(Stonehaven won 5-4 on penalties)
Stonehaven won the McLeman Cup Final against Hermes on Friday, coming out on top in a penalty shoot-out.
They kicked off and immediately went on the attack. Alexander took the ball on a run and shot over the bar. Hermes were next to threaten two minutes later but despite a good ball in the header from Madle went over. The next quarter of an hour saw both team cancelling each other out with no real attacking threat and on 16 minutes Hermes shot over the bar. Two minutes later a ball into the Hermes box was just kept out on the goal line and amid the chaos Hermes broke and Pyper did well to come across and clear the danger. With 20 minutes gone Alexander nearly caught out the Hermes defence when a ball over the top was headed back by Smith with the Stonehaven forward just a split second away from getting to it before Sweeney came out to clear. On the half hour mark a ball into the Stonehaven box was cleared by Reid just as Wyness was about to shoot. Cruickshank was next to threaten two minutes later when he shot over from 20 yards. Just a minute later Cruickshank again fired wide, this time under pressure after a ball from Duncan. Hermes went close to taking the lead less than a minute later when Hamilton’s free kick was glanced wide by the head of Wyness. McCall sent a header over on 40 minutes as Stonehaven looked to grab the opener and two minutes later Sweeney did well to get to a ball over the top from Duncan just as Martin Shand closed in on goal.
Hermes came bursting out of the traps in the second half and Madle had a chance in the first 30 seconds as Reid headed backwards but he lifted his shot over the bar. Duncan played a ball into the Hermes box on 48 minutes but the defence cleared before it reached Horne. Macklin tried his luck in 51 minutes but stand in ‘keeper Derek McKenzie did well to hold the shot. Stonehaven were awarded a free-kick just outside the penalty area on 57 minutes but Horne sent it wide. A minute later McCall played a great diagonal ball to Horne who just failed to get his shot away. Hermes took the lead on the hour when a Hamilton corner found Freeland who sent his header into the top corner. Horne had a snapshot minutes later but it went wide of target. Stonehaven weren’t to be denied for long and in 66 minutes a good move involving McCall, Cruickshank and Martin Shand saw the latter cross to Horne at the back post who made no mistake to level the scores. Alexander did well on 72 minutes. He received the ball from Martin Shand and beat his man but sent his shot over the bar. McKenzie in the Hive goal was forced into a good save with just over 10 minutes remaining before Lewis Shand came close with a right foot effort at the other end. Both sides had chances in the final couple of minutes, Hermes saw a free-kick held by McKenzie and Sweeney was relieved to see his miskick go unpunished when Horne sent his shot wide.
In the penalty shoot-out Hermes opted to go first and Freeland, Gairns, Robertson and Havlin all converted but Smith sent his effort wide.
Cruickshank, Martin Shand, Lewis Shand and Horne all scored for Stonehaven which left Calum Murray with the task of scoring the winner. Stonehaven: McKenzie, Low, McCall, Pyper, Duncan (Croll), Reid, Alexander (Murray), Cruickshank, Horne, M Shand, Winton (Lewis Shand). Subs: Nicoll, Glass, Stewart.
Stonehaven manager Dougie Baxter hailed a “very pleasing” display by his side in the cup final.
“They took the lead but we managed to equalise and we finished the match the stronger of the two sides.
“We didn’t have our regular keeper, Michael Smith, who was on holiday, but Derek McKenzie from Cove Thistle amateurs came in.
“That was his fifth cup final of the season, so he certainly wasn’t short of big game practice. He did well and we defended well as a team.
“There was only one miss in the ten penalties. Hermes put one wide.
“It was great to pick up some silverware as a reward for the hard work our guys have put in.
“We finished second in the league, although it was a distant second. That was a great achievement considering we were almost relegated the season before.
“There was a big crowd at the final, including a fair few from Stonehaven. I hope it will encourage another ten or 20 to turn out and watch us next season.”
With a proposed start date for next season of August 7, Stonehaven will return for pre-season in the second week of July.
“The lads need a break and it will give them a chance to get a hunger back again.
“I am looking to add five or six new faces if I can.
“Our task now is to cement our position as a top three team.
“Hermes were worthy winners of the league, but it is interesting to note that our points tally would have made us champions in four out of the last ten seasons.
“We beat Hermes twice on penalties, but it is remarkable that they were not beaten by an Aberdeen area side over 90 minutes since October 1.”