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Millburn Park, Leven Street, Alexandria, Dunbartonshire
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Benburb 1-2 Vale Of Leven
Benburb: Fontana 85 mins
Vale: McKenzie 4 mins, Ward 65 mins
Man of the Match: Ross Hunter
Saturday 14th December, 2002. Kick off: 1.45pm
Tinto Park
Scottish Junior Cup 3rd Round

Vale progressed to the fourth round of the OVD Scottish Junior cup after this hard fought win over Benburb at Tinto Park on Saturday.

Despite the close scoreline Vale thoroughly deserved the win cheered on by a large travelling support who outnumbered the small home support as Vale recorded their first cup win at Tinto in over 30 years.

Hugh Hamill's men went into this tie knowing that they had a game on their hands against a side who had won the West of Scotland Cup and finished league runners up last season. Despite their lowly league position at the foot of the Super League the Glasgow side were not short on experience and included former Vale midfielder Martin Campbell and tricky striker Gary Elrick who were both in the Renfrew squad that won the cup two years ago.

  Ross Hunter
Man of the match
Ross Hunter

On viewing the Tinto surface it was perhaps a little easier to understand last week's game off signs and although the Bens had not played a home match for a few weeks it was clear that the pitch had been overplayed by other clubs who use the facilities. With no midweek rain the pitch was in as good a condition as could be expected as Vale were out to gain revenge for last season's single goal League Cup defeat at the same ground.

The Millburn men had to make one change to the side that defeated Blantyre as key player Brian Smith was on honeymoon. His absence saw a recall for Bryan Boal with Ross Hunter moving infield to his favoured central role.

Vale made the perfect start to the match as they edged in front after only four minutes. David Rogers collected a weak downward header from Stewart to launch a long ball upfield that Campbell struggled to deal with and when the ball broke to GRAEME McKENZIE 25 yards from goal his delicate left foot chip beat Smyth who had advanced from his line.

Vale should have added a second minutes later when Hunter's persistence put Smyth under pressure and his mishit clearance fell to Ward who hooked the ball straight back into the arms of the keeper. Next up saw King cross from the right only for the inrushing McKenzie to head straight into the arms of Smyth.

Benburb created their first chance after quarter of an hour when they managed to get down the right flank but Brown could only hook his shot wide of target. For a spell Vale were allowing themselves to become frustrated by the match official's inability to deal with some tough challenges and as a result Goodwin, Hunter and King all found their names being recorded in the referee's notebook.

Vale should have punished an error from Smyth when he threw the ball straight to Boal but the former Albion Rovers striker sent his effort wide of target. The best move of the first period almost produced a second goal for McKenzie minutes before the break, Hunter made ground down the right and his pass saw Ward send over an inviting cross that was met first time by McKenzie but unfortunately the effort narrowly missed the target.

Vale knew that they would need a disciplined performance in the second half in order to progress to the next round but their task should have been made easier just five minutes after the break but unfortunately Boal blasted over from close range after Brown's corner found him in space at the front post.

The Millburn men got the crucial second goal after 65 minutes with yet another piece of trickery from HUGH WARD. As the lone striker he collected a long ball up the right, having held the ball up until he got some support he played a neat one two with Toby King before beating Smyth at his near post.

The home side at long last realised that defeat was staring them in the face and they threw everyone forward and after some resolute defending they finally broke Vale down with 5 minutes remaining. Goodwin cleared the initial effort off the line but veteran Fontana followed up to bundle the ball into the net from close range. With Vale fans screaming for the final whistle the referee played 5 minutes injury time but Vale held firm to claim a well earned place in this week's draw.

On a day when everyone gave their all it would be a shade unfair to single any one player out but ROSS HUNTER deservedly just edged the man of the match award.

The club would like to thank all those who travelled to Govan to cheer the side on. Hopefully the team can continue to give them plenty to be happy about in the weeks ahead.

Team: Rogers; Lacy, Wardle, Meechan, Goodwin; Boal (Deeley), Hunter, Alan Brown, King, McKenzie; Ward (McKernan). Unused subs: Maclaurin and Anton Brown.

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