Hutchison Vale Under-13s’ unbeaten start to the season lay on a knife edge after going into half-time 2-0 down to Spartans Youth – but they produced a determined second-half fightback to prevail 4-3 winners in the quarter-final of the SPORTS-assist South East Region Cup.
Spartans had found themselves on the wrong end of a 5-2 league defeat to Hutchie back in August – however, on this occasion, they looked assured in a clinical first-half showing and may well have booked a semi-final spot if they hadn’t lost influential striker Keelan Adams through injury.
Hutchie goalkeeper Ciaran Cairns had to be alert to push Luke Cunningham’s shot wide on 25 minutes after the strike took a deflection en route to goal, but, from the resultant corner the keeper could do nothing to stop Kris Gaff’s header, which crashed into the net. Two minutes later and Spartans doubled their lead. Hutchie’s players and spectators were appealing for offside as Aidan Cross played in Adams, but the referee waved play on and the striker kept his composure to get his shot away, with Cairns only able to get a hand on the effort as it rolled into the net.
Spartans were passing the ball around well on the artificial surface at Meadowbank and looked confident in persevering the two-goal cushion, with Hutchie offering little in the way of forward venture.
Adams almost made it three for Spartans before half-time but Cairns did brilliantly to produce a quick double save.
Hutchie kicked off their comeback six minutes into the second period with their captain Rory Campbell leaping ahead of the Spartans defence to nod in Callum Anderson’s free-kick from the right.
Another set-piece was to be the downfall for Spartans eight minutes later as diminutive striker Luis Malcolm was given space to head into the net for the equaliser.
With less than 20 minutes of the second-half passed, Hutchie’s comeback was complete. The revitalised side went into the lead for the first time in the match when Luke McMahon played in substitute Brandon Blair, who shot across Spartans keeper Owen Barnes into the bottom corner.
Spartans were stuck inside their own half with Hutchie on top and their fate was compounded when they lost Adams to injury midway through the second half, with substitute keeper Ben Ritchie sent up front.
Lewis McCann secured victory for Hutchie with a exquisite finish past Barnes to set up a home semi-final with either Blackburn United or Hillfield Swifts, before Spartans pulled one back in the final minute through Cross.
Meanwhile, Leith Athletic Under-16s booked their place in the last four of the South East Region Cup with a swashbuckling performance to down Whitburn FC 6-0.
Striker Ryan Young chipped in with two goals, while team-mates Jay McManus, Connor Prior, Marco Mcbride and Callum Smart all grabbed a goal each.
McManus got the pick of the bunch for Leith with a wonderful volley after Ross Aitchison teed him up with a long ball from midfield, while Prior was a close second after riding through challenges in midfield to slide the ball into the net.
Leith Athletic’s Tam Aitchison was delighted with the performance, with his side set to face Shotts YMCA Red in the semi final. He said: “We went into the match with the right attitude and every one of them was magnificent. It was a great team effort.”
Elsewhere, Dalkeith Miners Under-14s were 4-2 victors in a derby against Dalkeith CYP in the first round of the John Crawford Memorial Trophy after producing a memorable comeback.
Dalkeith CYP had taken a first-half lead and were two goals to the good five minutes into the second period, only for their rivals to score four without reply.
Patrick Lightband pulled a goal back for the Miners after Robbie Yuill had set him up and then Alex Hyndman put them level from the penalty spot. Kieran Williamson scored to put Miners in front after an incisive breakaway, and he scored again after Yuill played him in with five minutes remaining.