Saturday 3 June 2017, 14.30, New Victoria Park
The second leg of the East Superleague play-off between Newtongrange Star and Forfar West End.
Our third viewing of Star, but remarkably a first visit of the season to their New Victoria Park home. It’s a ground we have spent a lot of time at in recent seasons.
‘Nitten’ had looked doomed to relegation from the Superleague for a large part of the season, but they were unbeaten in their last eight league games, with five being away from home. Of these games, they won the last four and drew the four before.
They wrapped up their season with a 1-0 win at Linlithgow Rose on 1 May then could only watch as the remaining games played out. Against all the odds, they avoided automatic relegation and finished third bottom, this putting them into the play-off spot.
Star were missing four players who were attending a wedding. A terrible time to be missing so many, but I don’t expect they expected to be playing in June. Captain Lee Currie, Jack Wilson, Scott Swanney and top score Errol Douglas all absent.
A first look at Forfar West End. Originally formed in 1892, they played in the Tayside Premier League until joining the East Region of the Scottish Junior Football Association in 2006.
With restructuring, West End played in the North Division in 2006-07 and won the title in their first season, to reach the Premier League. Finishing runners-up in the Premier, they reached the Superleague, but were relegated again in 2008-09.
They failed to raise a team twice at the start of season 2011-12 and in October of 2011, went into abeyance and withdrew from all fixtures for the rest of the season.
They rejoined again the next season and were placed back in the North Division with a six point deduction. Season 2013-14 saw them finish in second spot to return to the Premier League. They’ve stayed there since then with finishes of tenth, eighth and then third to put them in the play-off spot for promotion to the Superleague.
They were only two points off automatic promotion and a damaging defeat to Bathgate Thistle in their penultimate game was the one which ended their hopes of going straight up.
The first leg of the play-off, played the previous Saturday, had seen Star take an early lead before being pegged back soon after. West End scored two more in the first half to lead 3-1 at half time. No further goals meant that Wet End came to Midlothian with a two goal cushion.
I was pleasantly surprised to see that a programme had been produced for the game. Although it was my first visit of the season, Star haven’t usually produced programmes in the past. Kudos to those involved for organising one on short notice.
There was a minute’s silence before the start to commemorate the passing of former Newtongrange Match Secretary Rob Clark.
West End won a corner almost straight from kick off and Ramsay’s cross was met by the head of Rae, but Amos saved down low.
The opening minutes featured some hard tackling, not all of it within the rules, and Star’s Lally and West End’s Callum Walls were both spoken to.
The aggressive start continued when West End’s McDonald used a strong shoulder charge on Star’s Flynn to let the ball run out for a throw-in in 14 minutes. Flynn ended up lying on the dirt track which goes around the pitch.
West End’s Stephen won the ball in 15 minutes and passed to McKenzie who found Hart in the box. Young got across to block the big striker’s shot at goal.
In 17 minutes, Ramsay swung a ball into the Star box which was met by the head of Andrew Walls and went inches wide of goal.
Star’s Moncrieff was brought down by Callum Walls around 25 yards from the West End goal in 22 minutes. Flynn curled at goal, but it was a comfortable catch for Burns.
The game was already tetchy and the home side’s Martynuik and McKenzie of West End were barging into each other as they walked past.
A pass into the feet of Moncrieff in 27 minutes saw him shoot for the corner of the West End goal from 22 yards. Burns made a fantastic one handed save to turn the ball around the post.
A corner in 29 minutes for West End saw Amos come out of goal and miss the ball, but Lally was there to get the ball away.
West End’s Hart required treatment in 31 minutes for what seemed to have been a bang in the face, but was ok to continue.
Ramsay’s corner in 37 minutes picked out Rae whose volley clipped the outside of the Star post on its way past.
A minute later Lander struck a well hit shot in the West End box, but it was too high.
With two minutes to the break, a Star cross from the right came to Flynn in the box who expertly sent an instep volley into the top corner to give the hosts the lead.
Just the one goal in the first half, but a fantastic one at that. Star hadn’t really been putting a huge amount of pressure on, but were now only one goal behind after Flynn’s strike. West End had been coping fairly comfortably and seeing their two goal advantage halved just before the break probably made their half time oranges taste a little bitter.
As in the first period, Forfar won a corner in the opening minute of the second half, but again it came to nothing.
A loose header by Young in 48 minutes was picked up by Ramsay and he shot at the Star goal from around 20 yards, but Amos was well placed to save.
In 51 minutes, a free kick into the West End box by Martynuik was headed back, but O’Brien could only get a foot to it and was unable to get any direction on the ball and Burns was able to claim it.
McDonald was writhing in agony in 53 minutes after he looked to be caught by Star’s Lander as he played the ball forward. Lander was shown the yellow card and McDonald made a remarkable recovery and took the free kick himself.
Lally was the next Star player booked a minute later following a tackle on McKenzie, although he looked to get at least some of the ball.
Some good build up play by Star in 55 minutes ended with Moncrieff’s cross into the middle just drifting away from Lander.
The Star defence almost made a mess of things at the back in 56 minutes, letting Hart in, but Amos managed to smother the ball.
West End’s Ramsay was booked for dissent in 57 minutes.
Petrie broke down the left for West End in 67 minutes and cut the ball back for Ramsay, but he was halted by a good Hamilton tackle.
Petrie was the next player to incur the wrath of the referee, shown a yellow card for a challenge on a Star player.
A long ball forward by West End in 74 minutes saw Hart running through on goal. He and Amos arrived at the ball together and it broke for Ramsay, but he was offside.
Lally crossed into the West End box in 76 minutes and Flynn challenged keeper Burns for the ball. Both went down and needed treatment, but were ok to continue.
A late tackle on Star’s Lander by Rae in 77 minutes saw him become the next player booked.
Star were having a lot more of the ball in the second half, but were not really creating any good chances with the West End defence holding firm.
Ireland broke away on the left for West End in 82 minutes and cut inside, but Lally got a foot in to repel the danger.
A minute later and Flynn set up Lander on the edge of the West End box, but his shot was a wild effort.
Murray had a good effort from 25 yards at the West End goal in 84 minutes, but it was just too high.
Star’s O’Brien was booked in 87 minutes for a crunching tackle on Ireland.
With two minutes left, Ramsay did well to get to the Star by-line, but Amos managed to block the ball behind.
In injury time, Murray became the latest player given a caution for a late tackle on West End’s Reynolds.
There was much jubilation at the final whistle from the West End girls (and boys) as their promotion was confirmed.
A sad day for Star, whose improved form seemed to have deserted them after the break between the league’s end and the play-offs. Although Star showed commendable fight, they were unable to break down a stubborn defence.
A great achievement for West End who will be hoping for a longer stay in the East top league this time round.
Best for Star were Hamilton, Martynuik and Moncrieff, while West End’s Burns, McKenzie, Andrew Walls and Ramsay stood out.
Relegation for Newtongrange and promotion for West End.
Full Time: Newtongrange Star 1 Forfar West End 0 (Aggregate 2-3)
Newtongrange Star: 1 Liam Amos, 12 Sean Lally, 5 Garry Hamilton, 4 Neil Martynuik, 9 Mark Moncrieff, 3 Brian Murray, 8 Jim Young, 15 Kenny O’Brien, 18 James Flynn, 16 Kyle Lander, 19 Kevin Bracks. Subs: 12 Jack Cook, 14 Connell, 15 Jack Wright.
Forfar West End: 1 Daryl Burns, 2 Craig Stephen, 3 Ross McDonald, 4 Daryl McKenzie, 6 David Rae, 5 Ryan Stirton, 11 Callum Petrie (Reynolds 84), 8 Callum Walls, 9 Graeme Hart, 10 Matty Ramsay, 7 Andrew Walls (Ireland 71). Subs: 12 Matty Reynolds, 14 Connor Ireland, Kieron Crighton, Fraser, Smith.
Referee: Duncan Smith
*After Kelty Hearts left the Superleague to join the East of Scotland League, Newtongrange Star were reinstated to the Superleague. I’ve yet to hear if the Junior Association are providing refunds given that the play-off ended up being meaningless…. 😊