Liberton UNITED Under-14s won the South East Region Pilmar Smith Cup after beating Easthouses FC 5-3 in a thrilling final at New Dundas Park.
Liberton United’s Sean Gilhooley was centre of attention throughout the match. After scoring an early hat-trick, he was sent off late in the second half with the scores level, but his team rallied round to score two late goals to grab victory.
The match started at frantic pace with Grant Chappell nearly opening the scoring for Liberton after two minutes, but his shot from the right side of the penalty area bounced narrowly past the left post after Cameron Oag’s chipped through ball. Gilhooley did score his first goal five minutes later. His shot from 18 yards went into the bottom right corner of the net after his first attempt hit an Easthouses defender.
The Liberton attacker then doubled his side’s lead after 11 minutes with a powerful close range effort after Oag’s initial shot was parried by Easthouses goalkeeper Greg Duffy.
Easthouses wasted no time pulling a goal back. From the kick-off, they attacked down the right wing and Jason Aitken’s shot from 15 yards flew into the bottom left corner.
The fourth goal of the match came after just 17 minutes with Gilhooley completing his hat-trick. The teenager retrieved the ball in the penalty area and used his strength to go round Duffy for a simple finish into the net.
Easthouses added their second goal before half-time with Greg Bonar heading into the net from ten yards after Aitken’s corner. Stefan MacLean had a chance to equalise before half-time after finding himself through on goal but Liberton goalkeeper Lewis Whitelaw stopped him in his tracks with Morgan Wylie’s follow-up blocked.
Shortly after the interval, Liberton’s Lee McMullan forced a superb save from Duffy, diving to his right to keep out the shot. Three minutes later, MacLean’s shot from the edge of the penalty area went narrowly past the right post after an Easthouses drive down the left wing.
Easthouses then grabbed the equaliser after 55 minutes. Connor Darling beat goalkeeper Whitelaw to Kyle Taylor’s through ball and lobbed it into the net from 25 yards.
With eight minutes remaining, Gilhooley received his marching orders. After earning a yellow in the first half, he was then booked for a second time after a heavy tackle on Taylor.
The red card galvanised Liberton United as they responded magnificently.
A long through ball from the Liberton defence fell to Kieran Lumsden, whose shot was parried but Ben Pritchett was there to pounce on the opportunity and score from the rebound.
Pritchett then added to his goal tally in the final three minutes, placing the ball past Duffy from the edge of the penalty area.
Liberton United coach Moray Dickson was delighted with the way his side responded after being reduced to ten players.
He said: “We had a really good start in the first half. But we stopped tracking back a bit in the second and they managed to get on top again.
“In the second half, I thought we would have had a lot more chances. However, when our player was sent off I thought that was it but the lads really pulled hard together and went at them and got the two goals.
“We’ve had a fantastic season and had a really good run. We were put out one cup and had a good run in the non-domestic cups. We still have another final to go and we are second in the league.”
Easthouses coach Gavin Darling is confident his team will be able to escape from the bottom of Division Three if they can replicate their performance in their remaining fixtures.
He said: “In the first half it took us a while to get into it but we did come into the game and had a bit more character. Liberton had more of an attacking sense but overall we cannot fault any of the lads.
“After the sending off, we could not cope with their long balls. We should have got something out of the match in the second half. We are at the bottom of the league but this was not a bottom-of-the-league performance.”
Easthouses FC: Greg Duffy, Jeff Binnie, Mark Falls, David Turnbull, Jake Donaldson, Greg Bonar, Jason Aitken, Stefan MacLean, Connor Darling, Kyle Taylor, Morgan Wylie, Alexander McCaig, Lewis Ballantine, Thomas McSorley.
Liberton United: Lewis Whitelaw, Paul Weir, Jack Doyle, Lewis Kynoch, Keiran Dickson, Grant Chappell, Sean Gilhooley, Lee McMullan, Ben Pritchett, Cameron Oag, Lewis Gray, Jack Collins, Mark Barnet, Declan Paterson, Kieran Lumsden, Humza Rafiq.