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Millburn Park, Leven Street, Alexandria, Dunbartonshire
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Vale of Leven 2-2 (3-4 pens) Maryhill
Vale: D.Meechan 6, 32 mins
Maryhill: Turnbull pen 14 mins, Young 85 mins
Man of the Match: David Meecan
Saturday 1st March, 2003. Kick off: 3.00pm
Millburn Park
Central League Cup Round 1

Vale's penalty kick hoodoo continued at Millburn on Saturday when they lost out in an exciting match against Scottish Cup quarter finalists Maryhill. Vale deserved to win this game but unfortunately the main talking point was the performance of the match referee who awarded the Glasgow side a soft penalty and with Vale holding on to a 2-1 lead he chalked off a third goal from young David Meechan much to the amazement of everyone in the ground. To add insult to injury Maryhill went up the park to equalise before winning the penalty shoot out.

With Alan Brown ruled out Vale boss Hugh Hamill recalled Ross Hunter to the midfield trio as Vale set out to cause another cup surprise infront of a large crowd of 300.

Vale got off to the best possible start with the opening goal after only 6 minutes. Hugh Ward made a great run down the left and his low cross was pushed away by keeper Black only for David Meechan to blast home the loose ball.


Tom Fox
Tom Fox is back
at the Vale

Maryhill were level 8 minutes later with a highly debatable spot kick decision. The visitors were given too much time to play the ball into the box and when the ball fell to Quinn he held the ball up but appeared to fall over the ball under challenge from Goodwin. Maryhill players were equally surprised at the decision but when Turnbull drilled the resultant kick low to Maclaurin's left the smiles on their faces told its own story.

Vale could have regained the lead shortly after this when McKenzie made ground on the left and his cut back fell to Smith who's shot swerved wide of goal. Vale continued to push forward and after 25 minutes Alex Lacy sent over a looping cross and when Brian Smith surprised everyone by getting a foot to the ball his netbound volley saw Black pull off a great diving save to stop a certain goal.

The home side were continuing to dominate the game and deservedly regained the lead after 32 minutes. A corner from the right panic in the "Hill" defence and after Smiths initial effort hit the bar David Meechan was on hand to turn the ball into the net from close range.

Half Time 2-1

Vale almost grabbed another goal 10 minutes into the second period when Ward and David Meechan combined to thread a pass through to McKenzie but keeper Black came out to smother the ball.

The Super league side were beginning to force Vale further back and only some fine defending kept them at bay as the game became to get physical with bookings for Hunter and his replacement Fox before he had a touch of the ball, King, D.Meechan and Wardle. Despite being under intense pressure Vale still caused Maryhill problems and after earning a corner after 77 minutes they were denied a perfectly good goal that would have given Meechan his hat trick. When the cross came over Wardle headed goalward and the keeper, under no pressure simply dropped the ball with Meechan prodding the ball into the net. Again the visitors were pleasantly surprised at their good fortune and having viewed the incident later on video no one can explain the decision of the referee.

The visitors threw everything at Vale in search of an equaliser and with 5 minutes remaining it came. Vale lost possession in midfield and substitute Cruickshank sent over an inviting cross that was headed home by former Kilpatrick striker Gordon Young.

As the minutes ticked away Matty Maclaurin produced a couple of excellent saves to ensure that Vale would at least get a penalty shoot out.

Penalty shout out

With the tie going into the shoot out Vale's success rate of only 3 successes from 14 didn't look too good. In fact after 5 successive failures in similar situations the writing was perhaps on the wall. Captain Paul Watson edged Hill in front before Hugh Ward levelled. Maclaurin made a fine save to deny Miller but unfortunately David Meechan failed to grab the initiative as Black blocked his tame effort. Previous scorer Turnbull restored the lead and with Jim Meechan seeing his kick saved Hill were for the first time in front. Maclaurin produced another diving save to stop Quinn's effort and Brian Wardle's twice taken kick restored parity at 2-2. Cruickshank took Hill's fifth kick and scored and Kevin Goodwin blasted his kick high into the postage stamp corner as it became sudden death. Smith's effort went in off the post whilst Graeme McKenzie's effort also hit the post but this time it rebounded out the way and Hill went through 4-3.

Unfortunately for Vale they paid the price of some debatable refereeing decisions but they can be proud of their performance against another Super League side. On a day when there were no failures Vale had real star performances from Maclaurin, J.Meechan, King and man of the match David Meechan.

Team: Maclaurin; Lacy, Wardle, J.Meechan, Goodwin; Hunter (Fox), Smith, King; McKenzie, Ward, D.Meechan. Unused subs: Boal, Ruane & Barton.
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