Report By DEAN THOMSON
Langstaff and Thomson attended the LEAFA committee meeting the previous Wednesday and witnessed the Association Chairman make the league cup draw.
Having been drawn against some of the best amateur sides around on several occasions already this season, there was a slight sense of 'not again' when the drawn Strollers ball was swiftly followed by ball number 8 - Hermiston Vale FC - a team that we all know have caused many problems for most of their opponents accross the country in their first season in the amateur game. This feeling however was quickly replaced with excitement, after seeing how close LBG had come to taking points from the joint league leaders at the time just 2 weeks earlier at Forresters 3G. The game would be hosted at Meggetland - the new home pitch for this season that, when playable, the Strollers often thrive on.
The gale force winds most likely ruined most games in the Lothians today. Not this one. These two teams produced yet another classic here today. There was admittedly not as much football played as there has usually been between these two technically good sides, and the wind produced a few comical moments, as you would expect at a speed 40-50mph! However, this was balanced out by 90 minutes of good old fashioned battling between two sides desperate to proceed to their first semi-final of the season. The Strollers, who have less to play for than Hermiston Vale, after bowing out of most cup competitions against sides in higher divisions, know a win could really boost their chances of silverware, especially with CS Strollers/Sporting Icabp to face in the semi's - two teams who Strollers have beaten already this season.
It took both sides about ten minutes to get used to the heavy winds and it was Hermiston Vale who settled better and began to pick out passes to the prolific front two of Nacho and Ali. Some good defending from LBG kept the score deadlocked until Nacho was aided by the referee to get his goal, after unbelievably being waived onside and slotting the ball past keeper Allan. 1-0. After 3 or 4 attempts to play the front two offsdie with a high back line were waived away by the referee, Strollers were forced to sit deeper and the chances for Vale were few and far between from then on.
The home side reacted as a losing team should and within minutes desrevedly levelled the scoring. Central defender Tom Reade, who unfortunately was playing in his final game for the Strollers after securing his next placement in London, smashed home an excellent volley from the edge of the box, after taking the ball on the chest from a poor attempt from Vale to clear a corner. Reade has been excellent since joining in the summer and his power, free kick ability, long passing and desire to win will be a big loss to the club. What a way to finish off his time here at the club.
One more ball latched on to by Nacho was dinked wide but the referee again baffled both sides by pointing to the spot, claiming keeper Allan had made late contact with the little no.10. The stud marks on Allan's thigh surely a clear sign that the Vale striker was the offender. The penalty was tucked away to round off the first half.
The Strollers went in at half time frustrated at the undeserved losing position, but held the belief that this was a game they could win.
Their equalizer came a few mins in to the second half and was a little fortunate. Reade looking to loft a long range free kick in to the opponents box actually scuffed his effort which bobbled towards Mcpherson at the near post who manged to nip his toe at the ball quickler than the defender, and through the goalkeepers legs.
The goal lifted LBG spirits hugely who looked the more dominant side from here on in. Vale bizzarely decided to take no 9 Ali off - a welcome change for Thomson and Reade who admittedly find him a handful to play against, even though today he was kept relatively quiet by the big no 4 and 5.
It would be unfair not to single out defensive midfielder Dillon for his performance. Dillon, who won the MOM award hands down today, looked as though he was going in to battle with every attempt to win a header or a tackle today. His contribution was pivotal in allowing the 'front 4' to concentrate on hurting the opposition with their quick counter attacking football style.
This ultimately led to the Strollers winner when right midfielder Ritchie Paul was fouled again on the break. Natural left footer Andy Langstaff stepping over the free-kick to cross in towards the strong aerial ability of Reade, Thomson and Dillon. Andy zipped a delightful cross in to the danger area and the ball appeared to take a glimpse of Reade's head before glancing off Thomson's and in the net. However neither were properly verified by manager Campbell who must have looked away at the time and the goal was awarded to Langstaff.
More importantly, this was to be the winning goal. The last 30 minutes were nervy but the Strollers defended like lions to progress to the semi's. They will meet CS Strollers in this tie. These two teams will firstly battle for a third place league finish next Saturday at Marine Drive.