Never mind the Carabao Cup, here’s the V Tech SMT Fife & Lothians Cup..

Haddington 0 Musselburgh 0 (HiHi win on pens)

Report by Martin Petersen

Travel and pre-match update

Sometimes Scotland can be the most wonderful place. The sun clearing away the mist on a Friday morning in the local park, is currently doing battle with the view back towards Glasgow from The Cobbler for moment of the year 2017. At other times you find yourself driving down the M8, in the rain, listening to Off the Ball with Tam Cowan and Stuart Cosgrove because you can’t stand silence or Capital FM, heading to a game 60 miles away, in a cup you never knew existed, whose sponsor could only possibly be known to people already requiring their services, rendering the entire process and in effect my Saturday, utterly pointless. Still, Haddington vs Musselburgh, you wouldn’t want to miss it, would you?

Match Report

A significant crowd had gathered for today’s match, no doubt with the intention of seeing the as yet unbeaten Musselburgh Athletic progress to the next round in the V Tech SMT Fife & Lothians Cup, but as luck (and a small amount of skill) would have it, it was the HiHi who were to emerge triumphantly from this encounter.

The home side were still hampered by the absence of Cairney and Geo (ball throwing and injury, respectively) and Hamilton was missing as well, so it was Haris in goal, back four of Berry, Wilson, Hamill and new signing Tufail. In midfield Honey was back alongside Devlin and Shaun Hill, while Temple and Jones were chosen as the wingers to support Moffat. The referee was a guy called Stephen Wilson who made his first visit to Millfield and got a ton of abuse, especially from the visitors.

Musselburgh tried to assert themselves from the very beginning, putting pressure on the HiHi defence who attempted their usual approach of playing the ball up field, going in hard in the early challenges and doing their best to emulate a Klopp-esque gegenpress. The intensity was clear to see and they were rather lucky not receive the first yellow of the match after 5 minutes when the left back Lynch went in hard on Temple, but despite Musselburgh’s early physical dominance there was no real reason to panic for the HiHi until Shaun Hill tried to dribble his way out of the defensive third on the 15-minute mark. Fortunately, the resulting chance wasn’t converted by the visitors and neither was the corner they won on two minutes later, as a result of Bob Berry taking no chances as the stand in right back. Shortly after Haddington were passing the ball around at the back, and it somehow got too much for one of the Musselburgh strikers who saw now better option than to try and tackle Haris, who had worryingly gone walkabout with the ball, rather recklessly from behind. HiHi free kick and yellow card, the inevitable outcome.

A period of “battle for control of midfield” followed with Musselburgh creating a couple of half chances by playing straight down the centre, and Haddington being on the receiving end of several off-side calls when trying to counter. Perhaps not one for the purists at this point, and neither was Moffat’s rather robust challenge on a Musselburgh defender on 32 minutes for which he deservedly received a yellow card. The home team then had the best chance of the half as Andy Jones raced forward with the visiting keeper caught outside his own box, sadly a Musselburgh defender was on hand to force Jones wide and his shot from 20 yards failed to find the target. It was then all hands-on deck down the other end as Musselburgh pushed for a goal in the last five minutes of the first half, first shooting wide from a free kick, then over from distance and finally failing to connect after a scramble in the box. Although the visitors no doubt were the better team in the first 45, they had precious little to show for it.

The second half didn’t being any better, aesthetically speaking, than the first, but with the HiHi having a slight advantage in play and chances, Devlin shooting over from 25 yards and Musselburgh struggling to clear a couple of dangerous looking corners in the first 10 minutes. I should add that the first taste of what was to come happened in the 7th minute when Musselburgh’s shouty number 4 Chris Gray finally got a yellow card for being a pr*ck to the referee, something he had worked very hard at for the previous 52 minutes. The two sides then exchanged chances for a good 10 minutes with Musselburgh being the more organised (actually using a genuine working off-side trap, which I suspect is almost cheating at this level), and the HiHi battling for every ball and feeding on scraps up front, before the game descended into a proper cup tie. On 18 minutes the ref kindly informed the visitor’s bench that they might want to sub their striker Murray before he got himself sent off for bitching about stuff, which they did, and Bob Berry picked up a yellow card for what appeared to be either arriving almost a second late in a challenge, or a rather shocking dive by the Musselburgh player.

Bob then had a very eventful ten minutes starting approximately midway through the half, he first delivered a glorious pass to Devlin who found himself alone with the keeper, stepped on the ball and got tackled. He Bob got floored by Musselburgh’s physically imposing MacDonald after a long ball was floated into the HiHI box, and MacDonald then beat him for strength/pace down the flank, sending in a good cross which eventually found its way to Murphy who put it over from the edge of the box. Both teams should really have had 1 or 2 goals at this stage, but there was still plenty of entertainment to come with 15 minutes left as Chris Gray was sent off for headbutting Scott Moffat (according to the linesman). Whether there was much in it is hard to say, but Chris Gray hadn’t exactly been endearing himself to the referee so far, as discussed earlier, despite being told by his manager at half time “Don’t get a yellow for talking to the ref”, which he then did…and then he headbutted someone…You just can’t get the staff these days I guess….

Back with the action both sides had a couple of additional chances, the visitors not suffering significantly from being a player down, but as it was the case during the previous 89 minutes the finishing from both sides could only really be described as unimpressive. In the last-minute Bob Wilson was shown a second yellow card for an innocuous challenge on the edge of the HiHi box, and went on his way for an early shower, while Haris showed exactly how important he is becoming for the club. Whether he deliberately left his top left-hand corner open when directing the wall in order to make the last minute full stretch save more spectacular or not, I couldn’t say, but he did make the spectacular save and the match went to penalties.

There is no interesting way to describe a penalty shootout in writing.. Haddington won after John McManus hit the post, and both keepers scored which was nice.

Attendance: Loads, honestly.. look at the picture.. 6 dozen pies were ordered, and quite possibly sold (not enough pepper, 8/10)

Post-Match Thoughts

Players need to shout less at the referee, it’s like Sauchiehall Street in Glasgow on a Saturday night sometimes, and completely disrespectful. Whether the refs are rubbish or not isn’t relevant, they do a job literally no one apart from them want to do, enabling people who didn’t want to be referees themselves to play an organised game of football instead.

Thank goodness it went straight to penalties.

This is our 3rd cup competition so far, how many are there of these things and will the sponsors get more obscure?

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