide of the post.
Less than a minute later, Wishaw were denied what would surely have been a goal by a last ditch block by Gow’s Cameron Taylor, who slid to superbly stop Ross Park from making a back post tap-in after Kieran Craw in the Gow Valley goal mis-held a long range shot from the left of his penalty area which had skidded along the wet turf.
Gow struggled to escape their own half in the first twenty minutes, but despite their early dominance, Wishaw failed to further trouble Craw as efforts from Park, Pow and Euan Leonard were off target.
Wishaw were almost made to pay for not scoring while they were on top after a move down the left wing involving Taylor, Fraser Allan and Lee Stubbs led to Stubbs firing a dangerous low ball across goal, which was diverted towards his own net by centre back Dom Lunny. However, Aidan Sheridan stopped the own goal with an instinctive save to tip wide.
Gow’s five man midfield of Jack and Jamie McDonald, Luke Currie, Lee Stubbs and Fraser Allan were beginning to wrestle control of the match from Wishaw, whose 4-4-2 set up left a spare man in the centre for Gow, and the central pairing of the McDonald brothers were starting to provide the service which strikers Scott Thomson and Darren Wilson had been starved of in the opening exchanges. From one pass from Jack McDonald, Thomson had the ball in the net, but it was ruled out for a push by Thomson on Lunny as he looked to latch on to the pass.
Gow were now in the ascendency, but like Wishaw earlier in the match failed to seriously threaten the goal, with efforts from Stubbs and Currie being easily dealt with by Sheridan.
On the stroke of half time, Gow scored the goal that their play in the latter stages of the first half deserved through Jack McDonald’s speculative long range free kick, which slipped through the gloves of the despairing Sheridan and into the roof of the net to give Gow the lead.
Straight from kick off, and into stoppage time at the end of the regulation 35 minutes of play, Wishaw almost equalised. Ross Park found space at the back post from a long ball from Lunny on the half way line, but his well struck volley was matched by the brilliance of Craw, who repeated his Regional Cup final heroics with another fine flying save to preserve his side’s lead going into the break.
Half Time: Gow Valley 1-0 Wishaw Wycombe Wanderers
Gow began the second half as they had ended the first, without stretching Sheridan through efforts from Stubbs and McDonald.
Like their rivals in the first half, Wishaw recovered from a poor start to the period and began to come into the game, and could have equalised when Park’s free header from a corner flew over.
They came even closer with twenty minutes remaining, with what was almost a carbon copy of Jack McDonald’s first half goal from 30 yards. However, Keirran Jessimer’s effort crashed off the crossbar from the same distance and away to safety.
As the match entered the final ten minutes, Wishaw rolled their last dice and brought on two strikers for defenders, including ex-Gow player Adam Breslin, who had scored against Wishaw in this fixture last season.
However, Gow saw the remaining minutes, including over five minutes of added time, out expertly, restricting Wishaw to long range efforts and high crosses into the box which Craw dealt with comfortably. They kept possession, and frustrated Wishaw to run the clock down, even coming close to adding a second as Wilson forced Sheridan into a smart save with a high effort from the left angle of the penalty area.
The final whistle was soon to follow, which sealed the treble for Gow in a season where only the Scottish Cup has escaped their clutches, and in which they have never been beaten in normal time in all competitions.
Full Time: Gow Valley 1-0 Wishaw Wycombe Wanderers