Musselburgh GRAMMAR Under-16s are celebrating after defeating nearest challengers Holy Rood 3-1 to lift the Lothian Schools Division One championship.
The Musselburgh teenagers’ achievements are even more remarkable considering they have managed to go through the entire season unbeaten, winning all 13 league fixtures and conceding only six goals in the process.
It was therefore fitting that their opponents at Pinkie St Peters for the final fixture would be Holy Rood, the second-placed side knowing that nothing less than a victory would keep their own title dreams alive.
With so much at stake for both schools, there was a real energy displayed from all 22 players in the opening stages, with the home side appearing the more confident in the final third. Some slick exchanges between strikers Sam Rintoul and Dean Ballantyne had the Holy Rood defence on guard with both threatening to break through on goal.
Ballantyne almost broke the deadlock from a tight angle after Rintoul had put him in the clear but the No. 12 dragged his shot just wide of the far post.
The visitors’ first real opportunity came from a dead-ball situation. Jordan Sinclair fancied his chances from fully 25 yards out but despite his free kick having sufficient power, it lacked the accuracy to trouble Steven Howie in the Musselburgh goal as the ball hit the side netting. Musselburgh’s George Hunter must have thought he’d given his side the lead when his effort from the edge of the area went inches wide with goalkeeper John Clayton rooted to the spot. However, the opening goal arrived only moments later.
Defender Evan Bauld spotted the run of Rintoul and played a searching ball over the Holy Rood defence which the striker controlled superbly before striking a shot into the far corner to give Musselburgh a deserved lead.
Determined not to rest on their slender lead, the East Lothian school continued their dominance with Holy Rood restricted to few touches of the ball. It was little surprise when Musselburgh increased their lead only five minutes after notching their first. A great delivery from Neil Martyniuk’s left foot provided Dan Taylor with the simplest of tasks of converting the ball into the net from six yards as he pounced unchallenged.
Rintoul should have sealed the game before the half-time interval when he found himself one-on-one with Clayton but his skill in delivering the first goal of the match sadly evaded him this time around as he placed the ball wide of the goal.
Musselburgh came out the traps flying after the interval and wasted little time in increasing their goal tally. A ball in from the left saw Ballantyne rise above the Holy Rood defence and, despite Clayton’s attempts to clear, the referee had adjudged the ball to have crossed the line. Ballantyne then showed tremendous ability to create space for himself before unleashing a powerful drive which cracked the top of the crossbar with some venom.
Holy Rood had some respite from the Musselburgh surge when Marcus Campanile won the race to the ball and cleverly chipped it past the advanced Howie to give his side some hope.
Musselburgh Grammar coach Graham Forrest was complimentary to his group of players and believes their impeccable record shows their dedication and commitment over the course of the season.
Forrest said: “All season we have been thorough in our preparation but we knew it was going to be a tricky game as Holy Rood are a decent side. However, once we got going we passed the ball well and played some good stuff. But overall we’ve had a tremendous season.”
Forrest’s opposite number, Scott Harris of Holy Rood, was satisfied with his side’s showing but was keen to acknowledge the achievement of the league champions. “I’m very proud of my guys as we’ve kept up with Musselburgh for most of the season,” he said.
Musselburgh Grammar: Steven Howie, Shaun Lawrence, Stuart MacKay, Aaron Dunsmore, Kyle Galazka, Dan Taylor, Stuart Tragis, Scott Chapman, George Hunter, Dean Ballantyne, Mark Slater, Sam Rintoul, Ryan Lee, Neil Martyniuk, Evan Bauld, Darren McGrath.
Holy Rood: John Clayton, Mark McLean, Connor McDonald, Joe Musyzka, Ryan Gordon, Peter Wood, Marcus Campanile, Ross Thomson, Jordan Sinclair, Ryan Bell, Aaron Mitchell, Stephen Divers, Stuart Small.