Matchwinner Dayne Robertson felt Civil Service Strollers deservedly edged a narrow encounter at Marine Drive as they beat Lowland League opponents Whitehill Welfare 1-0 to reach the South Challenge Cup final.
Robertson stroked home a second-half penalty against his former club to send East of Scotland Premier Division side Strollers through to face BSC Glasgow, who shocked Edinburgh City 5-0 in the other semi-final.
While Strollers had the better chances, Robertson was just pleased to have done enough to sneak through. “I wouldn’t say we definitely deserved it,” he said. “I thought it was a pretty even game with little chances. We maybe could have been ahead in the first half with the better chances but the penalty was a penalty.”
The No. 10 sent Bryan Young the wrong way and admitted it was enjoyable to find the net against his former club. “It’s always nice considering I know a lot of the boys. I’m quite friendly with a lot of them but it’s still good to get one over them!
“We’re a really young team and we’re really enthusiastic with a few old heads as well so it’s a good mix. We maybe should have done better in the league this year but it’s a final to look forward to so we’re buzzing.”
Strollers started strongly and fashioned a couple of decent opportunities in the opening ten minutes. Chris Moffatt sent a looping header narrowly wide before Robertson’s stinging drive flew over.
James Guy should have opened the scoring for the hosts on 20 minutes. The wide man was through on goal and seemed to be caught in two minds between a shot and a pass. His effort slid under Bryan Young but lacked the pace to get over the line, allowing Ryan McKenzie to clear.
Substitute Danny Noon had the ball in the net for Welfare six minutes later after latching on to Aaron Somerville’s through ball but the striker was flagged offside.
Craig Newalls almost scored directly from a corner, before Andrew Kidd very nearly did the same at the other end for Whitehill, Stuart Burnside producing an identical save to Young in order to keep it 0-0.
The hosts were unfortunate to go in level at the interval, but got their rewards just four minutes after the restart. Newalls raced in to the box and knocked the ball past Young before the visiting keeper brought the No. 7 down. Robertson stepped up and sent Young the wrong way to give Strollers a deserved lead.
As expected, the Rosewell club responded with some sustained pressure. James Flynn first saw his low drive at the back post well blocked by Burnside before the keeper produced the save of the match to keep his side in it with eight minutes to go. Andrew Kidd’s first-time shot looked in all the way only for to see it tipped on to the cross bar.
Whitehill’s hopes of a comeback faded when Darren McGlashan was shown a straight red for a high challenge late on and Strollers should have sealed the win shortly after. Kieran McGachie saw his initial shot hit the far post before falling to Gavin Pettigrew, who blazed over with the goal gaping.
Civil Service will face BSC Glasgow in the final, and Robertson sees no reason why they can’t win again.
“I’ve been speaking to Peter McGauley [Whitehill committee] who says they’re direct so we’ll just need to deal with that when it comes.”
Civil Service Strollers: Burnside, Moyes, McWilliams, Campbell, Moffatt, Greenhill, Newalls (Christie 79), Murray, McGachie, Robertson, (Ritchie 64), Guy (Pettigrew 89)
Whitehill Welfare: Young, Martin (Noon 25), McKenzie, O’Donnell, W Kidd, McGlashan, Manson, A Kidd, Flynn, Somerville, Thom.