North Merchiston Under-17s leapfrogged opponents Hutchison Vale in SERYFA Division 1 to keep their 100 per cent record intact after a 2-1 victory at Meggetland 3G.
The tie lived up to its pre-match billing of a closely-fought encounter with both sides not giving an inch to one another, but it was Merchiston who emerged victorious.
North Merchiston coach Andrew Young believes his side’s victory over Hutchie could prove pivotal even at this early stage of the new campaign.
Young said: “We’ve always had tough games against Hutchie over the years and we eventually beat them last year in a cup final, so to start the season with a league win is really good. I think there are probably about four or five teams who will fancy their chances of the league this year so this is a big win for us.”
From the opening exchanges, it was clear both sets of players wanted to play free-flowing football, but with little time when in possession, this was proving extremely difficult to follow. Any clear opportunities were minimal within the opening ten minutes but it was Hutchie who drew first blood when they grabbed the initiative after 15 minutes.
Connor James Farley’s surging run down the right side failed to be cut out and he delivered the perfect ball across goal to team-mate Shaun Stevens, who had timed his run to perfection, and slotted past Darren Mitchell into the back of the net from four yards.
This lead only lasted ten minutes, however, as Merchiston restored parity through Joe Turner-Law’s quick reactions after the Hutchie defence failed to clear their lines, and despite the best efforts of goalkeeper Daniel Kerr, the ball clearly crossed the line to level the match.
A great burst of speed and cutback from the boot of Merchiston’s Andrew McBride picked out Turner-Law in the penalty box but he couldn’t find enough power to trouble Kerr.
Stevens was then through on goal for the visitors but his attempted lob with Mitchell out his goal lacked accuracy as it sailed over the crossbar.
Merchiston then took the lead three minutes before the interval and once again the Hutchie defence only had themselves to blame. With the ball bobbling around the penalty box, and several players in yellow and black having opportunities to clear, Sam Tulloch wasted no time when his chance arrived by turning and firing a low shot into the bottom right corner past the helpless Kerr.
Merchiston’s Hamish Law then evaded the challenge of James Rogers-Jones to fire another strike on the Hutchie goal but his shot was well saved by Kerr. Then came the save-of-the-match from Mitchell who managed to tip a rasping strike over the top from Ross Anderson’s 20 yard free-kick which seemed destined to burst the net.
Great determination to retain the ball from Nick Mortimer created a view on Kerr’s goal and the Hutchie goalkeeper had to be alert to palm a strong effort away to safety. With the clock ticking down, Hutchie threw everything they had to find that elusive goal but they were unable to carve out any clear openings that would find them an equaliser.
It was indeed Merchiston who looked the more likely side to add to their two goals but Law, who had proved a real menace down the right side all afternoon, could not find his way past Kerr in the closing stages.
Hutchison Vale’s Colin Cameron said: “There wasn’t much in the game and I think we controlled much of the match to be honest. We gave away two bad goals and should have been coming away with at least a draw so we’re pretty disappointed.”
North Merchiston: Darren Mitchell, Hamish Law, Gavin Birrell, Nick Mortimer, Calum Windram, Calum Baptie, Nathan Evans, Sam Tulloch, Greig Brown, Ryan Clarke, Andrew McBride, Anton Dowds, Calum Young, Joe Turner-Law, Jake MacDonald, Ben Brigain, Cameron Stokes.
Hutchison Vale: Daniel Kerr, Adam Murray, Ross Anderson, Calum Livingston, James Rogers-Jones, Dean Robertson, Shaun Stevens, Dylan Moore, Sean Alexander Elliot, Brandon Cameron, Devin Keith John Burnside, Frankie Bee, Connor James Farley, Liam Robert Henderson, Aaron Flynn.