Leith Athletic 16s’ coach Martin Owens was relieved to secure maximum points against Loanhead Miners Youth ahead of their potential league decider against Tynecastle on Tuesday night.
Athletic came away from Poltonhall with a 2-1 victory over their Midlothian-based opponents to remain three points adrift of leaders Tynecastle in the race for the championship title.
“Anything other than a defeat keeps us in the race, but we are going to Tynecastle on Tuesday looking for a victory.” Owens said. “It was really important to try and stay in the race so it was important we got a result against Loanhead. It looks like that’s Loanhead out of it now, so it’s down to ourselves or Tynecastle. The fact that we have got to this stage of the season and we’re still in with a chance of winning the league, the boys have been absolutely fantastic.”
With so much at stake, Leith were committed from the offset and were awarded a penalty after just two minutes when Aaron Murrell was tripped in the Loanhead penalty box by Ryan Porteous’s clumsy tackle. Leith No 10 Ross Larner sent the spot-kick into the bottom right corner to give his side an early lead.
Six minutes later, Loanhead goalkeeper Ben Mackenzie was again picking the ball out of the net after Steven Faichney directed a strong header into the bottom left corner from Russell Hogg’s pinpoint cross.
After a disappointing opening ten minutes, Loanhead finally showed a response, although it was restricted to long-range efforts on Craig Kinnear’s goal.
However, Loanhead’s Connor Lawrie did show great skill in jinking past two defenders and creating space for the shot, but the teenager couldn’t find the far corner with a strike from 20 yards.
Then, three minutes before the interval, Loanhead hauled themselves back into contention when Lawrie’s corner from the left was cleared by the Leith defence as far as Harry McGill, who took one step before rifling a shot on the half-volley from 25 yards which flew into the top corner despite the attempts of Kinnear to keep it out.
The home side seemed buoyed by their goal just before the break and pressed their opponents early in the second half.
However, it was Leith who came closest to finding the net for a third time when Ryan Flannigan’s effort came back off Loanhead’s crossbar after Lawrence Naismith had cleared the ball from his own goal-line.
Jack Fairgrieve should have equalised, but miscued his header six yards in front of goal after a terrific delivery by Fraser Shearer.
The game stretched as the clock ticked down with both sides continuing to carve out chances.
Firstly, Larner tested Mackenzie with a 20-yard shot which the Loanhead goalkeeper did well to hold on to with two Leith strikers hovering around the six-yard-box, before Paul Kennedy placed his shot just wide of the target.
Flannigan then received a yellow card for simulation in what appeared a harsh decision by the referee after the substitute appeared to be caught inside the Loanhead penalty box by Fairgrieve’s trailing leg.
Loanhead’s Cameron McNab should have earned a point for his side right at the death when he was picked out at the back post from a Naismith cross, but somehow headed over the bar from four yards much to the dismay of his team-mates.
Loanhead Miners Youth: Ben Mackenzie, Fraser Shearer, Liam Taylor, Jack Fairgrieve, Scott Fairgrieve, Stephen Scott, Ruairidh Crawford, Connor Lawrie, Kyle Scott, Lawrence Naismith, Ryan Porteous, Aaron Waugh, Cameron McNab, Harry McGill, Dean McCafferty, Patrick Philip McKelvey.
Leith Athletic: Craig Kinnear, James Cook, Mason Duncan, Steven Faichney, Russell Hogg, Robbie Ewing, Ross Larner, Callum Napier, Liam Dunn, Jake Owens, Aaron Murrell, Ryan Flannigan, Kieran Grant, Paul Kennedy, Conner Henderson, Liam Demianczuk.