The “White” squad made the first ever appearance in a cup final by Linlithgow Rose girls.
They were ultimately to lose out on lifting the trophy in a truly astonishing game, but in terms of heart, skill, effort, dedication and team spirit the Rose girls were genuine winners.
The pre-match talk had been about going out and doing what they have done all season – play good football, enjoy the experience and give a good show, and this is what they did. As the players walked out onto the pitch, the Tannoy blared out their names to wild cheers from the travelling Rose barmy army, surely the best supporters in girls football. Special mention was made by the announcer of Kirsty, who hobbled into the technical area to great applause.
The match kicked off and from the outset you could tell it was going to yet another classic Rose v Hutchie encounter. With the Rose down to 8 after Kirsty's injury (and almost 7 as Anna clocked Tara in the warm up!) it was going to be interesting to see if the big pitch and wet conditions would take their toll.
Such was the tension and excitement, I have to confess to not taking as many game notes as normal, but in only 4 minutes the eye for goal that Laura has saw her latch on to a sweet through ball from Rheanna to slot expertly home, sending the stands into a frenzy. It was great to hear the Tannoy declare “opening goal of the cup final scored for Linlithgow Rose by number 6 Laura Hopwood”.
These two teams are very closely matched, and there were great tussles all over the pitch – Anna and her opposite central midfielder was a true clash of the titans. Two strong, confident girls with bags of pace and skill going head-to head. Zoe facing an ever changing cast of Hutchie forwards and midfielders, all treated with her now trademark coolness and calm.
Rheanna got into her stride and was up and down the wing non-stop up against a strong defender. Ellie electrified the crowd every time she was on the ball, and Tara read the game expertly to break up attack after attack. Beth pulled off one great save that I can recall midway through the half, and Lucy with the heart of a lioness was a buzz bomb wherever she played.
Hutchie had equalised through Kaitlin Rees after about 12 minutes as the game ebbed and flowed. A goalmouth scramble saw the ball smack off the Hutchie post, and other chances went begging at both ends, with defences doing superb work as both squads probed and pressed to take the advantage.
Half time came with the game all square and fans, coaches and players took a well-earned breather from a splendid first half.
Half Time: Hutchison Vale Under 13 Girls 1-1 Linlithgow Rose Under 13 Girls
It was clear from the restart the game would be the same – Hutchie going close with the post coming to the Rose’s rescue within the first 30 seconds. Vale took the lead after a period of pressure with a good goal from Tina O'Hara around the 40 minute mark.
The setback galvanised the Rose girls. They sorted themselves out, and the last 15-20 minutes of the game were – from a Rose point of view - amongst the best periods of football it has been the privilege of Dave and Doug to see. Perhaps unlucky not to be awarded a spot kick when Tara was clunked in the area, the ref rightly blew up to allow her treatment just as Anna was about to pull the trigger.
Ellie charged and tormented the Vale down the left, replacing Rheanna who had done the same, in particular one magnificent 90 yard run which had the crowd on their feet. Zoe and Laura at the back were playing superb balls up the line and through the middle, and Tara was on fire up front – the final touch in front of goals just agonising close, including another header.
Anna worked and worked and covered miles of ground, and Lucy was exceptional, particularly when she deservedly pulled the Rose level with eight to go with a lovely direct run and slot home. The place went, frankly, mental.
While Vale were always dangerous on the attack, the Rose were in the ascendancy in this period – always threatening, working for one another and playing great football - quite remarkable given that all the girls had essentially played the whole game. Fantastic testament to their heart and fitness levels.
Just as everyone was thinking of extra time, the Rose were hit with a sucker punch as with the game 1 ½ minutes into injury time, the Vale striker Shannon Troup smashed one home to claim the Shield.
One of the things that the Rose seek to do is redefine what winning means. Of course it would have been nice to lift the trophy, and it is exactly what we wanted to do, but not a single person at the game today could have described the Rose girls as being losers. There was understandable sadness about the result at the end, but the level of pride that the girls should have in their performance and attitude is huge.
An incredible end to the match – one of the things that makes football such a compellingly excellent game – happened this time to go the way of Hutchie. There is no doubt in my mind that Linlithgow Rose Girls will have their moments in the future.