St MARGARET’S Academy won 2-0 at Armadale Academy to move top of the West Lothian Schools FA under-14 league.
The teams kicked off on three points each having played a single game so far, and St Margaret’s maintained their 100 per cent record thanks to striker Michael Shields’ man-of-the-match performance and his brace of superb goals.
Armadale started brightly, and Andrew Easton had a chance to put them ahead after 11 minutes. Mark Spalding was tripped by St Margaret’s Josh Chapman 20 yards from goal, but Easton’s low free-kick fizzed past the left post.
Three minutes later, Shields had his first opportunity to score for the team from Livingston. Luke Dwyer played a neat through ball to Shields, who dribbled into the penalty area, but his shot went wide.
St Margaret’s took the lead after 19 minutes with a free-kick from 25 yards out. Shields’ shot flew into the top right corner of the net, hitting the crossbar before bouncing over the line. Shields proved to be a constant danger, and within two minutes of his first goal he had another opportunity with a free-kick, but this time it was caught by Armadale goalkeeper Ryan Jeffrey.
The talented striker was at the centre of another St Margaret’s attack shortly before half-time, but his shot from the edge of the area was saved after a delightful passing move between Dwyer and Fraser Young down the right wing.
Armadale had an opportunity to level the score after two minutes of the second half, but Easton’s shot from 16 yards was held by St Margaret’s goalkeeper Daniel Bruce.
Some resolute defending stopped St Margaret’s doubling their lead just 30 seconds later. Michael Stewart’s shot from the right corner of the six-yard box was parried by Jeffrey, and Shields’ follow up shot was blocked on the line by centre back Jordan Mungall.
After 44 minutes, Jeffrey pulled off a superb double save to keep St Margaret’s out. Left winger Daniel Zubair’s shot from 15 yards was denied thanks to Jeffrey’s low dive, and Paul Howard’s effort from the rebound was held by the in-form goalkeeper. Three minutes later, St Margaret’s were inches away from scoring. From a Shields corner as Thomas Smith rose highest but his header bounced away off the right-hand post.
With 65 minutes played, Armadale had their best chance of the match. Stuart Forrest’s superb shot from the edge of the penalty box struck the crossbar. Armadale kept pushing for an equaliser and, with ten minutes remaining, Jack Johnston’s powerful shot from 12 yards stung the hands of Bruce.
Shields finally put the game beyond doubt in stoppage time. He received the ball from Howard, and rifled his shot from 22 yards into the top right corner of the net.
Armadale Academy manager, Ian Letham, was disappointed to lose but thought that his team acquitted themselves well. He said: “It was a very close match, with two moments of brilliance to win it.
“Last season we had eight defeats and two draws, but we’ve already got a win this year. We’re hopefully going to progress and become a better team. Our confidence is up after that win and we played well today, despite losing.”
Anthony Reynolds, the St Margaret’s manager was pleased to get a win after such a tough match. He said: “It was a tough game, and a close game. Armadale started off strongly but we came through in the end. The two goals were exceptional. It was a good, competitive game and we’re pleased to come away with a clean sheet. We had a number of strong players missing, and we’re hoping to build a good squad and challenge for the league title.”
Armadale Academy: Ryan Jeffrey, Jack Johnston, Jamie MacDonald, Jordan Mungall, Dean Colquhoun, Cameron Sweeny, Stuart Forrest, Grant Bell, Mark Spalding, Mark Milne, Andrew Easton, Eoghan Hyde, Michael Stewart, Grant Weir, Ross Smith, Andrew Watson, Aiden McLalland.
St Margaret’s Academy: Daniel Bruce, Stuart Garvin, Thomas Smith, Sean O’Donnell, Liam Thomson, Luke Dwyer, Josh Chapman, Fraser Young, Mark Richardson, Michael Shields, Paul Howard, Daniel Zubair.