The Jock Stein Cup is now comfortably resident in Fivepenny where it will remain proudly for the next 12-months.
And the match ball is in top-gun James ‘Titch’ Morrison’s bag after the live-wire forward’s stunning cup final hat-trick saw Ness edge West Side 3-2 in a cup final cracker.
Ness hoisted the Jock Stein Cup into the cloudless blue skies above Goathill Park on Friday night after a see-saw cup final on a night to remember for the Niseachs.
‘Titch’ bagged a hat-trick to snare the trophy for Ness and he could have had at least another two after missing one on one opportunities.
But West Side simply couldn’t live with his pace, direct running and rubber-legged dribbling.
He opened the scoring after just 40-seconds to give Ness the perfect start.
A simply punt up the park sailed over the high-line of the West Side defence and ‘Titch’ and Ally Williamson gave chase.
Williamson had a head start but within a couple of seconds the jet-heeled Ness man had gobbled up the turf and overhauled Williamson to reach the ball first and he poked the ball past keeper David ‘Lurch’ Murray who had raced off his line.
Titch exploiting his pace on the counter attack was a tactic Ness used repeatedly throughout the match and there is little any defender can do in the face of sheer pace.
But while he regularly raced into open space on the break both ‘Titch’ and strike partner Jack Dunlop had no qualms about doing the dirty work:.
Both lads showed a hunger and desire to press and win possession, and Dunlop was insatiable in that regard,
It was a fearless display by both sides who looked to adopt the Kevin Keegan style of ‘I’ll score more goals than you’ football. Luke Mackay spooned a half chance over the bar at the back stick as West Side spurned an early chance to equalise while at the other end Micheil Smith was leaning back as he struck a ball which invitingly skipped up off the turf and sailed high over the bar.
The West Side defence were proving susceptible to long balls over their heads and another sent ‘Titch’ scampering clean through again. ‘Lurch’ was again off his line quickly with ‘Titch’ trying to lob the keeper who craned his arms into the sky and made a timely block.
The Blues failed to heed their warning as their high line was again exposed by a long ball and ‘Titch’s’ searing pace. This time a ball up the right sent the Ness man clean through again but on this occasion his touch was heavy and showed enough of it to ‘Lurch’ who dived at the striker’s feet and made a save.
It wasn’t all one-way traffic and a burst down the West right from Ali ‘Barvas’ Macleod saw him deliver a pin-point cross onto the forehead of Luke Mackay who glanced an effort a foot past the post.
Midway though the first-half West thought they had equalised when a shot from Innes Iain Morrison was fumbled by Ness keeper Ali Murray. The West players insisted the ball had crossed the line while the sheepish Ness goalie insisted he had stopped it on the line. With out goal line technology on display in Russia just now we will never know for certain but a pocket of neutrals behind the goal claimed the ball was well over the line although it was impossible for the referee to make such a call from further up the pitch.
‘Lurch’ was earning his money in this final which was raging end to end and he was called into action again before the break to make a double-fisted stop to beat away a header from Scott MacRury.
Ness weren’t to be denied for much longer and again the goal came from the turbo-charged ‘Titch’ who bounded clear at full-pelt and poked under ‘Lurch’ to make it 2-0.
A terrific solo run from Innes Iain Morrison deserved a better finish after he skipped past a trio of Ness defenders before teeing up team mate Alex John Morrison who shot tamely down the throat of Ali Murray.
Murray made an even better stop five minutes later as he flung himself low to his right in his best Gordon Banks impression to produce a strong one-handed stop to deny Scott Graham’s header from sneaking inside the post.
There were fewer chances in the early part of the second-half but Ness sub Colin Morrison rippled the side netting with an effort as Ness sought to close the game out.
Ness rode their luck a little when Murray fumbled a ball on his line and allowed it bounce across the face of his goal but the arriving Graham could only thunder the ball off covering defender Shaun Macdonald at the post.
West Side won a spot kick when Martin Stewart’s attempted cross struck the flailing arm of MacRury. Martainn Shields took responsibility for the penalty and made mistake, finishing from the spot, despite Murray guessing the right way and getting something behind the ball, to half the deficit with less than 15-minutes to play.
A frantic period followed for West with a number of half chances as Martin Stewart shot wide while Luke Mackay had an effort cannon off the heels of a Ness defender but it was Ness who claimed the next goal and slapped the handcuffs on the Jock Stein Cup.
Shields was caught in possession midway in his own half by ‘Titch’ who had one thought on his mind when he won the ball. Knocking the ball past the back tracking Ali Williamson and into green space he stomped on the throttle and motored after it before finishing confidently to seal his hat-trick and send Ness 3-1 clear with barely four minutes left on the clock.
Ali ‘Barvas’ Macleod teed up a grandstand final few minutes as he scored a solo goal in the first minute of time added on but it was too little too late for West who had to watch Ness party on the park with the silverware.