A topsy-turvy SSFA Shield final at Airdrie’s Excelsior Stadium was eventually won by Broughton High School who triumphed 3-2 over Grange Academy.
Broughton went ahead within the first five minutes through Matty Combe, but saw the lead disappear not even five minutes later when Billy Gilmour equalised for Grange. Gilmour then put his side ahead with a back post header only for Broughton to get back on level terms before half time thanks to Michael Reilly.
The only goal of the second half turned out to be the winner, Kris Gaff scoring it after some fantastic play from man of the match Joao Balde.
With Grange Academy impressing in their semi final hammering of St. John’s, whose under 18 side won the Senior Shield, they would have been full of confidence going into this match but their confidence and preparation took a beating as Broughton took the lead early on.
A free kick from the middle of the park was held up well by Gaff, bringing it down and allowing Balde to lay it off for Combe to guide it low into the bottom corner past the diving David Wilson.
It was the ideal start for Broughton whose vociferous support were proudly backing their side but the game was turned on its head in a three minute spell that saw Grange take the lead.
Captain Josh Walker led by example, driving forward through the middle of the park unchallenged, with Jamie Nielson acting as a makeshift blocker like something you’d see in American Football, tangling with a defender and preventing the challenge, giving Walker the space to enter the box and get his shot away. His effort struck the crossbar but fell kindly to Gilmour who had the presence of mind to take his time and pick his spot.
Then, barely a few minutes later, right back David Stark’s cross was inch-perfect to the back post where Gilmour was marked but unchallenged to head home his and his side’s second.
The momentum was well and truly with Grange now and Harry Cochrane gallivanted through the middle of Broughton’s defence unhindered, firing off a shot from the edge of the box that forced a smart stop from Chris Peden.
Nielson showed a glimpse of the technical side of his game when he beautifully turned defender Owen Barnes but the Broughton centre half recovered magnificently to get in a tackle and prevent the scoring opportunity.
It might have been the most important moment of the match as the tide shifted towards Broughton shortly after. Balde’s floated pass over the top almost put through Combe but Stark read the danger well and came across to intercept.
No Grange defender could do anything though when Reilly and Gaff combined down the right wing, exchanging passes as they entered the box before Reilly found the finish to level the scores.
All square at half time was a fair reflection on an even match with both teams hungry to win and clearly giving 100%, with the referee having to step in to calm things down after a few tasty challenges.