Balmoral Stadium, AFC Trophy 1/2 Final, 12/6/22
Entrance – Me £3, Wee Man £1
Attendance – 113 (Rough Head Count)
Pint – N/A
The Immoral……I mean Balmoral Stadium. Somewhere I vowed never set foot again after my first visit. This when on the official opening Cove rangers played Aberdeen in a friendly match. I say match, a partial match as the big lump of wood Andy Considine managed to get the game abandoned with a clumsy assault on Jordan Brown. It was ticked off and I didn’t need to return. However this mammoth elongated season is still going and a football fix can still be found in the Aberdeenshire AFA. This due to a few semis and finals to be played and fair play to Cove for allowing their ground to be used. I would like to think this was a nod to their amateur roots. Entering the newly promoted Championship club’s midden today brought me my seventieth game of the season(not bad for someone who works away half the year).
Unfortunately it was way down the list in terms of quality for the season. However this did not stop talking points unfolding. Going by league positions this was to be a tight affair. Woodside finished third in the Premier, three points ahead of fourth placed Echt. I really didn’t have a clue if Woodside would be heading to the final attempting to earn a second engraving on this trophy or Echt for their seventh. As the game went it was clear this was two very evenly matched teams as suspected.
The first fifteen minutes saw very little action. The only action saw an effort saw Echt centre forward David Clark beat Woodside keeper Paul Noble only to see his twenty yard curling shot swerve past the post. The space the big striker was given was criminal. This was the catalyst to spark the game into action with proceedings opening up. Woodside striker Main was claiming penalty not long after when he burst in behind the Echt defence but Mitchell got down well to win the ball. Main tried his luck with the claim but the referee wasn’t having any of his nonsense. From the resulting corner Woodside number eleven Jason Coyle had a pop from the short headed clearance but it went inches wide. Echt were playing the better football and seemed to find space easier and the action was all in the Woodside half. Clark should have opened the scoring on the half hour when he was played through by Anderson but he delayed his shot and when only eight yards from goal he allowed the centre half to put in a great last ditch takle. Clark was again cursing himself when he saw a long range effort go just wide of the goal with Noble scrambling to his left. The best chance(s) of the game came when Mearns struck a ferocious close effort which Noble somehow manged to see on to the bar. A great piece of instinct from the keeper who had spent the previous thirty five minutes either taking his gloves off, going down injured or screaming fucks and cunts at anyone in earshot. But his presence was still needed after the ball hit the bar as the rebound fell in Echt’s favour with Clark on hand to fire goal bound, the keeper did well to get down to save the strike at the feet of the onrushing MacAuley. The last action of the half saw the woodwork rattled again, this time it was the frame of the Echt goal when Main stole the ball of the toe of the defender, broke into the box but saw his effort strike the upright.
HT 0 v 0
Half time saw Wee Man in dreamland as we left our perch in the stand to have a kick about in the dust, next to the stand there were multiple sets of goals, the delight in his face made the revisit to this place worth while. If he is happy I am happy. After an old fashioned game of simple taking shots at each other we returned to our seats with Wee Man stating he wanted it to stay 0 v 0 so there would be penalties. Me on the other hand was in teuchter solidarity mindset and wanted an Echt win. It was a very close to being first blood Echt in the first minute of the half when defender Ewan Mackie smashed an effort wide front he edge of the box of a corner. This was a very well taken effort and the big man was unlucky not to be wheeling off celebrating. From the goal kick it was almost disaster for Echt when that man Mackie played a short back pass leaving Coyle to run in on goal but Mitchell did brilliantly to save the defenders blushes when he raced out to foil the Woodside forward at his feet. Mitchell was again the hero soon after when it was Main this time who was prevented by the keeper. One thing the keeper has on his side is the ability to read the game well combined with being fast off his line. He was having a fine game when he was called upon. Mitchell’s opposite number came into the second half for the right reasons and the wrong reasons. Firstly he was on hand to stop another Clark effort after the striker took the ball down and turned expertly on the edge of the box an fired at goal, but a solid pair of hands saw the ball to safety. Then the bad. After a the Echt half linesman gave a goal kick, the Woodside players and bench were up in arms claiming the corner was clear as day, the keeper took it too far a bellowed ” fuck you, you cheating fucking cunt” at the linesman. It was clear as day and probably could have been heard at what used to be Allan Park let alone by everyone in the Balmoral. As soon as it happened the fourth official called the referee over. The Woodside number one’s day looked to be over (by the letter of the law he should have been away). However the referee just slapped his wrist. A strange decision. One that the fourth official didn’t look too happy about. The game slowed down awfully for a large spell of the half and looked to be heading to penalties. However the last ten minutes sprung into life again. Echt had chances. McAuley almost bent the bar with a very well hit freekick from twenty five yards, Noble’s attempted save seemed to come once the ball was away as the shot was so well struck. Mackie once again saw another header go just wide, it was one of those that seemed to go in slow motion as it went painfully wide. I always say a good referee is unseen. After his first bout of leniency towards the Woodside keeper, he surpassed it and then some with his second when his arse spectacularly fell out when faced with a massive decision. From a set piece the ball was swung in, some Echt players went up with Noble who got a hand to the ball, however on landing he turned and threw a haymaker in the direction of a player in red(unsure who). Surely this time he was walking. Knowing what he did he then went down “injured” claiming he had his foot caught. The referee incredibly gave the keeper a freekick but even more incredibly booked the keeper. Answers on a postcard what for because it surely wasnt for trying to knock the Echt boys head off as that cannot be booked. A shocking decision if ever there was one. Was this because penalties were looming? Or was it more sinister? The deadlock was finally broken. Coyle who for the record had a great game, received the ball at the right edge of the box. Given the ratio of red to white there seemed to be no danger on, however the forward had other ideas and somehow managed to dance past four Echt men and finish past Mitchell from a couple of yards. A soft goal to give away and potentially the match winner given how close the game had been and how little time there was on the clock. Echt chased the game but their play was being broken up by all means necessary by Woodside but the Aberdeen side managed to keep them at bay. Not without the help of the referee who again appeared with a terrible decision. Substitute Johnathan Onwa ended up on the tail end of a good team move with the last defender not being able to cope with his power. Leaving him through on goal. The whistle went and nobody in the ground knew what for. The referee signaled for a push. Something only he saw. Another shocking decision to his days work. Woodside may not have had the chances Echt had but the did their job and are heading to face Tarves in the final. Not the best game to watch but there were clearly some good players on show in both teams. It was a strange game. Echt had the better passages of play and the better chances but Woodside had the better individual performances. I was a fan of their full back Gibb who was a solid player with a good eye for a pass. Main up front was a tricky player to as was his partner Coyle too. After seeing Tarves earlier in the season the final should be a good one. Some think 2021/22 season is over. Nae yet!
Me still 234, Wee Man still 111