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South Lochaber Thistle 2-2 Newshot (5-4 penalties)
SOUTH Lochaber Thistle (SLT) won the Challenge Cup final last weekend with a heart-stopping, sudden death penalty shoot out in Glasgow.
The final was played at Greenfields, Shettleston United’s ground in Glasgow, and the Jags knew opponents Newshot well, having played them five times already this season.
In the opening exchanges, it was the Highlanders who looked the brightest, with the comfortable footballing skills of John Treasurer, Kieron and Stephen Lopez and Dave Forbes making the defensive-minded Newshot team look leaden footed and sluggish and needing to give away niggling fouls to disrupt the rhythm of SLT.
It was one of these fouls which allowed Forbes to create the opening goal, lofting a free kick to the back post. The Newshot keeper went low to his left and had the ball in his hands, only to spill it into the path of winger Marty Munro who slotted the ball home.
Into the second half, things took a turn for the worse for the Paisley outfit when skipper Danny Mackintosh gathered another pass from Forbes, burst into the box and – after having had his initial effort saved – shuffled his feet to score the rebound; 2-0 to the Jags.
In response, Newshot made a raft of substitutions and shuffled both their formation and tactics. This paid dividends for them when a rare lapse in concentration allowed the Newshot striker to hit a speculative effort from the edge of the penalty area to reduce the deficit.
The game now entered a period of controversy with a challenge which left goalkeeper Ryan Hunter with a cut face was only given a yellow card and several other challenges going unpunished.
With the clock counting down, the official indicated three minutes additional time. It was as the match entered its sixth minute, however, that Newshot used their favoured tactic of long throws into the box to score a scrappy, looping header that broke Lochaber hearts with the last kick of normal time. 2-2. Controversy continued in added time when Mackintosh again outfoxed the defender, moving the ball away and being scythed down in the box.
The referee’s assistant furiously flagged for the foul, but the man in the middle waved it away. The game ended and progressed to a penalty shoot out.
Newshot had won the toss and opted to take the first penalty. Hit strongly, Hunter got a hand to it but it still went in. 1-0. The teams then traded penalties, Mackintosh, Andrew MacLean, Treasurer and Munro all slotting home and Hunter offered a first glimpse of victory with a cat like leap to keep out Newshot’s third effort.
Sadly a missed penalty by Lewis Morrison left the final score 4-4 after the five penalties. In inspirational form, Hunter dived low to his left and kept out the Newshot player’s flaccid finish and Darren Duncan stepped up and made no mistake, his clinical finish sending the players, backroom staff and travelling supporters into ecstasy. Manager Alan Gray said: ‘If you’d told me when we started the club last June that we’d be lifting a trophy come the end of the season, I wouldn’t have believed you.
‘It’s testament to how much time, effort and commitment has been put in by the lads; both on and off the park over the season that we lifted the shield today.
‘I want to thank everyone involved, players, backroom staff and importantly our supporters, who turned out in numbers and sung and cheered our boys to victory.’
The Kinlochleven-based club, formed less than a year ago by manager Alan Gray, will finish second in the West of Scotland Amateur league, Scotland’s oldest amateur league championship, and have won their first silverware. They have the chance to add to this tally with another cup final to be played on Saturday June 10.
Manager Alan Gray was presented with the new strip by Iain Rodger, owner of Sunny’s Bar who has sponsored the strips.
Second strips were sponsored by Iain Dunleevy of Howdens Joinery and final tracksuit sponsors were Marine Harvest which were presented by Andrew Martin and David Forbes.