Saturday 13 May 2017, 14.30, Saughton Enclosure
The East of Scotland League clash between Lothian Hutchison Vale and Leith Athletic.
Very much a title decider with the top two facing off against each other in the last game of the season.
A fourth sight of Vale and a fifth of Leith of the season.
Current champions Leith had been looking like the favourites to retain the title with a healthy goal advantage and points on the board. Then they only managed a draw in their penultimate game away to Tweedmouth Rangers and the door had been left slightly ajar. Vale then won 8-0 against Eyemouth before making the same journey Leith had to Tweedmouth Rangers and incredibly came away with a win by eleven goals to nil.
So the final day saw Leith needing to win the game by three goals to retain the title. Anything worse than that for them and Vale would win it.
I’m unsure of when it came about, but the home side seem to have dropped the word ‘Thistle’ from their name, which had been the second word.
Around 100 turned up to see the game, including a couple of Saracens Rugby fans who were visiting Edinburgh for the European Rugby Champions Cup Final taking place at Murrayfield later on that day.
Upon arrival at the ground we were advised that the programmes hadn’t shown up yet and that “Tony was bringing them”. We managed to obtain one later on.
A ball into the Vale box in 5 minutes saw Leith get the first chance of the match, but Tracey could only head wide.
After McKinlay had fouled, Vale had a free kick wide on the left in 7 minutes and Brown’s ball into the box was punched clear by Gordon.
Vale were bossing the early possession, but attempted through balls had been very poor.
Leith’s Mason was forced to come off through injury after 13 minutes.
A clever through ball by Wilkie in 14 minutes looked for Hainey in the Vale box, but Swain was out quickly to gather.
Devlin’s pass in 15 minutes saw Wringe running in on the Leith goal, but a fine tackle by Fee halted his progress.
Straight up the other end and good feet by Hainey created him some space in the box, but his shot was tipped over by Swain.
In 19 minutes, Wilkie played the ball wide to Burns on the left as Leith came forward. His cross into the middle found the head of Allan, but under pressure from Taylor-McKenzie, he couldn’t get it on target.
A minute later Devlin was through on the Leith goal, but the flag was up for offside as Gordon saved with his legs.
Moore required treatment in 27 minutes after he was caught by the boot of McKinlay when heading clear at the edge of the Vale box.
Taylor-McKenzie’s cross into the Leith box in 29 minutes came to the feet of Wringe with his back to goal. He quickly controlled the ball and turned before rifling low into the corner to give Vale the lead.
With half an hour gone, Taylor-McKenzie became the second Vale player to get a boot in the face, caught by Tracey.
Wringe tried to play a through ball for Devlin in behind Melvin in 33 minutes, but Gordon was out to claim.
Fee’s cross from the left in 34 minutes had Vale keeper Swain back peddling, but it hit the top of the bar.
Vale’s Taylor-McKenzie crossed low into the box in 36 minutes and the ball came to Muir, but his shot was deflected wide.
Two Leith players went for the same ball in 38 minutes and O’Donnell nipped in for Vale and set off towards the Leith goal. He cut the ball back to Devlin, but he took a heavy touch and the ball ran out for a goal kick.
A high ball into the Leith box in in 39 minutes saw Gordon palm the ball out from under the bar. Muir half volleyed goalwards and Black collided with the post as the ball went narrowly wide.
Still 1-0 to Vale at half time and Leith needing four goals without reply to win the league and deny Vale the title.
In the second minute of the second half, Leith’s Hainey and Vale’s Crawford chased the ball towards the Vale goal. Keeper Swain came out and Crawford left it to him. He got the ball, but also caught Hainey who needed treatment before he could continue.
The very windy conditions and bobbly pitch were making it difficult for flowing football, but both sides were giving it their all.
A mistake by Fee in 55 minutes gave the ball to Devlin on the by-line, but he couldn’t pick out a Vale teammate in the middle.
In 60 minutes, Hare found Devlin in the Leith box on the right hand side. Gordon got a hand to his shot from a tight angle, but Wringe followed up to blast past the defender on the line to make it two nil to the home side.
Allan floated a free kick from midway in the Vale half into their box in 62 minutes and Hainey controlled it before volleying the ball into the top corner for a fabulous goal to give Leith some hope.
Vale broke in 64 minutes and Brown, Wringe and Devlin were all involved before the ball was played wide to Hare. His cross eluded all three in the middle.
Allan was booked in 65 minutes for a kick at Hare.
O’Donnell had the ball on the left for Vale in 67 minutes and went down under the challenge of Burns, but nothing was given.
It looked as though the referee flashed a yellow card in 70 minutes, but I’m not sure who to.
Melvin played the ball forward to Hainey on the edge of the Vale box in 74 minutes and he turned and fired into the corner of the net to restore parity. A good comeback by Leith, but with just over 15 minutes left, they still needed three more goals.
Leith’s Melvin was shown a yellow card in 75 minutes for a foul and the free kick was played left to Hare. He fired the ball right across goal and it went narrowly wide. It must have taken a touch as a corner was given. Brown’s corner went over the head of Gordon, but Taylor-McKenzie couldn’t keep his header down.
A long ball forward by Brown in 80 minutes was over the top of the Leith defence and Devlin latched onto the ball. A defender was breathing down his neck, but couldn’t catch him and he slotted the ball past Gordon to put Vale back in front.
With five minutes left, Sherlock played the ball right to Hutchison. His cross didn’t pick out anyone in the box, but it came to Taylor-McKenzie, whose shot was comfortably saved by Gordon.
The Leith keeper went down injured in 86 minutes but was able to continue.
In the last minute, a mistake by Melvin on the right saw Devlin nip past him and square the ball for Hutchison. He made some space away from Fee, but shot off target.
The full time whistle came moments later to the delight of the victorious Vale players.
Leith never looked convinced they could win by three goals and Vale never gave them a sniff of doing so. A fine season for both teams, but Vale walk off with the league title.
Muir was outstanding in the first half for Vale and seemed to be everywhere. Moore and Crawford also impressed. For Leith, Burns and Hainey stood out.
Full Time: Lothian Hutchison Vale 3 Leith Athletic 2
Lothian Hutchison Vale: 1 Kevin Swain, 2 Dylan Moore, 5 Grant Munro, 4 Paul Crawford, 3 Scott Taylor-McKenzie, 6 Tony Muir, 7 Willis Hare (Guy 83), 8 Kevin Brown, 9 Sean Wringe (Hutchison 68), 10 Jamie Devlin, 11 Liam O’Donnell (Sherlock 73). Subs: 12 James Guy, 14 Ryan Hutchison, 15 John Sherlock, Jordan Mungell, Jaxon Wishart.
Leith Athletic: 1 Iain Gordon, 2 Taylor Black (Ferguson 56), 3 Kyle Fee, 4 Sean Melvin, 5 Aaron Lewis, 6 Grant Burns, 7 Lewis Tracey, 8 Mark Wilkie, 9 James Hainey, 10 Robbie Mason (Allan 13), 11 Daniel McKinlay (Craigie 68). Subs: 12 Kerr Allan, 14 Christopher Beaton, 15 Rhys Craigie, 16 Jack Combe, 17 Lewis Martin, 18 John Ferguson, 21 Neil Fairney.
Referee: Michael Addy