Beechwood Panthers U16s’ 2-1 victory over Spartans FC Blacks lifted them to the top of Division 3

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Beechwood Panthers 16s moved to the top of SERYFA Division 3 after a narrow 2-1 victory over Spartans FC Blacks at Ainslie Park.

With previous table-toppers Musselburgh Windsor Colts involved in cup duty last weekend, both sides knew victory would move them to the summit with a one-point lead.

Beechwood coach David MacKenzie revealed his side’s current position is something of unknown territory for the club.

He said: “It’s great to be top of the league because we are usually near the bottom end. We’ve brought in better players this season, so we want to stay as far as up the league as we can. But this was a hard-fought victory, make no mistake about it.”

Both sides played some neat attacking football in the opening half with the deadlock being broken after 15 minutes through visiting midfielder Angus MacKenzie.

The youngster showed great skill to bring the ball under wraps before striking a firm effort beyond Joseph McPherson from the edge of the penalty area.

However, Spartans were level five minutes before the interval through a well-worked goal. Baillie McLean linked up brilliantly with Rory Anderson who managed to pick out the run of John Holgate, and he finished with great accuracy from 15 yards.

Brendan Ferry should have had a shot on goal just into the second half but the Beechwood playmaker’s control let him down at a crucial point after finding space inside the Spartans penalty box.

A long ball over the Beechwood defence caused confusion in a dangerous area with Holgate racing through on goal, but Fraser MacKenzie stood up well to block his netbound shot.

Not to be outdone, McPherson produced an instinctive save to keep out Lewis Temple’s fierce volley.

However, Beechwood regained the lead on the 60-minute mark. Temple found space at an angle before delivering a pinpoint cross into the path of Aaron Martin, who finished with ease from six yards.

Rayquan Cort then looked odds on to equalise for the home side when he was left in a one-on-one situation, but his delay in striking a shot on goal allowed Alex Taylor to nip in with a last-ditch tackle.

Temple was really coming onto a game and showed great technical ability to smash a 25-yard volley from a tight angle which cracked off the top of McPherson’s crossbar.

With the clock frantically ticking down, Spartans created one final opportunity on the back of some poor decision-making by the Beechwood defence.

With two defenders both going for the same ball, Anderson benefited from their indecisiveness with a clear view at goal, but his attempted chip drifted harmlessly wide.

Spartans’ John McLean was left to rue a missed opportunity to go top of the league but appreciates there is still a long way to go.

McLean said: “There are no out-and-out winners for this season in Division 3 so it’s very open and competitive. We’ve had an up and down season so we need to believe in ourselves again. There are still plenty of opportunities for our team to push on again.”

Spartans FC Blacks: Joseph McPherson, Liam King, Byron Mupfukudzwa, John Holgate, Baillie McLean, Babou Secka, Rory Anderson, Liam Paterson, Paul Di Placido, Alan Anderson, Declan Fleming, Rayquan Cort, Daniel Watters, Ross Cowper Fraser, Josh Lawrie, Nicholas Peden.

Beechwood Panthers: Fraser MacKenzie, Lucas Third, Thomas MacKenzie, Bastiano Burnett, Aaron Martin, Chris Robertson, Brendan Ferry, Angus MacKenzie, Lewis Temple, Andrew Millar, Alex Taylor, Jack Brown, Michael De Luca, Rory Donaghue, Zach Finney.