Maroon magicians conjure up a cup win

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Lochs 1

West Side 1

(Lochs win 9-8

on penalties)

Left chasing the game after falling behind to a stunner. Denied by the woodwork. Reduced to sheer nerves to a bout of penalty boxing.

Guilty of blowing a pair of gilt-edged late chances. Even guiltier when Angie Campbell missed a penalty chance to win it in the regular shoot-out.

But finally, heroically, the Co-op Cup was clutched tight by Lochs’ maroon magicians after an epic battle in one of the most frantic and jaw-dropping penalty shoot-outs I have ever seen.

Hero of the day was Lochs No.1 Cameron Houston who not only saved a penalty in the shoot-out at a stage when it would have won the cup for West Side had it hit the net but also scored Lochs’ final penalty in the shoot-out which they ultimately won.

The 20-year-old keeper was solid in between the posts, consistent with his feet and kicking, brilliant in one-on-one situations and in the shoot-out he stepped up to the plate as both a stopper and a scorer.

But there were heroes all over the park in maroon. Andy Murray completed his remarkable return to competitive football after genuine fears his career was finished following a horrific ankle injury.

Having battled back to fitness Murray was slowly integrated back into the team where he has since burst through the 100-goal barrier for the club and now picked up another winner’s medal.

Particularly in the second-half Murray was threading delicate, delightful passes through with understated excellence.

Player manager David Macmillan was the sponsor’s man of the match, Angie Campbell shook off a sloppy start to terrorise the West defence, particularly in the air where he shook the bar with one header, had one in the net chalked off and also scored before the end.

It was a cup final which could have gone either way and the West Side will feel aggrieved not to have held onto their lead to bring home a second trophy to Barvas having beaten Lochs in the Eilean an Fhraoich Cup final at the turn of the month.

Both sides swaggered and sliced their way through each other’s defences inside the opening five minutes.

A change of pace from Jonathon Smith saw him leave Ally Williamson trailing before a dinked cross to the back post drew no takers as two maroon shirts made the same near post run.

Minutes earlier Angie Campbell had hooked a snap shot over the crossbar from just inside the box.

But it wasn’t just Lochs having joy going forward as the West Side quickly followed suit.

A pacey overlapping sprint from Ali ‘Barvas’ Macleod saw the winger hit the touchline and whip a dangerous cross along the face of the Lochs goal.

Scott Graham was the next to have a go at breaking the deadlock after being afforded the freedom of the six-yard box to leap unchallenged to meet a Duncan Maclean corner with his header being touched over the top.

For Lochs’, left-back Peter ‘Robbie’ Mackenzie made a series of purposeful darts into opposition territory with two runs being rewarded with two shots on goal.

Both were easily gathered by Craigie but both were on target and a signal of intent.

The next clear chance also fell for Lochs after Campbell’s pace saw him beat Maclean in a race for a long ball from David Macmillan.

The Lochs frontman reached it before the defender and swung a boot at the ball first time but sent it fizzing past the near post.

Campbell did have the ball in the net five minutes later but his header was ruled out by the assistant referee’s flag for offside.

At the other end a long ranger from Colin George Morrison had keeper Houston worried as he scrambled across his line but the ball whistled past the upright.

Both sides then rattled the frame of the goal in a frantic 120-second spell in the final minute of the first-half. Campbell thundered a header off the face of the crossbar for Lochs before West Side had the Lochs’ woodwork wobbling minutes later.

For the Siarachs Scott Graham wriggled in on goal and saw his initial effort blocked by Houston before the loose ball sat up invitingly for the striker who then knocked the ball against the frame of the goal with the net gaping.

After the break the West Side upped the tempo and began to create the better chances.

A crossed ball from the right slipped through Houston’s gloves with Graham’s attempted shot then charged down.

Then Martainn Shields’ pace took him bounding clean through on goal. Shields had time to pick his spot but he opened his foot out too much and sliced it well wide of the post.

They did take the lead moments later with a stunning goal from midfield ace Kenny ‘Parry’ Macleod.

There looked to be nothing on when a loose ball rolled into his path 25-yards out but he didn’t even break his stride when meeting the ball before curling an unsavable shot into the top corner beyond Houston’s reach.

Lochs pulled level after a neat passage of play on the right involving David Macmillan, Ally ‘Laxay’ Macdonald and Donald ‘Nomie’ Macdonald which resulted in the latter floating a cross on top of West keeper Gordon Craigie.

The ball was hanging in the air at the heart of the six-yard box but nobody in blue wanted the ball as much as Angie Campbell who was up early and strongly to force a header into the net.

After scoring it was Lochs who looked the likelier to win the match in the regulation 90 as they continued to create openings while West Side seemed to lose their own attacking impetus.

A one two between Smith and ‘Nomie’ sent Smith into the box on the left touchline before his well struck near post drive was beaten round the post by Craigie.

Smith latched onto the next when his run through the heart of the West Side defence was met by an up and under ball from Campbell.

Sub Jim O’Donnell had Lochs final chance in the dying minutes after his powerful header was blocked on the line and sat up invitingly for a second bite of the cherry but with the chance to seal the trophy he took his eye off the ball at the crucial moment and sliced his chance well wide.

There is no provision for extra-time in the Co-op Cup – due to the rules being set up to accommodate teams from the Butt to Barra and considering ferry times – so the match went straight to the dreaded lottery of spot-kicks.

An epic penalty shoot-out went through all 11 players which finished the match for each side with both goalkeepers having to take spot-kicks themselves.

Peter Mackenzie, Roddy Morrison and David Macmillan steered home Lochs’ first three spot-kicks while Scott Graham and Duncan Maclean converted West Side’s first two.

But Martainn Shields’, normally so reliable from 12-yards, saw his effort palmed clear by Houston to edge Lochs in front in the shoot-out.

Angie Campbell, Lochs’ regular spot-kick taker all season long, saw his legs turn to jelly in his warm up as he drilled his penalty wide of the post to hand West Side a chance to level which they took with DJ Macleod.

Andy Murray netted to heap the pressure on Innes Iain Morrison who had to score to force the match into sudden death which he managed to do.

In the pressure cooker atmosphere of the sudden death shoot-out both camps showcased nerves of steel. O’Donnell, Smith, Peter ‘Robbie’ and ‘Nomie’ all scored for Lochs and Ally Williamson, Kenny Macleod, Craigie and Donald ‘Spike’ Smith did likewise for West.

Something had to give and it did when Lochs fullback Ally ‘Laxay’ Macdonald skied his spot-kick over the bar.

His miss meant West would win the cup if Donnie Smith could find the net.

Once again Houston came to his side’s rescue with a flying stop to a roar from the Maroons on the halfway line.

Having made the save Houston was then forced to take the next spot-kick but the keeper made no mistake and found the corner with minimum fuss.

Next to make the long walk to the penalty spot was Campbell Macdonald who had to score to force another pair of kicks but he dragged the ball a foot wide of the post and Lochs had their hands on their first senior trophy in two seasons.