East of Scotland Cup final

Tranent Juniors 0

Penicuik Athletic 2

TRANENT Juniors fell short in their bid to retain the East of Scotland Cup as they were beaten by Penicuik Athletic in Linlithgow on Saturday.

Two goals in the final half hour from Craig Hume and Aaron Somerville saw the title head back to Midlothian.

The match was a junior swansong for both finalists, with their immediate futures at least lying in the East of Scotland League, and Linlithgow Rose’s Prestonfield home was the venue for a game eagerly anticipated by everyone involved at both clubs – holders Tranent, double cup winners last June when they had also claimed the Fife & Lothians Cup, were looking to leave junior football behind on a high after 107 years, while Penicuik, with a strong East Lothian connection in personnel terms, have ambitions to establish themselves among the upper echelons of the Scottish non-league game.

Tranent boss Max Christie named his strongest starting XI in some time, with the substitutes’ bench filled for only the third time in his 21-game reign – only five of the men who started the Belters’ final league game against Glenrothes were listed in Christie’s side.

Former Tranent player and briefly interim-manager Johnny Harvey included five of his former Haddington Athletic charges in his Penicuik 16, with one, captain Craig Hume, having also represented the Belters as a fresh-faced youngster when the late Jackie Myles was manager in 2006-07.

It was no great surprise that the action started off at high tempo but there was little incident of note in either goalmouth in the early stages. While it wasn’t an overly cagey affair, not much occurred to excite the supporters, with a great deal of the play confined to midfield.

Midway through the half, Penicuik suffered a blow when the dangerous Lumbert Kateleza picked up an ankle injury but as the half wore on the Midlothian men began to get a grip on proceedings.

The best chance for either side in the opening 45 minutes came Penicuik’s way on the half hour when Connolly headed just wide.

A few minutes later there were howls of protest from the Belters’ supporters when Hume appeared to catch Neil Smeaton with a two-footed challenge, an action for which he received only a booking.

Just ahead of the half-time whistle Tranent were awarded a free-kick from which Ben Miller tried his luck but the ball was hit well over the bar.

Things started a little more positively from both sides in the second half, with Penicuik pressing early but unable to breech the Tranent defence, before Kayne Paterson found himself with a chance for the Belters but Penicuik right-back Forbes, the former Haddington player, quelled the excitement in the crowd with a key intervention.

Kenny Fisher was very unlucky not to give Tranent the lead a few minutes later – his chipped shot was brilliantly touched over the bar by Penicuik keeper Allison.

Not too much later, Paterson’s delivery almost sneaked in at the back post but exited play just the wrong side of the upright.

On 63 minutes, Penicuik took the lead – McCrory-Irving’s corner was met by a header at the back post from Hume, directing the ball into the top corner – the irony of the goal coming from a former Tranent player who might well not have been on the pitch wasn’t lost on the Belters’ following.

Horne was forced into a couple of saves subsequently as Penicuik sought to kill the contest off and 10 minutes after Penicuik’s breakthrough they had a great chance to double their lead when a cross somehow eluded everyone.

A second Penicuik goal didn’t look unlikely but Horne did what was required of him to keep the match in the balance – with just under six minutes remaining, however, it was his opposite number Allison taking all the plaudits after he brought off a fantastic save. Fisher found himself in a great position to shoot from less than 10 yards out and it looked like he had done enough to beat the keeper, inspiring hopes at least of a penalty shootout and perhaps another famous Tranent cup win – but Allison stuck out his right hand, diverting the ball behind.

The thoughts of every Tranent supporter at this moment were of the ‘what might have been’ category, and their dreams of cup glory were extinguished wholly with three minutes to play. Teenager Bruce McCrorie, on as a substitute, saw the ball slip from his hands as he went to take a throw-in quickly, and with Penicuik striker Somerville quickly on the scene, Horne found himself with little option other than to race from his goal in an effort to try and prevent him capitalising – unfortunately for him it wasn’t enough to prevent Somerville getting a shot in and the ball rolled over the goal line a few inches inside the back post.

There was no time for a comeback and so just a few minutes later the final whistle blew and Penicuik Athletic were declared East of Scotland Cup winners.

Tranent can’t be too hard on themselves when everything is taken into consideration – they had three or four good scoring opportunities in the second half but were kept out by brilliant goalkeeping and determined defenders.

When it’s considered that there were a couple of instances in recent years in which serious doubts surrounded Tranent’s continued existence, it’s remarkable to think they featured in three of the four finals for cup competitions open only to East Region teams.

2017/18 proved a problem in terms of consistency on several fronts for the Belters, as evidenced by a disappointing eighth-place finish in the Premier League, but to have performed as well as they did again in cup competition is no mean feat.