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National Competitions (407)

They don't come more action packed than this. A helter skelter semi-final came down to the dreaded shoot out at James McGrory Park, and after sudden death spot kicks, Spartans finally booked their place in next month’s final. It was drama all the way though, a great home turn out cheering on opponents who pushed them all the way.

Somebody had to lose, and it was tough on the Jimmy Johnstone Academy who had forced two last gasp levellers at the end of both regulation and extra time. This will have been a two hour nerve shredder for both dug outs and some exhausted players, and it’s unlikely that this reporter will see too many goalkeepers equalising direct from a set piece at the end of extra time.

The sides were well matched throughout, but Reece Mason’s early opener had begun to look like the winning goal, until with one last throw of the dice JJA lobbed a set piece into the box and the ball cannoned off a Spartans body, forcing extra time.

The home support erupted and it would have folded a lot of teams, but Spartans showed great spirit in extra time and retook the lead, only another last dash JJA special to force spot kicks.

The opener on 12 minutes was Spartans’ first real foray up the field, as Mason showed great pace and strength to shrug of his marker on the quick break down the right side of the box. The front man looked up and picked out Jack Crombie in the middle to dispatch the opener, against the early run of play.

JJA had been pressing well up the pitch with a lot of possession to this point, only to be undone by that sucker punch. They continued to build the play in the middle, but lacked the cutting edge of their opponents, whose goal scorer remained the focal point of every swift counter.

There really wasn’t much between the sides as the opening half drew to a close, with few further clear cut chances. Joseph Evenden could maybe have doubled Spartans lead midway as he latched on to a Mason through ball but Josh Ashburn was alert to rush out and block, while JJA struggled to carve out a clear sight of goal.

Syngenta Juveniles withstood late pressure from Harmony Row YC to secure a 2-1 victory and progress into the Scottish Youth FA Cup final.

An emphatic strike on the quarter of an hour mark from Michael McQueen edged Syngenta in front before Robbie McCafferty extended the lead in the 35th minute. Lewis Carey pulled one back for Harmony Row but despite a flurry of late chances, a heroic performance from goalkeeper Allan Dickson ensured the Grangemouth team emerged victors.  

The tie started at a frenetic pace and it was Syngenta who would carve out the first clear cut opportunity. Callan Stone showed vision to pick out Sean Fagan, who drilled a shot inches wide of the left post.

Minutes later Stone was again showing promise as he megged his man and drove infield. The winger found Alex Thomson with a low pass, who in turn reversed the ball into space for Flynn Gray. The forward’s strike was expertly touched past the post by Matthew Boyle.

The Dyes’ early pressure paid off in the 15th minute. Mitchell Speirs whipped in a cross, which Harmony Row failed to deal with and McQueen was on hand to bury the loose ball into the back of the net.

Row responded and were denied an equaliser by Dickson. Thomas Seagrave created space on the edge of the area and fired an effort towards goal but Dickson diverted the ball over the bar.

Syngenta were caught sleeping from the resulting corner allowing Daniel O’Neill to meet Ross McKenzie’s delivery on the volley. However, the defender could only direct the effort into the side netting.

The Dyes managed to double their lead with the last clear cut chance of the half. McCafferty’s pace saw him break through on goal and the midfielder was clinical as he rifled home to make it 2-0.

Monday, 06 March 2017 11:55

Five star England too much for young Scots

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It was to be a difficult opener for Scotland in this year’s Centenary Shield, as England ran out emphatic winners on a freezing night at Cappielow. There was little between the sides last year, but the reigning holders showed a ruthless streak from early on this time around and the result never seemed in any doubt.

Pace and power up front were the key to five well worked England goals. The match ball undoubtedly went to 4 goal Kingsford Adjei, who had run the Scots defence ragged all night. In the end the final whistle came as a relief to some tired Scottish legs.

They were two down with half an hour gone, but the Scots had settled and given a better account of themselves as they fought on until half time. It was only really into the second half that England took the game by the scruff of the neck, and home heads started to drop.

The first goal settled any nerves with just three minutes on the clock, as England won a corner down the left, and loose marking at Daniel Barlow’s delivery allowed Adjei to swoop inside the 6 yard box drill past Ross Connolly. It was all about pace early on, with Barlow and Adjei ringing all the alarms every time they got into the final third. The Scots escaped further damage on 19 minutes as Adjei put Jack Butler clean through on goal, with the striker shooting just wide.

Scotland looked fragile at the back but managed to settle for a spell and put together some passes of their own. A first chance arrived on 32 minutes as Matthew Reilly swung in a delivery for Kyle Banner but he could only shoot straight at Aidan Stone.

And England duly went up field to extend their advantage a minute later as Adjei combined with Connor Short down the right and the striker capped a flowing move to place his second of the night past Connolly.

Scotland couldn’t find a way to respond as England’s back line held firm. Kieran Sweeney and Declan Glass ran the channels well but found themselves all too often isolated in attack. Two goals down at the break, Scotland had to find something different to get anything from this contest.

Monday, 27 February 2017 19:54

Keillor-Dunn strike seals points for Staggies

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Dundee were narrowly beaten by Ross County in the Development League. Davis Keillor-Dunn’s free kick early in the second half secured all three points for the Staggies, who sit second in the league table.

Dundee started brightly and should have been ahead inside five minutes when Josh Skelly slipped the ball into Connor Coupe, but the Dundee winger fired over from inside the penalty area.

Both sides were cancelling each other out in the midfield, with neither goalkeeper being called into action inside the opening 15 minutes. County’s James Wallace should have done better with his header from Jonathan Franks delivery, but the midfielder could only put his header wide of the mark.

Dundee keeper Callum Ferrie was called into action midway through the first half, pushing away Franks low cross-cum-shot. Dundee’s best chance of the half came with eight minutes of the first half remaining. Daniel Higgins heading Josh Skelly’s free kick over the bar from close range.

This was Skelly’s last contribution in the match, as with four minutes remaining the man currently on loan at Arbroath went off injured. The striker leading the Dundee counter-attack, but pulled up in the centre circle.

Tuesday afternoon saw the Development League leaders bounce back from their SFA Youth Cup loss on Friday to extend their advantage at the top of the table, putting four goals past an Aberdeen side who sit in mid-table. A brace each from Oli Shaw and Jamie Gullan cancelled out Frank Ross’ opener for the visitors.

The game started at a frantic pace, with both sides zipping the ball around at a quick tempo in the opening stages. The first effort on goal came from Adam Watson just two minutes in, although his low strike from outside the box lacked conviction and rolled into Robbie Mutch’s hands.

Watson then tried his luck again five minutes later after Jamie Gullan slid him in, and this time he brought more out of Robbie Mutch, who parried the shot away for a corner.

Despite the Hibees enterprising start, it was the Dons who got their name on the scoresheet first in the 12th minute. When Jack Ross picked up the ball on the edge of the box it appeared nothing was on, but he thought differently, as he drove past the Hibs rear-guard, steadied himself and rifled a shot high beyond Scott Gallacher in goal – a fine example of creating something out of nothing.

Hibs nearly replied instantly through Kevin Waugh in the 15th minute, although his near post header was held by Mutch without any problem.

Gullan then came close for the hosts twice in quick succession, who were certainly knocking on the door at this stage. The first of his chances came in the 18th minute Watson crossed for him at the back post, although he struggled to connect properly with the resulting volley. He also had a firm effort on Aberdeen’s goal two minutes later, but the shot was too central and Mutch was able to guide the shot away from goal.

Hibernian’s pressure paid off on 22 minutes, and it required a bit of class from Oli Shaw to open his side’s account. After Watson slid him in on the right-hand side, he took a magnificent touch to take the ball away from the Dons defender, before calmly slotting the ball beyond Mutch’s grasp into the far corner. A deserved equaliser for the Hibees.

Watson then should have got his own name on the scoresheet two minutes later, although he fluffed his lines after a fast-sweeping counter-attack lead to Sean Mackie drilling the ball across goal, but the finish wasn’t there to match.

Aberdeen, who were struggling to create many opportunities, nearly scored in the 26th minute through Scott Wright. After a mix-up between the Hibs defence, he chipped an effort over Gallacher, and was desperately unlucky to see the ball clip the crossbar and leave the sides level going into the break.

Friday, 17 February 2017 23:55

Celtic progress past Hibees in tight cup clash

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Celtic secured their passage into the SFA Youth Cup semi-finals on Friday afternoon, as a solitary strike from Josh Kerr midway through the first-half was enough to give The Hoops victory at the Oriam Centre in Edinburgh.

The match started in a manner which carried on for the rest of the 90 minutes; cagey, and Fraser Murray created the only opportunity in the opening 20 minutes for Hibs. Although his first-time strike from Oli Shaw’s neat knockdown went well over.

Shaw was then at the centre of attention again ten minutes later, as he was brought down by Conor Hazard when racing in on goal. Despite protests, the referee adjudged the incident to be nothing more than a booking for the Celtic goalkeeper.

As the first half progressed it was Celtic who began to seize control and dominate possession, and they nearly took the lead on 20 minutes when a sliced clearance from Mark Hill’s corner almost resulted in an own-goal, but the ball looped up over the bar and saved the Hibees from any blushes.

Archibald then came close for Celtic five minutes later, as his powerful effort from distance skidded off the surface, but ultimately drifted off target.

The Hoops, despite creating little, looked the more likely to open the scoring in a tight first-half, and they did just that on the half-hour mark. When a long throw-in went into Jack Aitchison, the tightly-marked striker did well to lay the ball off into Josh Kerr’s path, who was never going to turn down the opportunity from close range.

Calvin Miller, who had been a lively figure for much of the first-half on the left-wing, manged to get a half-decent shot away before half-time, but the angle was narrow and he failed to hit the target from just inside the box.

Thursday, 16 February 2017 16:31

West Lothian edge out Dundee in National Trophy

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West Lothian Schools' secured their place in the semi-final of the SSFA National Trophy courtesy of penalty shootout against Dundee Schools'. The visitors lead 2-0 early in the second half courtesy of goals from Taylor Shelvin and Nathan Donnelly-Kay, but the hosts fought back with goals from Adam Brown and Nathan Scott levelling the tie. Donnelly-Kay’s second of the match put the visitors back in front late on but there was still enough time remaining for Harry Dow to find the net and take the game to a penalty shootout, that West Lothian went on to win.

After a back and forth opening, the visitors went ahead after 10 minutes. West Lothian’s quick corner caught the Dundee defence, who could only stand and watch as Taylor Shelvin turned the ball in from close range.

Dundee responded well, as Finlay Baird set up Adam Brown, but the striker’s effort was wide of the mark. Nathan Donnelly-Kay forced Dundee keeper Fraser Burnett into a save after 18 minutes, before Dundee’s Blair Whyte volleyed wide from the top of the box.

The windy conditions were influencing the game, and nearly brought Dundee an equaliser as Lewis Finnie’s cross landed just wide of the West Lothian goal midway through the first half. The hosts felt they should have had a penalty after 36 minutes as Rory Faulkner went down inside the area, but the referee was unmoved despite the appeals.

West Lothian nearly doubled their lead five minutes before the break. A mistake from Finnie allowed Shelvin in one-on-one with Burnett, but the Dundee keeper came out on top as he pushed the shot away from danger.

Monday, 13 February 2017 17:42

Dundee see off Dunfermline in Development League

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A Nick Ross brace secured all three points for Dundee in their Development League fixture with Dunfermline. The former Inverness man struck twice in a matter of minutes just before half to ensure the victory for the Dark Blues.

Dundee were moving the ball well in the opening stages, but failed to test Cammy Gill in the Dunfermline goal. Evan Horne headed just wide for the visitors before Dundee’s Marc Klok fierce volley after 20 minutes was Gill’s first test. James Vincent headed Ian Smith’s cross wide not long after.

With just over half an hour gone, Dundee took the lead. Danny Williams won the ball high up the pitch and laid the ball back for Vincent, who found Ross, and the midfielder drilled the ball past Gill from the top of the box.

It took Dundee just four minutes to add a second. Sam Dryden’s cross was met by Ian Smith, who volleyed the ball across the face of goal to Ross, who steered the ball home from close range.

The Dees were threatening to run riot, as Williams saw his shot blocked by a Dunfermline defender before Gill made a fingertip save to push Ian Smith’s shot round the post. Vincent was next to have a go, but was also denied by Gill.

Tuesday, 07 February 2017 18:34

Dons beat Caley on rainy day

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It was a wet spectacle at Spain Park where 9th place Aberdeen welcomed 12th place Inverness Caledonian Thistle. 

Inverness had a bright start to the game and threatened the Aberdeen rearguard on a number of occasions however weren’t clear cut enough to test Robbie Mutch in the Aberdeen goal.

Dons boss Paul Sheerin handed starts to Miles Storey, Peter Pawlett and Jayden Stockley. Caley manager Duncan Shearer fielded a youthful side with only Alex Fisher over the age of 20.

The hosts took a while to get into the game and took the lead against the run of play after Storey played in Pawlett who went on a mazy run before firing home after 14 minutes.

Caley tried to get back into the game and Blair McLennan played in Fisher whose effort on target went straight to Robbie Mutch.

The visitors were made to pay for that chance when Aberdeen went 2-0 up after 28 minutes. Pawlett played in Storey and the former Caley forward tucked the ball home.

Aberdeen had a great opportunity to be in an even more comfortable position going into half time after a dangerous ball came in by Frank Ross which was met by the head of Harlain Mbayo whose goal bound attempt was blocked off the line by Chris Brown.

Tuesday, 07 February 2017 16:44

Dees beat Saints in basement battle

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Dundee moved off the foot of the Development League table with a 3-1 win over St Johnstone. A brace from Craig Wighton and a superb strike from Josh Skelly were enough for the Dees to take the points against Saints, who scored through Joseph Johnson.
The hosts were first to threaten inside the opening minute. Goalkeeper Ben Mackenzie’s long ball caught out the Dundee defence and allowed Michael Coulson in on goal, but his effort was straight at Kyle Gourlay.
Wighton’s first of the game came after just eight minutes. Daniel Higgins clipped the ball into the box and Wighton fired past Mackenzie from close range.
Saints took just two minutes to equalise, as Craig Thomson’s low drive was saved by Gourlay, into the path of Johnson, who back heeled the ball in from close range.
Johnson managed to get in behind the Dundee defence after 19 minutes, but was denied by Gourlay. Wighton brought a save out of Mackenzie on the half hour mark, before Faissal El Bakhtaoui volleyed Sam Dryden’s cross over from close range.
With half time approaching, Dundee went back in front. Ian Smith’s free kick was headed down by Kerr Waddell, into Wighton who poked the ball home from close range, after some poor Saints defending.
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