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Musselburgh Windsor beat Leith Athletic 3-2 in the semi-final of the South East Region Youth FA’s first division League Cup semi-final. The Windsor outfit tore in to their opponents at Leith Links in what for them must have been the perfect start. The home side were rocked back on their heels as the fired-up side from East Lothian set about them. I want to say how good it was to be at Leith Links to see this game, as I love being there among so many real football people.
The semi-final lacked nothing in excitement and neither did both sides lack support on this very good night for youth club football. I hope you will forgive me if I also say Leith Athletic and Musselburgh are among my favourite football clubs as well. I was like a pig in poo. Don’t panic... Don’t panic... Could well have been the watchwords for the Leith defence in the opening spell. Goalkeeper Jordan Pettigrew and his mates in the Leith rearguard were under enormous pressure from the first whistle from one of the best referees I have seen in any level of football - Kevin Ferguson! He was positively brilliant in every way and like all great referees, it was hard to remember he was on the pitch. Well done, Kevin, and so too to everyone who contributed to this wonderful game of football.
The euphoria among the Windsor fans spilled over each time No 14, Jack Gilchrist, attacked on the right wing. Jack the Lad, this boy and what a player. Not among the most muscled on the pitch, but with such a great attitude and hunger for the game of football and boy, could he shift along. Yes, as a pig in poo, I was in my element! Leith also got going early on, but they ran in to a very compact and well-organised Windsor defence. And what does Euan Tarry’s mother feed him on? The big No 4 in the royal blue of the Windsor defence is a big lad and he packs a wallop, when he clears up at the back or when he tackled opponents. I think it would be correct to say several Leith players felt the full force of big Euan.
Not far behind, either, was No 5, Jamie Strachan. In a Leith attack, No 8 Coll Reekie, charged down an attempted clearance from Windsor keeper, Jack Stewart, but the danger passed and it was up to the other end. Sean Gilroy (No 6) showed his intent with a good shot but it went in to the waiting hands of Leith goalie, Jordan Pettigrew. Hang on to your hat and everything else, was an appropriate warning to the Leith goalie. The hordes in the royal blue had him in their sights. Not all one way, however, as Andrew Taylor (No 11) and No 2, Ross Aitchison - who I thought had a very good game indeed - fired shots in to let Stewart know he was not going to have it all his own way.
Then Jack Lansborough decided it was time those on the Windsor touchlies knew what he was capable of. Power packed shots at goal, although his first attempt was well off target. Aitchison halted the very talented Windsor No 10, Kieran Johnstone - another very strong young footballer - in his tracks with a well-timed tackle. I am enjoying this I said to myself but I hoped no one heard me as they would have got well away from me. Oh, and to my left, who should be there but the glamorous grannie from Craigleith, Gail Swanson, along with one of her grand-daughters and they had their own we game of football going. Enough of that however, as Gail did not have any sausage rolls with her for the auld yin to eat. Again!
On the pitch, it was slam, bang, I’m your man, as big Jack Lansborough literally took my breath away with an astounding shot from 25 yard out that did not just enter the Leith net, as the ball exploded behind the diving Jordan Pettigrew and the singing and dancing started in earnest on the Windsor touchlines. Well, it is a bit over the top to say that, but you know what I mean! Jack Gilchrist was like a boy/man possessed on the right touchline and the Windsor No 14 did not pull out of any tackle, regardless of how big his opponent! I think Jack must have been fed on raw meat for his tea!
Hello, hello, what is going on as Windsor went 2-0 up! Kieran Johnstone was on target in this assault on the Leith goal and his header from an Arran Currie free kick went in to the net at the left-hand post. Come fly with me - was that what I heard from Windsor coach, John Cullen, as he took to the air to celebrate that goal? And with only 15 minutes on the clock the mighy Musselburgh side were 2-0 in front. Was this in the script? Not on your Nellie!
Calum Smart (No 9) had a go at reducing the deficit, but failed! Then another chance for Leith to open their account when Windsor No 5, Jamie Strachan, brought down Marco McBride on the right. Coll Reekie sent his delivery straight to Stewart on that occasion. Curie it was who took all Windsor’s free-kicks within sight of the Leith goal and another from 30yds out troubled the home defenders again. Johnstone, in fact, appeared to have orders from on high (I don’t know if John Cullen had returned to earth) to shoot on sight and another whiz-bang effort was fired at the Leith goal by the Windsor No 9. But things got decidedly worse for Leith when another Curie free-kick from the right was headed home by Kieran Johnstone. That made it 3-0!
Again, Musselburgh attacked on the left and it was the power-packed Kieran Johnstone who smashed a wonderful shot just over the Leith crossbar. When Jamie Strachan joined in the Windsor attacks - that was nor fair, Jamie, as you belonged in the centre of defence - but Ross Aitchison, again, cleared the danger and the Leith contingent breathed again. Meanwhile the shouts and squeals from Gail Swanson and her grand-daughter drew my attention away from the game. Nifty footwork from the glamorous grannie from Craigleith.
Get back to the game, you stupid auld fool! OK! When Lieth No 10 went on a run, in stepped Euan Tarry to win the ball, Wow! The Windsor No 4 made it look so easy! Leith got more in to the game and play flowed from end to end. Jamie Chapman (No 5) was outstanding in the home defence! Great game, Jamie! Coll Reekie continued to fire in shots to teast Stewart in the Windsor goal, but even Gary was in inspired form. He, too, had a wonderful game to remember. Leith needed to score a goal to get back in to the game. But, it was tough, mighty tough for the boys in the famous black-and-white Leith jerseys. No lack of effort, in my opinion, but they were up against a very good Windsor mob. Oh, sorry, team!
While Leith continued to improve, there was no let-up from Windsor. Thou shalt not pass, could have been the watchwords for the big defenders in the royal blue of the house of Windsor. Ha, Jack Gilchrist (remember him) reappeard on the right for Windsor and he powered in another glorious shot at Pettigrew. Leith’s workrate improved and a free-kick from 30 yards out was sent in to the danger area in front of Stewart, but the ball was well-and-truly blootered away!
Ewan Stark (14) and No 9, Calum Smart, were so busy for Leith, but the ball just would not run for them. Conal Prior set off on a good run to roars from the home fans, only for Jack Gilchrist (remember him) got back to tackle the Leith No 14 and take the ball away. Jack, Jack, you weren’t supposed to be back in defence! Prior then threatened any low-flying planes with a wild, wild shot that disappeared to God alone knows where. Another ball, please! Aitchison set up another move for Leith on the right and the ball was passed quickly and accurately to Smart and then on to No 17, Marco McBride - only for the move to break down. Chapman sent a good clearance in to the Windsor half of the tight pitch but that too was snapped up by the big Windsor defenders.
Sean Gilroy (No 6) sent in another superbly taken free kick and the ball was heading in under the Leith crossbar, until Pettigrew stretched himself to his full height, to parry the ball then grab it at the second attempt. Then Leith Links erupted when the home side reduced the deficit to 3-1 shortly before half-time. Another well-taken free kick in to the Windsor goal was tipped towards the right-hand post by Stewart and Coll Reekie knocked the loose ball over the line. That was the score at the break and lo and behold, Gail Swanson, came up to offer me a liquorice sweet, just one, but I had to be thankful for small mercies.
The same applied to Leith. Their solitary goal even at that stage of the game, did not look enough, so they had it all to do in the second half. A great second half I have to say. And Calum Sandison came on for the home side and it was the No 15, who inspired his team-mates with his very good attitude. Where was he in the first half, I asked myself again? It was a rousing second half and Leith, I have to say, threw everything at Windsor in a bid to reduce the deficit. That was when Musselburgh goalie, Stewart, really made his mark on the game.
The very special spirit that marks all Leith Athletic teams came to the fore in a blistering second half. Stewart was immense for Musselburgh and his brave, daring saves at the feet of opponents were quite magnificent. Pettigrew was also in action many times and both keepers, in fact, saved certain goals. Calum Smart looked certain to score for the home side but Stewart won the ball at the feet of the Leith No 9. That was a pivotal moment in the game, as the home side desperately needed a goal. Musselburgh No 14, Jack Gilchrist collided in a sickening accidental challenge with Leith No 5, Jamie Chapman, in a Windsor attack. After treatment, Gilchrist recovered but Chapman had to be helped off and he took no further part in the semi-final. He is such good player, too!
Jay McManus featured in another raid on Stewart's goal and he fed the ball through for Callum Smart to have a go, but Stewart saved and cleared. Leith poured forward on the left but Euan Tarry was almost contemptuous in the way he won tackles and cleared up for Musselburgh. The game roared on and Leith just did not get the breaks they needed.
It was a great semi-final and as time ran out on the home side, Conal Prior forced the ball beyond Stewart to make it 3-2 with only minutes left to play. It took a wonderful tackle from Windsor No 8, Sean Ballard, to halt another good Leith attacking move. While Sandison virtually ran his heart out in a bid to get an equaliser for the home side. It wasn’t to be, however and it will be Musselburgh Windsor that now go on to play Hutchison Vale in what should be a great final. I don’t know, don’t know when, but I know we will meet again some sunny day. Oh, got a wee bit carried away there.
It was a great night at the Links and what a pleasure for me to see how well kept the old clubrooms are maintained and also the immaculate condition of the pitches at Leith Links. That is the way to show respect to our young people. Well done, Leith Athletic and good luck to Musselburgh Windsor, they passed all my expectations. Great game and a great night!
But only one sweetie from my greatest fan, glamour grannie Gail Swanson. How miserable is that, I ask you? Happy holiday in Portugal, Gail.
Full Time: Leith Athletic 2-3 Musselburgh Windsor