Outgoing Leith Athletic boss Derek Riddel described his team’s King Cup 4-2 triumph over East of Scotland League champions Lothian Thistle Hutchison Vale as “Roy of the Rovers stuff”.
It was a nip and tuck affair between the division’s powerhouses in Rosewell but goals from James Hainey and John Ferguson in extra time secured a cup double this season for ten-man Leith, who had goalkeeper Iain Gordon sent off for handling out of his area with just two minutes of the 90 remaining.
With the teams level at 2-2 and no substitute goalkeeper to bring on, defender Neil Lowson took over in goal and proved more than an able deputy as Lothian sought an equaliser.
And Riddel, who last week announced Saturday’s King Cup final would be his last in charge, admitted he couldn’t have dreamt up a better way to bring the curtain down on his last 18 years with the Capital outfit.
“How can you describe that end to it all? It’s Roy of the Rovers stuff,” said Riddel, who also led his side to League Cup glory earlier this month. “Your centre half having to go in goals and then making some great saves towards the end. I really couldn’t have asked for a better way to finish. That’s what football is all about and why we do it and why we’re there in the winter time in the cold and wet to come for days like this.
“The guys were absolutely brilliant and I can’t fault any of them. It was tough but after we went 2-1 down the spirit was fantastic, especially with Iain being sent off. Lothian have had a great season but so have we so it’s a great way to finish.”
For Lowson, who wasn’t long back from a holiday to the States, revealed he was more than happy to don the gloves.
“I was actually quite glad I ended up in goals because I was knackered,” Lowson quipped. “As soon as Iain went off, I’ve put myself forward as the goalie a few times in training so I just grabbed the gloves. I expected to be busier than I was but I suppose I did make a couple of saves. You want to win your last game of the season to send you into the break on a high.”
Lothian goalkeeper Kevin Swain didn’t cover himself in glory having fumbled Kyle Fee’s corner and Mark Wilkie bundled home the opener in the 15th minute.
Grant Munro restored parity with a well-placed header six minutes later before Kerr Allan flashed a 30-yard effort wide of Swain’s right-hand post.
Leith struck the woodwork twice towards the end of the first half but were dealt a sucker punch 11 minutes after the restart when Tony Muir glanced home Scott Taylor-MacKenzie’s inviting corner to edge Raymond Carr’s men in front.
But Taylor Black capitalised on some suspect Lothian defending seven minutes later to send an angled drive across Swain and into the far corner.
Lothian substitute John Sherlock headed off the crossbar before Iain Gordon, who was playing his final game for the club, was shown his marching orders for blocking a shot with his hands outside of the penalty box. But, Hainey’s wonderful strike from 25 yards and Ferguson’s composed finish in extra time gave Riddel the send off he deserves.
Lothian head coach Raymond Carr felt his players were off the pace from start to finish.
“For 120 minutes Leith were the better team,” he said. “I think the guys thought the job was done but they still had a game to play. We got punished and we deserved everything we got. But if you’d said to me at the start of the season that we’d end the campaign with four trophies, one as league champions, and we’d be playing in the Scottish Cup next year then I would have bitten your hand off.”
Leith Athletic: Gordon, Black, Fee, Lowson, Melvin, Burns, Tracey, Wilkie, Hainey (Beaton 110), Allan (Ferguson 82), McKinlay (Lewis 88). Subs: Beaton, Combe, Lewis, Craigie, Mason, MacPherson.
Lothian Thistle Hutchison Vale: Swain, Moore (Sherlock 61), Taylor-MacKenzie, Crawford, Munro, Muir, Hare (Guy 75), Brown, Wringe (Hutchison 67), Devlin, O’Donnell. Subs: Mungall, Simpson, Wishart, Alastuey.