Moldova Cup Final
Kevin ‘Bloxy’ Murray’s glorious Back FC career has been apparently drawing towards a conclusion for the past few seasons but last weekend the veteran proved there is plenty left in the tank as he helped fire his side to a second cup win in a fortnight.
The Bacach striker’s natural successors to his crown have sometimes stumbled when attempting to leap onto his pedestal and the veteran gun-slinger fired another timely winner on Friday night to earn another winners medal for his collection and bring the Moldova Cup to Upper Coll.
Time was ticking on with the game deep into extra-time and perched on a knife edge at 1-1 with both sets of supporters readying themselves for the lottery of penalty kicks when Murray settled it.
A well-struck shot from strike partner Fraser Macleod was saved by Lochs keeper, and worthy man of the match, Cammy Houston but no one in a maroon shirt had followed Murray who pounced on the loose ball to steer into the net to clinch the trophy.
It was harsh on young Houston who had produced a superb display between the sticks for Lochs and who had produced a defiant performance to deny a host of one on one opportunities and would have been an imposing opponent had the match gone to a shoot-out.
The first-half had been a close scrap with Back lording most of the possession but Lochs creating a handful of chances. The first fell to teenager Calum Mackinnon who lashed his left-peg at a Robbie Mackenzie lay-off but sliced it over the top.
At the other end Back should taken the lead when Andrew ‘Mowgli’ Macleod ghosted into the box unmarked with just Houston to beat but the Lochs keeper threw a leg out to his right to make a stunning close range block.
It was a great stop but Macleod should have burst the net from that distance.
A moment of magic from Robbie Mackenzie had the crowd on their feet moments later when the midfielder in maroon accepted a quick throw in from Mackinnon and flicked the ball into the air and over his own head, and that of Back defender DJ Macdonald, before spinning into space where he played a quick give and go with David Macmillan before getting a shot away which whistled narrowly wide.
Don ‘Lava’ Macleod had an effort from the angle of the box which clipped the foot of the Back post before Mackinnon had the final effort of the half fly inches past the post after some excellent work from Donald ‘Nomie’ Macdonald, who took two blue shirts out of the game with his quick feet, and Don ‘Lava’ Macleod.
Back broke the deadlock shortly after the restart when left-back Murdo ‘Gress’ Maclennan’s flighted ball was powered into the top corner and away from Houston by Fraser Macleod.
But it was a lead they couldn’t hold onto as Lochs were handed a way back into the match by a combination of shoddy Back defending and the bravery of frontman ‘Lava’ who capitalised on hesitancy from keeper Michael Maciver to throw his body at the ball to win it and prod home an equaliser.
For Back, Martin Maclean began his trademark surges from midfield as he let fly with a host of long-rangers which had Houston scrambling across his goal.
Just before the end Murray Macleod had a chance to win it after a ball from Maclean into his path but his stabbed effort on the stretch was scooped up by Houston and the game went to extra-time.
The first sniff of goal in extra-time fell to sub ‘Bloxy’ Murray who linked up with Fraser Macleod but again Houston stood up well to make the block.
But in the second-half Murray made no mistake when he gambled, and was duly rewarded, for following up his strike partner’s drive with a tap-in to hand the initiative back to his side.
Darkness was by now enveloping the park at Goathill Road but Maclean did his best to light up the match with a stunning solo run from his own penalty area where he won the ball, hurdled a wild challenge from Graeme Mackenzie, knocked the ball past Ally Mackenzie on the half-way line and galloped in on the Lochs goal.
He skipped round Houston but the path of the ball was taking him away from the unguarded net and he couldn’t wrap his foot enough around it to send it in as it nestled in the side netting.
There was still time for some more late drama as Lochs threw everything forward in the final stages with ‘Lava’ going agonisingly close to forcing spot-kicks with a pair of efforts which shaved the woodwork.
Ref Donald Maclean’s whistle sparked jubilant scenes amongst the Bacachs who celebrated their second cup final win in as many weeks and chalked up another cup final winner for Murray who has netted more than 250 times in the blue of his beloved Back - underlining, not that he need it, his official placing on the pantheon of the club greats.