Broadwood Stadium in Cumbernauld played host to the first ever WoSFDL PlayerData League Cup Final contested between Darvel FC U20s and Renfrew FC U20s.
Heading into the blockbuster clash, both sides were in fine form in their respective conferences. Darvel headed into the final with only one loss this campaign – away to Johnstone Burgh. Meanwhile, Renfrew are the only U20s team in the country still in all four tournaments that the development leagues have to offer.
As the ball got rolling on what was a blustery night in North Lanarkshire, it was very apparent that both sides were willing to put their bodies on the line for cup glory. Hard-hitting tackles, aerial duels and scraps for second balls were a common sight in the opening stages.
Keir Ronney unleashed the first shot of the match. Darvel’s talisman struck well on the half volley but saw his shot rattle the crossbar.
The wind began to pick up and affect clearances from the back fours of both finalists. One Darvel clearance in particular caught a good bit of airtime only to smack the fourth official on the head – another small reason why Scottish football is a unique spectacle for all age groups.
Renfrew began to find their rhythm around the 20-minute mark. The men in red and white stripes saw a lot of the ball in the final third – with progressive midfielder Mark Chalmers in particular showing bravery in his forward running.
Frew captain Patrick Shiels saw a pinpoint effort from a free kick expertly parried by Darvel’s Jack Howie, keeping the final goalless on the half-hour mark.
Howie was called into action once more shortly after his free-kick stop. Renfrew central defender James Ramsay headed goalwards, but the stopper’s reflex save provided a lifeline for his under-the-cosh Darvel side.
Shortly after, referee Mark Daly blew the half-time whistle to bring the fast-paced, intense battle to a short halt.
Darvel came flying out of the traps when the proceedings restarted. A mesmerising move involving all three members of the Vale’s attacking trio saw Keir Ronney and Aidan McGee craft an opening to slip Scott Patterson in on goal. The number 10 shimmied by a jockeying defender but failed to finish after Daniel Gaffney closed the angle on his shooting opportunity.
Patterson continued to dazzle on the ball in the second 45, appearing to be the vital cog in attacking phases of play for the men in blue.
Renfrew’s number one Daniel Gaffney had his palms stung by a 40-yard bullet free kick hit by Ritchie Dunlop but nothing of substance came of the well-hit set piece.
A couple of golden opportunities came the way of Kenny Robertson’s side, in particular Jack Cox, with the two chances arising in the space of 90 seconds. The attacker found himself unmarked at the back stick at a corner, although his resulting header was saved by Darvel’s Howie. Cox then found himself bearing down on goal in a one-versus-one predicament against Jack Howie, of which the keeper prevailed after latching onto a heavy touch.
The two finalists continued to trade waves of dangerous attacks, as Keir Ronney’s curler forced Gaffney between the Frew posts into a save, then moments later Evan Edgar came close for the East Ayrshire outfit when his cross floated goalwards crashed against the woodwork.
Evan Edgar was a late spark for Stuart McCallion’s men as his trickery tight to the touchline caused the opposing backline problems in the dying embers.
Testament to both teams’ defensive lines, the PlayerData League Cup Final had no goals after full-time despite the end-to-end contest having excellent forward play on show.
An enthralling penalty shoot-out was to follow, with each goalie putting on an absolute clinic in shot-stopping.
Out of ten penalties, five were expertly converted and the other five were thwarted in spectacular fashion by both Howie of Darvel and Gaffney of Renfrew.
Ultimately Gaffney’s heroic third penalty save of the evening secured a 3-2 win on penalties for Renfrew FC and therefore crowned the Conference C side as the first-ever WoSFDL PlayerData League Cup champions.
The two development sides provided the crowd with an incredible game of football – a great advertisement for U20s football in the West of Scotland.
Darvel FC Player of the Match: Scott Patterson
Assured on the ball and worked his socks off from minute one-to-90. Scott Patterson – just like the rest of his Darvel teammates – can hold his head up high despite the result. His penalty was the pick of the bunch too, placing it in the top left corner with apparent ease.
Renfrew FC Player of the Match: Daniel Gaffney
The PlayerData League Cup Final hero. After keeping a clean sheet in such impressive fashion during normal time, the Renfrew keeper was in dreamland after a trifecta of stops in the shoot-out.
Darvel FC Magic Moment: Front Three Tiki-Taka
All night long, Darvel continued to play silky football. In particular, the attacking trio of Scott Patterson, Aidan McGee and Keir Ronney were on the same wavelength in-and-around the opposing box. Their move early on in the second half was different class and really deserved a goal at the end of it.
Renfrew FC Magic Moment: Gaffney’s Magic Gloves
It doesn’t get any more magic than this. Three utterly sensational penalty saves and some silverware to top it off means Daniel Gaffney has provided a magic moment that will live long in the memory of coaches Kenny Robertson, David Smith and their Renfrew U20s players.
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