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Campsie Black Watch and Knightwood Juveniles lined up for this game in front of an evenly-split support inside the Excelsior Stadium. With both teams in indomitable form heading into this SYFA Challenge Cup final, the stage was set for a closely fought game.
Knightswood kicked off the first half, and got the game’s first good chance as a wicked low cross whistled past Campsie goalkeeper Martin Storey’s goalmouth. Within the first five minutes, he’d be called into action to get a hand to good shot from Kirk Walker.
For Black Watch’s part, chances in the early going were few and far between. Against a highly organised Knightswood midfield and defence, the only notable chances for the reds were from some audacious long-range shots, courtesy of Declan Cairney and captain Nicholas Prentice.
Just on the stroke of 10 minutes, however, Cairney beat a defender and slotted home past Mark Crawford, to claim the game’s first goal for Black Watch. The Juveniles had looked imposing, but evidently they weren’t impenetrable.
Perhaps Knightswood were rattled by conceding, but their dominance promptly ceased. The game had opened up into a more even contest. Knightswood won a free kick on 15 minutes, but captain Darren Miller struck his resulting shot just wide. Martin Storey, quickly proving his prowess in goal, might have had it covered regardless.
The 18th minute would see Knightswood goalkeeper Mark Crawford collect the ball from the feet of an advancing striker. Crawford got the ball, but also the man, and the referee awarded a Campsie penalty. Ciaran McElroy took this and shot hard into the top of the net, making it 2-0 to Campsie in some style. This was just the first 20 minutes Black Watch would have wanted: it saw them make the most of the possession they were given to put themselves clearly out in front. They hadn’t dominated, but played cleverly.
Knightswood were hardly out of ideas, however. Jordan McCue displayed some neat distribution on the right side of midfield, and Campsie’s defenders couldn’t get possession from Kirk Walker for love nor money. The team was having no trouble building up forays into their opponents half; rather, it was just that a David Donnelly and William Whiteford-led defence had the discipline to confidently rid themselves of any Knightswood pressure. Even once the Juveniles’ strikers had breached the defensive line, as Fraser Team did on 31 minutes, the opposing goalkeeper could be relied on to
The team in white would end Campsie’s run without conceding on 33 minutes, however, as Darren Miller took a free kick from just outside the area, putting the ball in the bottom corner of the net with precision. The goalkeeper couldn’t get to it, and Knightswood’s supporters took their first chance to erupt in celebration – it was 2-1.
From there, the game mellowed a little. There was a sense that neither team would be terribly upset to bring the first half to a close at 2-1, and most of the action was played out in midfield in the final minutes of the second half. This Youth Football Scotland reporter, for one, expected no further excitement before half-time.
I was about to be proven wrong.
A knee injury near the centre spot would force Kirk Walker off of the park on 44 minutes. Jamie Hunter took his place on the field for Knightswood.
In the injury time that resulted, Jordan McCue would bag the equaliser, picking up a cross in front of Campsie’s goal and nodding the ball powerfully into the net. The cup final was back to square one, and Black Watch were still reeling over their squandered lead when the referee blew for half time.
Half Time: Campsie Black Watch 2-2 Knightswood Juveniles
The second half was perfectly set up, then, for either team to take the initiative. Both made a good stab at it in the early going: quick passing and hard tackles became the order of the day for both sides.
Nicholas Prentice lobbed a ball into the box for Ciaran McElroy on 49 minutes, who slotted home at the back post. Excitement abound, but it didn’t count as a goal: the ref had spotted some sharp elbows in the box, and pulled play back for a Juveniles free kick. Within a few minutes of that controversy, Knightswood had another free kick, this time just in front of their opponents’ penalty area. Darren Miller blasted the ball at the wall, however, and his second shot was also blocked.
Neither team managed to press any advantage. Black Watch’s good passing play allowed chances to fall to Steven Aitken and Paul McGeough around the 60 minute mark, but Mark Crawford was equal to every shot that came his way. With 62 minutes gone, a floated ball over the Juveniles’ defence met the head of Nicholas Prentice, and he placed the ball at the feet of Declan Cairney. Even Cairney’s quality volley went a touch wide, though. The defences were winning the second half.
This pattern continued, in fact. Cutely swerved free kicks, piledriven long-range efforts, goalmouth scrambles from high crosses: all occurred, and all were found wanting in the face of two impressive goalkeeping performances. Skilled dribbles, courtesy of Knightswood’s Craig McCready? Yes. Campsie’s Paul McGeough emerging as a goal threat from a succession of quick breaks? Certainly. And yet, no second half goals. Tired legs had, if anything, closed down attacks before they got going.
I’d be remiss not to mention the performance of Knightswood player Daniel McKenzie. McKenzie was dominant on the left wing, breaking with pace that his opponents simply couldn’t handle. He could keep possession and hold up play expertly, bringing team-mates into the attack, but also cut through the defence on solo runs when required.
And yet it was Black Watch who produced the strongest chance of the half, with the ball breaking to McGeough right in front of goal on 82 minutes. The Campsie player directed the ball goalward, but it hit the post and bounced wide.
With no more action of note in the game, regulation time ended level. For the second time in the day, Excelsior Stadium would see an SYFA Challenge Cup final go to extra time.
Full Time: Campsie Black Watch 2-2 Knightswood Juveniles
Knightswood started brightly in extra time, launching a good attack just after kick-off. Daniel McKenzie was once again pivotal, but the pressure was cleared. Within minutes Storey was forced into a superb save, catching Knightswood’s David Gallagher’s close-range header and pushing it away from harm with one hand.
The Juveniles didn’t let up. A fourth-minute free kick had to be turned behind goal by one of Campsie’s defenders, and the reds didn’t have any near-chances by way of reply.
That is, until the eighth minute of extra time, when Nicholas Prentice burst through the opposition defense and blasted a shot rapidly into the right-hand side of the Knightswood goal. Suddenly, Campsie were in front again, after nearly an hour of deadlock. A Black Watch lead didn’t necessarily reflect the way that extra time had went, but on such special moments are cup finals routinely decided.
With the first half of extra time drawing to a close, and one team now with the game in their hands, play opened up somewhat. It was end-to-end action in the last five minutes, with possession changing rapidly. When the referee blew his whistle for half time in extra time, then, it was on a game which had roared back into life for its climax.
Given the spirited conclusion of the first half, it was no surprise to see the second half produce chances. Fraser Team pressured Campsie ‘keeper Storey when the latter player was caught in possession, and the goalkeeper could only boot a clearance against Team’s back. It was certainly a dramatic moment.
In the 24th minute, Campsie’s Jordan Logan broke from the left wing and found his way to the edge of his opponents’ penalty area. He curled a shot towards goal, but it was well saved. On 25, he would get another half-chance, as he took control of a good pass and unleashed a straight shot. This time it was blocked by a defender. The 29th minute would see Logan dribble past opposition defenders to get a clear sight on goal, but he was pulled down in the box: Campsie had a penalty, and the chance to put the game beyond the Juveniles.
Logan took the penalty, but could only deliver it at the legs of Crawford. The Knightswood goalkeeper had kept his team in the game.
In the end, though, it didn’t matter: Black Watch played out the rest of the game with composed passing, and earned themselves the win, and the under-21s’ SYFA Challenge Cup trophy.
Final Result: Campsie Black Watch 3-2 Knightswood Juveniles