United for the Cup – Edinburgh United – 26/02/2022

Background

Scotland’s capital has a lot of football clubs within its borders. From the upper echelons of Hibs and Hearts to the grassroots of Leith Athletic, my hosts for today have a unique story in comparison. Edinburgh United have largely been the capital’s sole ‘junior’ club for the majority of their thirty-seven-year history, with only Craigroyston joining them for a two-year stint in 2016.

Despite being young in comparison to their compatriots, Edinburgh United have held their own in a variety of competitions. They’ve won the Brown Cup twice, the Fife & Lothians cup once and the East and South Region leagues once each. After moving into the East of Scotland senior league set up in 2018, United will be hoping to amass further silverware in the cabinet and propel themselves up a newly opened pyramid.

I travelled to Paties Road Stadium with a good feeling. With Edinburgh taking on Hawick Royal Albert United in the King Cup, I had felt positive about this tie. I love knockout football as it always produces crackers, and I was hoping this one would be no different. Murrayfield can keep its rugby, I’d be at Paties Road.

The Journey

My weekend work has me consistently rotating between Glasgow and Edinburgh. After finishing my short, sharp shift in the latter’s city centre, a relatively easy drive to the quaint suburb of Colinton followed. With the egg-chasing traffic avoided, Paties Road is easy to find, with decent parking surrounding the ground. I like the inner-city feel and genuinely enjoyed the journey to today’s match.

Facilities

After paying my small entry fee to a welcoming and friendly committee member, Paties Road’s main attraction greets you instantly. A single, benched stand lies directly to your left where most spectators would be placing themselves. With no real back rest though, I would recommend practicing a strong and stable posture if choosing to sit.

I enjoy the open, wide spaces of Paties Road. I took advantage of all four sides being accessible and after taking a stroll to the stand’s opposite side, I took in the uniqueness of today’s venue. It really is a good looking and well-maintained arena, which suits the level its hosts compete in. Paties Road looks to be ingrained into the heart of what Edinburgh United stand for. It sits in the centre of the community the club serves, which can never be a negative.

I also enjoyed the friendliness and general patter of the club staff members running the food and drink stall. It always adds to a positive experience, and I genuinely always appreciate it.

Overall, I feel Paties Road is a nice wee place to watch a game of football. It has clear ties with this quaint Edinburgh suburb and has plenty of room to grow if required. I feel it scores a handy 2.5/5.

Atmosphere

I am not entirely sure what Edinburgh United’s average attendance is for a league game, but I’m sure today’s number fell way short of it. As a result, the atmosphere for this cup tie was largely muted. However, like most grounds in country, Paties Roads has a friendly climate and produced a very welcoming overtone to my visit.

In honesty, the majority of shouts and noise came from the small group of Hawick supporters who had travelled up from the Borders to watch their side in cup action. On a day where Hearts were away from home and Hibs were not playing till the Sunday, I am surprised Paties Road did not see an increased attendance with local supporters looking for a game of football. I’m sure this hallowed ground has been the host of many a belting atmosphere. Unfortunately, today was not that day. It’s a huge shame, as the match on display deserved a larger crowd… 1.5/5.

Quality of the Match

As the wind blew in around Paties Road, it was the visitors who carved out the first couple chances of the match. After good work down Hawick’s left, a cross in from No.3* was headed goalward at the back post by winger No.7. He couldn’t keep the effort down though, with the ball flying over. The visitors were beginning to rue their early opportunities and fluffed another great chance. After a masterful flick by No.8, his inch-perfect through ball left Kieran Crawford with just the keeper to beat. Edinburgh ‘keeper Michael Hay was quick off his line though and snuffed any danger for the meantime.

United responded almost instantly with a couple chances of their own. After an Andrew Swinney delivery was spilled by the Albert ‘keeper, a lobbed effort from the edge of the box was cleared well off the line and behind for a corner. Swinney’s crossing was causing all sorts of issues for the Hawick defence. Another whipped effort towards the back post was met well by forward Sonny Swanson. He did well to direct his header goalward, but the Hawick ‘keeper did even better to keep it out at his front post.

Edinburgh’s pressure did not amount to an opener, and Hawick took advantage. After another good through ball, Albert striker Kieran Crawford found himself one-on-one again. Despite an onrushing Michael Hay to beat and shouts for offside, he expertly lifted the ball over the ‘keeper to give the visitors the lead. The home dugout looked incredibly animated by the lack of a decision and were increasingly annoyed soon after. After more Hawick pressure, an in-swinging corner found its way to Crawford once more. He made absolutely no mistake at the back post and smashed the ball into the net. Two-nil Hawick. My hosts for today looked deflated.

Edinburgh did not let the first half slip away though. After a ball intended for Swanson found its way to the striker, an alleged clattering from the back sent him to the floor. The referee had no doubt in his mind and immediately awarded the hosts a way back into the game. Midfielder Steven Clark stood up confidently and fired his side within a goal of levelling the tie.

Half Time: Edinburgh United 1-2 Hawick Royal Albert United

Edinburgh’s mood had been obviously lifted from their lifeline, and powered into the second half with pace. Winger Ryan Quinn was sent for a mazy down the left and found himself in good space inside the box. His placed shot beat both the ‘keeper and post, with Hawick breathing a sigh of relief. More good work on Edinburgh’s left allowed Swanson to cross. His deft lift was met well by Taylor Black, but his effort was knocked wide of the mark. Good pressure from United, but no reward as of yet.

Hawick were not one for standing back. After gaining momentum, they created a few chances of their own and looked unlucky not to extend their lead. A good run down the right-hand side by No.8 allowed him a strike at goal. His effort was saved well by Hay, giving the Edinburgh ‘keeper another decent save for his collection.

With the game slowing down and the visitors defending bravely, an intense final ten minutes was about to bear fruit. Firstly, controversy struck. A surging run by the ever-present Swinney saw the right-back reach the byline and cut the ball back, with Josh Lamont all alone in the box. His effort was saved incredibly by the Hawick ‘keeper, but with the ball falling kindly to Blair White, the substitute knocked the ball in. Celebrations were cut shot immediately, with the referee determining the striker offside from the initial strike. I have no idea if the man in the middle got it right, but with no linesmen for this cup-tie, its an increasingly difficult job at the best of times.

Frustrated, the home side continued to push for an equaliser. Lamont missed another key opportunity, with Paties Road looking consigned to an early cup exit. That was until Andrew Swinney stepped up with an incredible last-gasp effort. After a corner found its way to him, he took a touch towards the D and smashed a right-footed strike into the top corner. After wheeling away with his arm aloft, its difficult not to see a wee bit of Alan Shearer in his finish as well.

With regular time amassing two additional minutes and extra-time looming, both sides could have buried the game before 4 o’clock. Firstly, Kieran Crawford easily should have had his hat-trick. After twisting and turning in the Edinburgh box, his strike was beaten away well by Michael Hay. Edinburgh reciprocated with a chance of their own. Another goalward Josh Lamont effort was held well by a Hawick ‘keeper who was having a superb game.

Even before the final time whistle blew, there was still time for further action. Robbie Dowie, who was having a decent game for the hosts, made the choice to sarcastically clap the referee after another contentious foul. His frustration bubbled and was shown a second yellow for his troubles. This proved a lifeline for Hawick, who had put so much effort into defending and could now focus on pushing forward in extra-time.

Full time: Edinburgh United 2-2 Hawick Royal Albert United

In the first extra-time of my travels thus far this season, I was in for an absolute cracker of an additional half hour. With cramp setting in for the hardworking visitors, Edinburgh pushed for a winner despite their numerical disadvantage. They pushed through in spectacular fashion. A free-kick delivery from the corner flag was met acrobatically by Steven Clark. Unbelievably, his overhead kick nestled into the bottom corner and sent the majority of Paties Road into ecstasy.

Things went bad to worst for Albert soon after. A second booking for the visitor’s right back evened the numbers and looked to make a comeback increasingly unlikely.

ET Half time: Edinburgh United 3-2 Hawick Royal Albert United

The following fifteen minutes were absorbing. Genuinely edge of your seat stuff. With both teams leggy and obviously knackered, it would take a monumental effort to see the game through without any further goals. Gaps opened on both ends; it would just take a clinical edge from either team to finish the match.

Unbelievably, it would be the visitors who would find this cutting attitude. Kieran Crawford took centre stage for Hawick, creating meaningful memories for the club in the meantime. After a long ball was misjudged by the Edinburgh back-line, Crawford capitalised and flicked the ball over Michael Hay to even the tie once more with five minutes to go. Hat-trick hero.

With both teams dead on their feet, a single moment would be enough to send either team through. Crawford stepped up once again and delivered that moment. After another long ball by the Hawick ‘keeper, a wonderfully timed flick on left Crawford unmarked at the front post. The poacher did more than enough to touch the ball past Hay, to send the four Hawick supporters into delirium. I’ve never seen a player score four times in a single match before in real life. I have now.

ET Full time: Edinburgh United 3-4 Hawick Royal Albert United

Well, what a truly engaging game of football. A whirlwind of a match produced a number of key moments and genuinely had me on the edge of my seat at times. Edinburgh United will be gutted with losing an extra time lead and will feel as though they had more than enough chances to put the game to bed during the initial ninety minutes. Today’s hosts had a few good performers who I feel deserve a mention. Midfielder Steven Clark had a good game and stepped up when his team needed him. His expert penalty kick and monumental overhead effort gave his team belief when they needed it most. Right-back Andrew Swinney also had a solid game in my opinion. He generally kept his Hawick counterpart quiet and made surging runs when allowed. His strike in the last minute of regulation fired his side into extra-time and gave a good performance throughout. Edinburgh can now focus on league duty.

Hawick surprised me immensely. The team from the borders stood up incredibly to todays challenge and had more that enough in the game to win it themselves. They took the game to Edinburgh and can be hugely proud of their performance today. Kieran Crawford will naturally take the majority of plaudits after his four-goal rout and rightly so. His pace proved difficult for the United defence, with his clinical finishing skills even more so. Scoring four goals at any level is an incredible achievement, and the striker should feel proud of himself. Hawick will also look to take this momentum into league duty.

On this windy Saturday, I witnessed comebacks, seven goals, two red cards and genuinely engaging entertainment. It is difficult to give this match any less than a 4.5/5.

Pricing

Pricing at this level will always receive full marks. I paid £6 entry and an additional quid for a coffee. For the entertainment I witnessed, the value for money at his level is unrivalled. If you haven’t explored it yet, get along to your local side and see it for yourself. 5/5.

Final Score

Edinburgh United finish with a score of 13.5/20 and find themselves midway of the TSFA League Table. I enjoyed my time at Paties Road and can see the potential the club has to grow. I hope to see it soon. I wish both United and Hawick the very best for the remainder of the season.

– Connor

* Squad lists and player names were difficult to find for Hawick. I contacted the club for a team sheet for today’s game, but I received no response. I always like to name players for the performances they put in, but unfortunately, I was unable to do this today. Kieran Crawford was named on the club’s social media as the scorer, hence why I was able to name him.

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