Some years ago, on TV, former Liverpool striker and Scottish Internationalist, Ian St John, hosted a football programme with that great ‘poacher’ of goals in England, for Spurs and also for the national side, Jimmy Greaves. The former Spurs player was a Londoner with a permanent smile on a face that was adorned with a ‘walrus’ moustache. One of Greaves’ most favourite sayings - and it was something that was also adopted by many others – was, “It’s a funny old game, Saint!”.
That came in to my mind as I watched St Margaret’s hammer six goals past Linlithgow Academy in the under 13 West Lothian Schools League Cup final - without reply! There was nothing ‘funny’ at all in that scoreline for the beaten side! But, it must be a ‘funny old game’ indeed when the league champions get beat 6-0! Yes, Linlithgow won the title and along the way, they beat St Margaret’s 5-1! But, in the plush surroundings of Albyn Park in Broxburn, and on the most glorious synthetic pitch, the Livingston school side turned the tables on Linlithgow and quite literally outplayed them in every area of the big pitch.
It was not ‘funny’ to watch but neither was the penalty awarded to St Margaret’s in the second half! I was at the end of the pitch where a St Margaret’s player went down in a strong tackle and I thought the young referee, Stephen Rintoul, had awarded a free kick to the right of the 18yd box! I was wrong (again) as the match official pointed to the spot. He gave a penalty against Linlithgow - when the tackle was made OUTSIDE the penalty box! It was like watching England in the Euro championships, everything is going their way! Did I miss something at Broxburn, did another ‘offence’ take place in the box? Everyone was well and truly baffled, but Lewis Cole buried the spot-kick behind Linlithgow keeper, Liam Ballie, to put St Margaret’s 5-0 in front. How do I know the name of the Linlithgow goalkeeper? I had to ask as none of the Linlithgow players had numbers on their jerseys. Yes, I think I too, could say: “It’s a funny old game!” Is it possible the teachers in charge of the Linlithgow team knew they would be ‘rolled over’ in the final and they did not want me or other reporters to name the players? I doubt it, but it is hopeless to try to report on a game in which the players are not numbered, St Margaret’s did have numbers on their very smart outfits and the ‘numbers added up’ at Broxburn.
In this final, the team from Livingston were streets ahead of their opponents. Certainly, Linlithgow did have several players on the pitch who did not deserve to be on the wrong end of a 6-0 defeat, but football is funny in that way! The night belonged to St Margaret’s! From start to finish, helped I must say, by the ‘funny’ decision to award them a penalty!
A good free-kick from Ronan McGonigle was put away, expertly, by Shaun McCabe - what a super young player he is! Saints were on their way and Shaun’s goal put them 1-0 in front after 15min of very good action on the pitch. All the best football in the final came from St Margaret’s! And, in the 22nd minute they went further ahead. Lewis Cole was involved in setting up Teni Akinktola - what a great yong player he is - and for the St Margaret’s No 9 that was the start of his ‘reign of terror’ on the Linlithgow defence. I give Akintola top marks in this game, in fact Teni of Ten!
I simply loved seeing this good young prospect on the ball and when he did get the ball at his feet, Linlithgow were in trouble! Big trouble from this young loose-limbed player with loads of talent - and a huge smile to match! St Margaret’s did not have it all their own way but when Linlithgow attacked more good players emerged for St Margaret’s. Kyle McNeil, with his upright style, was magnificent in the centre of defence. So, too, were the rest of the St Margaret’s defence.
Linlithgow worked so hard to turn the game in their favour, but finals are funny games as we all know. Whatever Linlithgow tried to do, it did not come off for them! St Margaret’s ‘name was on the cup’ and they went on to score another goal, and guess who scored again? Teni Akintola himself! And it was time to ‘roll out the red carpet’ for the St Margaret’s No 9 when he completed his hat-trick with a wonderful solo effort and that goal made it 4-0 at half-time.
In the second period, Linlithgow looked much more confident in many ways, and they worked so hard to score a goal. Shots from all over the place could not produce they goal they wanted! The Saint Margaret’s keeper was in great form. At the other end of the big pitch, it was a different story! And I defy anyone from Linlithgow Academy to say they saw ‘the funny side’ in the award of the penalty that never was! Lewis Cole was laughing ‘all the way to the bank’ however after he slammed the ball in to the corner of the net. St Margaret’s were, indeed, cruising at 5-0! With the Linlithgow defenders pushing forward in search of that elusive goal, Taylor Shevlin was given far too much time and space and the St Margaret’s No 10 ran from the halfway line on the left to send a low shot in to the Linlithgow net to make the final score 6-0. In the closing minutes, St Margaret’s Stewart Scott fired another good effort over Baillie’s crossbar.