Lothian Thistle Hutchison Vale triumphed 3-2 over Leith Athletic in the Final of The Image Printers Cup after a breathtaking 120 minutes of football at St Mark’s Park yesterday.
Both sides had knocked out Lowland League opposition in the semi-finals of the competition with Lothian looking to add the trophy to their Premier League crown, whilst Leith were hoping to make it a hat-trick of trophies this season having already secured The Alex Jack and Central Taxis League Cup.
With Lowland League managers Dougie Samuel of Spartans and Grant Carnie of Whitehill Welfare watching on, Lothian took the lead after just six minutes when Darren Smith converted his spot-kick after Steven Glynn tripped Callum Connolly inside the area. Six minutes later, Athletic were level when Grant Burns converted from the penalty spot after striker Keith Murray was fouled.
Athletic were reduced to ten men on the half hour when John Ferguson was issued a straight red card for a late lunge on defender Mathew Joint.
Sean Wringe then went close for Lothian with a head-flick from a Connor McGregor corner, but Leith got themselves in front on 57 minutes.
Captain Gary Black played a delightful long ball forward to Murray and he finished from a tight angle inside the area for his 34th goal of the season which sees him finish in top spot in The East of Scotland goal-scoring charts.
Wringe had a shot on the turn that went narrowly wide with Scott Taylor McKenzie and Darren Smith both going close.
Lothian coach Raymond Carr introduced Kevin Brown for Alan McDonagh who proved to be a menace to the Leith rearguard and the equaliser came on 80 minutes when McGregor let fly with a shot from 20 yards which Iain Gordon was powerless to stop.
Lothian were now in the ascendancy with Darren Smith having a shot that dipped over, but Leith remained a threat on the counter with Lewis Tracey impressing on the right wing for Derek Riddell’s side.
The game went into extra time with both sides looking for a crucial third goal that would hand either a psychological advantage. Lothian started the extra 15 minutes the stronger side hoping to build on the momentum of their equaliser. The goal which ultimately proved to be the winner was a shot on the turn from Wringe which flew into the top corner of the net on 98 minutes to send the Lothian bench delirious.
Leith refused to buckle with Grant Burns having a chance late on which would have ensured a shoot-out but it was Lothian who claimed the trophy for the first time since 1997.
“Leith gave us a really good game and they brought a lot of their more experienced players back in following the league game last weekend,” said Lothian captain Grant Munro.
“Even when they went down to ten men, Leith kept pressing and it took a great finish from Sean Wringe to win it. This is just a great success for the guys because since Raymond came back to the club we only lost one game at Peebles in the King Cup.
“We had an inconsistent spell in the middle of the campaign but we came through it and we have the basis of a really good squad to push on for more silverware next year.”
Carr also paid tribute to the efforts of his players a the end of a long hard season. “The game died a little bit when Leith went down to ten men, but I thought they were still in it at that stage. We brought Kevin Brown on at the right time with the composure and balance he has on the ball, but Sean Wringe scored another great goal to win it, he’s done it all season and it was going to take something special to win the game,” added Carr.
“Leith were the better side in terms of the football played, even when they went down to ten men, Derek had them set up well and they didn’t sit back and defend.
“But I’m delighted for the players and we’ll look to freshen things up over the summer whilst keeping the foundations of the good squad we have.”
Lothian Thistle Hutchison Vale: Amos, Crawford, MacKenzie (O’Donnell), Joint, Munro, Connolly, McGregor, Smith, Moffat, Wringe, McDonagh (Brown). Unused Subs; Ogilvie, Mearns.
Leith Athletic: Gordon, Black, Lauder (Baigan), Lowson, Glynn, Burns, Tracey, Allan (Melvin), Murray, Beaton (Hainey), Ferguson. Unused Subs; Campbell, Leslie, Fairnie.
Referee: Peter Stuart.