Saturday 7th May saw the league playoff finals where Johnstone High’s section winning Under 16 team were looking to cap off a tremendous season with victory against an all-conquering St Ninian’s, who were fresh off a 5-0 victory in the Scottish Cup final the previous week.
This St Ninians group of boys have never failed to win a P and D league match since they started playing in S1 which emphasised the size of the challenge facing Johnstone. Furthermore, they have averaged 7 goals a game in the league this season and did not lose a single goal in regulation time.
To compound the difficulties faced by Johnstone, 4 regular starters were unable to play in the game for a number of reasons which left some frantic late call-ups just to be able to field a team on the team.
However, when the match got underway, it has to be said that Johnstone performed sensationally. St. Ninians certainly did the bulk of the attacking (with the wind at their back helping in this regard) in the first half but Johnstone defended brilliantly throughout the half.
A late penalty gave St Ninians a chance to open the scorign but the post came to the rescue of Johnstone on this occasion.
With just a couple of minutes to go, St Ninians did manage to score the opener. No fault of Irwin Gray in goals who had an inspirational match.
Into the 2nd half and Johnstone began to show more of an attacking threat. Sustained pressure saw a fine run by Steven Buchanan halted illegally in the box and a 2nd penalty was awarded.
Dylan Miller stepped up and a really cool finish saw the game level at 1-1. Dylan has managed to score in every game bar one this season.
This will probably be his last game for the school team as he heads to college next year, but Dylan should be very proud of the dedication, commitment and skills he has brought to the team this season.
The game wore on and Irwin Gray continued to excel with some astounding saves including one from the third penalty awarded in the match.
With the match scheduled to go directly to penalties in the event of a draw, Johnstone would surely look to be favourites in the event of such an outcome.
With less than 5 minutes remaining on the clock, St Ninians did manage the all important breakthrough to go 2-1 up, and with heads down a little, another goal arrived to leave the final score 3-1 to an excellent St Ninians side who are to be thoroughly congratulated.
The Johnstone High players should be very proud of their achievements throughout the season and especially on this day when not one player failed to put on an excellent performance. The medal ceremony saw both teams awarded the same medals, as the medals were a symbol of success in their league sections. No shield to take home – but the boys go home as winners for all their efforts this season.
Irwin Gray, Lewis Banaghan, Steven Buchanan and Dylan Miller put on season best performances, which says an awful lot considering how well the boys have performed throughout this campaign.
So some disappointment on the day, but the boys were told to keep their head up and look forward to what could be a very interesting season at Under 18 level. The bulk of this squad will be involved and will be very capable of making real progress both in the league and cup competitions.