‘Football...bloody hell.’The mercurial quote from Alex Ferguson has never been more apt. You can forget El Clásico and you can forget the Champions League. If I see another game as barmy, tenacious, topsy-turvy, crazy or emotional as this Scottish Youth FA Cup semi final, before the year is out, then I will march into a Scottish independence rally wearing an England shirt with the St George’s cross emblazoned across my face.
The cup-tie, between Dundee West and Airdrie United, exploded into life right from the start as Airdrie took a 1-0 lead early on through Jack McKnight. Dundee West soon found themselves down a man but managed to battle back as they equalized in the 14th minute courtesy of Liam Fitzsimmons’ header. Despite numerous chances the score remained at one apiece upon the half time whistle.
The second half was a goal feast as Airdrie scored twice in quick succession, early on in the period. Jack Taylor and Marcus Boyce were the men to give them a 3-1 lead. However, Dundee West, once again drew themselves back into it as Nathan Scott scored from a free kick to make it 3-2. Soon after Airdrie were, themselves, down to ten men and a Dundee West equaliser looked possible. However, the home side then lost another man to the referee’s red card as Fitzsimmons also walked. Kieron McParland looked to have given Airdrie the win as he made it 4-2 with ten minutes to go. However, a late Ryan Smith double ensured that the game would go into extra time.
A fourth red card emerged in extra time as Mitchell Hay was the third Dundee West man to be sent off before Airdrie took the lead once more in the 112th minute courtesy of a wonderful solo effort from McParland. Ross Henderson soon made it 6-4, which was enough to see Airdrie through to the final, despite a late reply from Mathew Brown.
Like I said, one ridiculous game of football…
Airdrie began the semi final in lightning fashion, netting after just four minutes. From a throw in, Christopher Lang was able to head the ball on into the Dundee West penalty area. McKnight rose above everyone else to meet the looping ball and headed past the ‘keeper to give the visitors a perfect start.
Dundee West very nearly executed the perfect response to going behind as Nathan Scott found the back of the net a couple of minutes later. Unfortunately for them the linesman’s flag denied them an instant equaliser.
With seven minutes on the clock the game suddenly became a lot more challenging for the home team as goalkeeper, Donald Ferguson, was sent off after reacting badly to an Airdrie challenge. Dundee West now had to contend with a numerical disadvantage as well as being a goal down.
Despite the hindrance of being a man down Dundee West continued to be efficient and found ways to threaten the Airdrie goal. In the 12th minute Nicholas Scott unleashed a shot after the ball fell to him inside the penalty area. His effort, however, was headed clear off the goal line.
However, just a couple of minutes later the score was 1-1. Fitzsimmons was able to head home from a Nathan Scott cross to really get the pulses racing.
Both teams continued to produce an end-to-end spectacle. Christopher O’Kane very nearly scored with a free kick that sailed just over the crossbar and, a few moments later, the Airdrie boys put together a nifty move that allowed McKnight to have a pop at the target. Michael Ellwood, donning the gloves for Dundee West, made a terrific save to turn the number 14’s strike past the post.
In response Nathan Scott teed up Fitzsimmons for an attempt at goal which needed turning past the post by Tony Sharkey.
In the 34th minute Boyce came close to scoring, but Ellwood was there to make the save again and, shortly afterwards, Nathan Scott nearly turned a free kick into the bottom right hand corner but it was parried away by Sharkey. Both goalkeepers were getting a workout.
The goalmouth action continued to come thick and fast as Boyce smashed a strike against the post in the 37th minute, before Kieran Devine put the rebound wide of the mark.
With the last kick of the first half Airdrie United were standing in disbelief at how they had not scored a second. A header from a corner had been stopped on the line but Sean Mullen, pouncing on the loose ball, put the ball wide from just yards out.