As crowds descended on Saughton Enclosure for the third annual Craig Gowans Memorial Match, not many could predict the fairy-tale story that was about to unfold. With a star studded Scotland Legends line-up recruited to face a Hutchison Vale (Craig Gowans former youth club) select, things boded well for an exciting day of football. The first silverware on offer was at the Under 10 age group and fittingly Stewart's Melville, Craig's former school, were victorious with a fine display of football. And the icing on the cake came when Hutchison Vale came from behind twice to edge out Scotland and lift the main trophy.
However, results were always going to pale into insignificance in a day which was dedicated to the best of causes. The doors opened early with young players from eight Under 10 teams ready to start the show. Hutchison Vale were joined by Edinburgh City, AC Oxgangs, Haddington, North Berwick, Musselburgh Windsor, Lochend YFC and Stewart's Melville in a soccer sixes round robin. The standard of football was exceptionally high, with young players expressing themselves freely admidst minimal parental interference. All games were played in good spirit and although the top dogs were the young players from Stewart's Melville (who saw off closest challengers Musselburgh Windsor in the last match), it's safe to say all of the young players took a great deal of positives from the experience.
Whilst the pitch was centre stage, the perimeter was packed with things to do for those who weren't playing. Hot Shots Soccer gave every team the chance to test the speed of their shot. Chaplin's Disco provided the music. Play2Learn
offered players the the chance to take another on 1 vs 1 in 'The Cage'. And the Stewart's Melville Pipe Band gave a top class show, before welcoming the players of Scotland and Hutchison Vale to the arena.
The match itself was the top of the bill and it certainly didn't disappoint. A strong Scotland lineup showed their intention in the early stages, knocking the ball about with ease and letting their more youthful opponents do the early chasing. The pressure told and with less than ten minutes on the clock the men in dark blue struck. Simon Donnelly taking advantage of a shot pass and lifting the ball over Henry Smith in the Hutchison Vale goal.
At this stage it looked ominous for Vale but they had a secret weapon of their young. Former Hutchie kid and Berwick Rangers forward Gary Wood struck twice within five minutes to turn the tie on its head. A close range half volley was followed by a superb glancing header to put the host side in the ascendancy.
But the twists and turns were just getting started! A Darren Jackson wonderstrike levelled the scores and the former Hibs, Hearts and Celtic striker turned provider when he crossed for Gordon Durie minutes later. Durie needed no second invitation to sweep the ball into the back of the net.
The second half was a little more cagey as Scotland held onto their slender lead. But in keeping with the day's tone, more excitement was just around the corner. David Bowman was adjudged to have handled on the line (we will soon clear that up when the YFS TV highlights are online!) and referee Kenny Clark pointed straight to the spot. Craig Stevenson was the main entrusted with the spot kick and he showed composure in abundance to send Gordon Marshall the wrong way and make it 3-3.
Anwar Thabet then rocketed home a superb strike to put Vale in the lead. 4-3 and the final whistle was within touching distance! There wasn't long left on the clock but every minute contained a talking point. Tam Smith was presented an excellent opportunity for Vale, followed by Simon Donnelly for Scotland, but neither goal was breached and the scoreline remained.
Hutchison Vale lifted the trophy and both sets of players wasted little time tucking into a feast provided in the Clubrooms. A day with fond memories for so many, and a fitting tribute to the late Craig Gowans. Still to follow are full highlights of the day on YFS TV. But for now, why not donate to a truly wonderful cause by clicking here
? More than £25,000 has been raised in the last six years with the Sick Kids Friends Foundation, whose newly acquired bus was on show, amongst the recipients.