Spartans lifted the South-East Region Jackie Faichney Under-16 trophy after beating Hutchison Vale on penalties at Ainslie Park.
The sides played out a 0-0 stalemate after 100 minutes of action, but it was Spartans keeper Callum Speedie who was the hero in the end, saving two out of four spot kicks to secure a 3-1 shoot-out victory.
The win marked the first Cup Final triumph by any Spartans side on their new 5G surface at their academy, a feat that manager Les Atkinson took great pride in. He said: “It’s never nice to win on penalty kicks, but we’re happy to become the first Spartans team to win a cup on the new surface. I thought Hutchie Vale played very well; there wasn’t much between the two teams. A couple of senior teams are looking at our players, but we’re hoping to take most of them on to Under-17s.”
Spartans created the first chance of the match on ten minutes. After good work down the right flank, Scott Irving whipped in a superb cross that met the head of Hamish Imrie, who was denied by the fingertips of Hutchie stopper Jack Roden. This kicked Spartans into gear and they began to move the ball with great fluency, working the ball towards forward Blair Atkinson, who was a willing runner throughout. It was Hutchie, though, who produced the next opportunity, when influential midfielder Dylan Moore curled over the crossbar after nice build-up play.
Vale continued to pile the pressure on towards the end of the first period and they could have taken the lead shortly before the interval. After superb link-up play between the impressive Scott Taylor-Mackenzie and Moore, the ball was cut back to find Jordan Combe on the edge of the penalty area, but his strike fired just wide of Speedie’s right-hand post. The soaking wet 5G surface didn’t prevent both sides playing some neat football, but often a lack of cutting edge up front proved to be the problem. Spartans looked solid in defence, with their big skipper Duncan Player leading by example. Spartans pressed forward more in the second period, and were unfortunate not to break the deadlock on the hour mark when Atkinson saw a powerful effort sail just over.
At the other end, Vale substitute Lee McGregor found space in the area, but his left-footed attempt was scuffed and dragged inches wide of Speedie’s goal.
After normal time failed to separate the sides, extra time was required. Spartans had a penalty appeal waved away just five minutes in when Daniel McIvor’s volleyed effort appeared to strike a Hutchie arm, but referee James Sim waved play on. Both sides then saw free-kick efforts go close. Mackenzie’s left-footed strike was saved by Speedie, while at the other end; Azad Okan’s effort crept just over the crossbar, meaning the match would be decided on penalties.
Hutchie got off to the worst possible start in the shootout, with Speedie saving Moore’s kick. Spartans captain Player then drilled his penalty home to claim an early advantage. Further kicks for Spartans by Thomas Meldrum and David Scobie were dispatched with aplomb, while Jordan Combe notched his side’s solitary successful kick. It was Speedie in the Spartans goal who took the glory in the end, saving again from Sean Elliot to secure victory.
Afterwards, Hutchie boss Alex Gilroy was keen to look to the future. He said: “I thought we matched them for most of the game, but it wasn’t exactly a classic. Penalties are a lottery and the lads are quite disappointed. We’ve still got two cup finals to play in and we’ve had a good season.”
Spartans: Callum Speedie, Elliot Carruthers, Harry Oliff, Duncan Player, Scott Irving, David Scobie, Azad Okan, Jamie Dishington, Blair Atkinson, Fraser Eddington, Hamish Imrie, Kerr Allan, Sean Stewart, Daniel McIvor, Kyle Holdcroft Doig, Thomas Meldrum.
Hutchison Vale: Jack Roden, Adam Murray, Connor Farley, Warren Paterson, Scott Taylor-Mackenzie, Sean Elliot, Dylan Moore, Jordan Combe, Connor Daziel, Reece Henderson, Lee McGregor, Brandon Cameron, Mikey Hamilton.