Leith Athletic 1
A Chris Beaton goal early in the second half was enough to give Leith Athletic a narrow 1-0 win against their close rivals Craigroyston in the Alex Jack Cup final at Ainslie Park yesterday.
The goal came from a Chris Barrie corner 13 minutes into the second half and it looked like a neat header from Beaton that flew past Stuart Burnside in the Craigroyston goal. However, Beaton admitted afterwards that it was not quite as clear-cut as that. “To be honest I didn’t know much about my goal,” he said. “The ball flicked off my shoulder more than my head and I think that it may then have cannoned off a Craigroyston player on its way into the net, but I’m definitely claiming it as my goal!”
With many venues wiped out due to the cold snap, the decision to stage the final on the artificial pitch used by Spartans proved to be a shrewd one and meant Athletic lifted the cup for the second time in four seasons.
The game started at a frantic pace with Chris Gordon of Craigroyston bringing out a good save from Iain Gordon in the Leith goal, before John Dunn fired a 20-yard shot just wide.
Leith almost took the lead when Greig Tulloch fired a ball low across the six-yard box and, in attempting to clear it, Neil Campbell deflected it on to his own post before the ball was hurriedly cleared from the danger area.
There was little to separate the two teams, although in the closing stages of the first half Lewis Cairns’ 20-yard shot was finger-tipped over the crossbar by Burnside.
The second half started with Leith on the offensive and Jason Stevens hit the post with a 25-yard shot. He then had another effort which landed on the roof of the net and Chris Barrie watched his long-range free kick slip past the post. The same player then laid siege to the goal with two further mid-range shots which Burnside proved equal to.
After the loss the goal, Craigroyston rallied and had most of the territorial advantage. They should have equalised when Russell Hogarth picked out Liam Jack only for his header from inside the six-yard box to loop high over the crossbar. Then Bryan Wilson found Scott Ritchie who shot wide from a good position and with the minutes ticking away the final disappointment for Craigroyston was the sending-off of central defender David Jeffrey for a “last-man” tackle.
“I felt a bit sorry for the Craigroyston players, many of whom I know quite well,” added goalscorer Beaton. “They are good boys, they worked their socks off and they put us under pressure, especially in the last quarter of the game but we held out for the win. We seemed to stop playing after we scored, but I’m happy to win this cup again after playing in the winning team four years ago. Hopefully we can now kick on in the league where we have played only three games and eventually win it or at least get promoted.”
Derek Riddel, the Leith Athletic manager, was emotional after the game at having lifted his first ever trophy in the East of Scotland League when he said: “Our guys defended superbly, especially our two centre-backs Gavin Tainsh and Neil Lowson.
“We put in a really mature performance and we scored a goal from a set piece which we are not renowned for doing. I’m absolutely delighted for the guys.”
Craigroyston manager Ross McNeil said: “I didn’t think that there was much in it. I felt that we shaded the first half and then for the opening 15 minutes of the second half Leith were on top and they scored the all-important goal.
“I’m so disappointed for the players who felt that they missed a lot of chances. It was also disappointing to lose the goal from a set-piece because we had a chat about exactly that at training on Saturday. We’ll now just have to dust ourselves down and concentrate on moving up the league table.”
Craigroyston: Burnside, Burgess (Ritchie 78), Hogarth, Campbell, Jeffrey, Greenhill, Douglas, Jack, Gordon (Mukwanda 75), Dickson (Wilson 78), Dunn. Substitutes: Young, Barbirou.
Leith Athletic: Gordon, C Barrie, Hall, Lowson, Tainsh, Lynch (L. Thom 88), Stevens, Cairns, Tulloch (Boggie 70), Beaton, Tracey (S Barrie 64). Substitutes: Smith, D Thom.
Referee: S Millar.