Valentine’s eve it may have been but when there is a place in the cup semi finals at stake against your most hated rivals from across the Forth Road Bridge it’s highly unlikely members of either team were going to be splitting a table for two at Little Italy following this bruising clash. Ultimately though it just wasn’t to be for the St Andrews Mens 5th football team as they were defeated 2-0 by their hated rivals Edinburgh 5ths.
While it’s true that the 5s haven’t exactly had their fair share of representation in this hallowed outlet throughout the years this report was no more than they deserved: it was the furthest a Saints 5th team had got in the Mens Scottish Conference Plate and no St Andrews side had made the semis of the competition since the 3rds back in 2016. The fact that it was our 5ths who were so close to emulating them made their achievement all the more remarkable. They had got there in the first place courtesy of a 2-1 win over a Dundee 4th XI way back in November following two successive byes and were understandably chomping at the bit to get back into cup action following four months out. With the Edinburgh outfit plying their trade in a league above them, the air was ripe for a famous “cupset” and the sense of occasion was only heightened by the presence of fellow St Andrean footballers who stopped by the sports centre to cheer the boys on after returning from the day’s other games, making for a cracking atmosphere.
If anyone was in any doubt as to the level of ferocity the game would entail they were quickly instructed less than ten seconds into the match when Saints goalkeeper Nick Lightfoot was cynically whacked into by Edinburgh’s striker; a challenge that just led however to slight reprimand from the referee. Lightfoot however would then be called into making two fantastic saves as Edinburgh began to assert themselves as the half got going, although the score remained goalless both instances acted as a warning sign for what was to come. It wasn’t all one way traffic however and the Saints’ best chance of the half came after a break down the left from George Hancock, whose cross unfortunately couldn’t find skipper Jack Ireson, who had an open goal at his mercy. This would come back to haunt the hosts as Edinburgh took the lead just as it was looking like the Saints would make it to the half unscathed. St Andrews’ defence spurned several opportunities to clear the ball and Edinburgh eventually won the ball back leading to their centre forward slotting home. Unsavoury scenes followed as the visitor’s chirpy left back unnecessarily goaded the sideline supporters, perhaps though this was a sign of relief in the Edinburgh ranks that they were ahead in a game they maybe weren’t expecting to be so close. The visitors thought they’d doubled their lead soon after before the referee blew up for a push on Lightfoot by their aforementioned centre forward. As the halftime whistle blew though, for all the Saints huff and puff, Edinburgh had yet to be really tested by the home side.
That would all change however just after play resumed, with Tom Mckeown firing just over from the edge of the box and the chance ushered in St Andrews’ best period of the game. The hosts’ front three of Mckeown and the Jacks Dunne and Ireson started to really test the Edinburgh back four with regularity. No real chances could be fashioned though and despite a spate of substitutions none seriously affected proceedings. Edinburgh’s counter attacks were now being felt with increasing regularity and they were extremely close to a second with a glancing header stemming from a cross from the left. Sadly though this would prove to be a harbinger of things to come as the visitors registered the decisive goal with 20 minutes to go, another cross this time being unfortunately turned in by a home defender. This was a real sucker-punch; although St Andrews began to fly forward with increasing desperation and had several chances from set pieces, they were all repelled and the game fizzled out as darkness fell.
So ultimately there will be no unprecedented semi final in this competition for the 5s to look forward to, and it was undoubtedly tough to watch bitter rivals Edinburgh celebrating at the full time whistle. Instead they must turn their attention back to League matters: with three games to go in division 6C they are still, albeit from a distance, in the title hunt whilst a relegation dogfight isn’t off the cards just yet either.