Matchwinner Keith Murray admitted the disappointment of losing out on the East of Scotland League title on the final day provided Lothian Thistle Hutchison Vale’s motivation to twice come from behind and lift the East of Scotland League Cup with a 3-2 win over his former club Leith Athletic.
Stefan Hay and Liam O’Donnell goals had it level at 90 minutes; Sonny Swanson and Connor McGregor’s penalty in the first period of extra-time tied things up at 2-2 and Murray won it.
“Not winning the league was hard to take,” he admitted. “With the run of games we had, we had a depleted squad and we could only do what we could do. The boys gave it their all but it wasn’t our day last week.
“That meant we came in to this game with high hopes to end the season with silverware and I think we deserved something in the end.
“We had to keep believing, even when we were behind. If you don’t believe in a cup final then you shouldn’t be playing football. It’s always great to get the winner but it was bittersweet because I had some good times at Leith.”
An even opening 20 minutes or so produced little in the way of chances. McGregor’s free kick was too high to trouble Campbell McLennan in the Leith goal, while Kevin Swain at the other end hadn’t been forced in to any real saves.
Leith’s best chance fell to Dan Garvie, who could only stab wide of the far post after being picked out by Sonny Swanson.
Swanson himself was next to test Swain with a well struck drive from distance, but the experienced keeper was down well to parry away from danger.
Mark Malloy forced a fine reaction save from McLennan when he met Louis Swanson’s near-post corner with a glancing header, and he sent his follow-up header straight in to the keeper’s hands.
Leith subsequently went down the other end and took the lead. A headed clearance fell nicely for Hay, who sent a fine strike past the helpless Swain into the far corner five minutes before the break.
Lothian responded by levelling right on half-time. A great diagonal ball in behind from Jordan Mungall picked out O’Donnell’s run, who powered into the area and sent a low finish past McLellan. Murray was in within a minute of the restart when Dylan Moore picked out his run with a quick free-kick, but McLellan was out quickly to smother the former Leith striker’s attempted lob.
Malloy was next to latch on to a ball over the top, but couldn’t keep his volley down and sent it well over McLennan’s crossbar.
Mungall was inches from putting Lothian ahead with just under 15 minutes remaining when he connected with Swanson’s free-kick, but the ball bounced just wide of the far post as he was clattered by McLennan.
Ryan Hutchison spurned a great chance to probably win it for Lothian with just more than five minutes to go. He raced clear down the right channel, but fired straight at the onrushing McLennan when squaring to an unmarked Malloy would have resulted in a tap-in.
Leith edged themselves back in front early in extra time. Ryan Currie held the ball up and fired across goal, the ball finding Swanson all alone at the back post and he made no mistake from close range.
Lothian were level again sooner afterwards however, as O’Donnell was upended in the box and referee George Calder pointed to the spot without hesitation. McGregor stepped up and dispatched beyond McLennan to restore parity.
A brilliantly-taken goal from Murray won it in the second period of extra-time. The frontman beat the offside trap from a free-kick, taking the ball on his chest and guidin
Leith Athletic: McLellan, Middleton, Pont, Pennel, Smith, Currie, Anderson (McKenzie 69), S Swanson, Redpath (Reid 90), Garvie, Hay.
Lothian Thistle HV: Swain, Moore, O’Donnell, Crawford, Shala (Malloy 19), McGregor, Hare (Hutchison 57), Brown, Murray, Mungall, L Swanson (Guy 98).