The heat is on, but Lochs lift the cup in extra time

Lochs lifted the Jock Stein Cup in sweltering conditions at Goathill Park on Friday night with two goals in extra time over an Athletic side that failed to capitalise on having an extra man for over an hour of the match.

Both sides were missing key personnel, as Lochs kicked off without the services of Calum Tom Moody and Andy Murray while Athletic were minus the quartet of Elliott Rudall, Steven Clinton, Scott Maciver and DJ Clinton.

There was very little for the watching spectators to get excited about in the opening exchanges, with Jim O’Donnell firing wide of Macritchie’s near post in Lochs’ first attack while at the other end Rob Jones saw his weak effort collected easily by Cameron Houston. The Lochs keeper was almost caught out shortly afterwards when he was closed down by Nicholas Davis and was grateful to see the ball spill out of play for a goal kick.

Play was very scrappy, with many passes failing to find their target and one or two challenges warranting a lecture from the referee who sensibly allowed a water break in the 35th minute after David Macmillan had been brought down five yards outside the box. From the resultant set piece Macmillan curled the ball over the defensive wall but was denied the opening goal by Macritchie’s superb save.

As half time approached Gary Macleod’s inswinging free kick caused alarm in the Lochs defence, but fortunately for the Maroons there were no takers for the Stornoway side who finished the half looking the stronger side.

Lochs came out of the traps quickly after the break with Robert Mackenzie and Angie Campbell having shots just off target before Jones sent a shot over Houston’s goal with Athletic’s response.

In the 54th minute a slip in the centre circle by Angie Campbell gave possession to Donnie Macleod of Aths, and he knocked the ball past the last defender Roddy Morrison who was left with little option but to bring Macleod down in a challenge which incurred a red card.

His dismissal seemed to galvanise the Lochies who did not allow their opponents numerical advantage to hold sway, with Peter Mackenzie heading over from a free kick as they sought to break the deadlock.

Athletic had failed to find the net in three of their four previous outings and their lack of killer instinct in front of goal was apparent when Gary Macleod ran on to a Stuart “Bubble” Macdonald pass and although he got his shot away he failed to hit the target and a pass inside to the unmarked Jones may have been the wiser option.

Both sides had half-chances before the end of normal time but the stalemate meant an additional half-hour which many thought would have favoured Athletic because of the extra man. However, it was Lochs who were to grab the crucial opening goal when Peter “Robbie” Mackenzie’s free kick was volleyed back across goal by Angie Campbell for Don “Lava” Macleod to head past Macritchie.

Athletic’s main threat appeared to come from Donnie Macleod in midfield and his powerful run down the right took him to the bye-line before he sent an inviting cross into the box which Houston did well to collect while back pedalling.

“Nomie” Macdonald then made a vital block to prevent Davis from equalising, moments before Lochs doubled their lead. Robert Mackenzie’s mazy run took him past three defenders to put him through on Macritchie, who made a fine block with his legs. But the ball broke to Angie Campbell who returned the ball from 35 yards into the net.

There was no way back for Athletic as Lochs ran down the clock for the closing minutes, before skipper Peter Mackenzie hoisted the trophy aloft much to the delight of large Lochs contingent. The sponsors’ man-of-the-match award went to Donnie Macleod of Athletic.