Schools Football:
West Lothian beat Forth Valley 6-3  in one of the all time best opening ties in the Scottish Schools FA Under-18 Regional Trophy at Prestonfield Park, the home of Linlithgow Rose FC. All the pictures taken at this marvellous game are available from Ian Mackay on The pictures can only be sent by email to those who ask for them.   Here is my match report:
I was at a loss to find the words to fully express my feelings after watching a wonderful Under-18 Scottish Schools Trophy  section tie between West Lothian and Forth Valley at Linlithgow - then I received the following message that does, indeed, do justice to a magnificent game of football. It  came from West Lothian Schools FA secretary, Ronnie Dempster, who said: “Freddie Mercury penned the line, ‘You take my breath away’! Perhaps he was also a visionary, since 22 young players certainly did that at Prestonfield Park in Linlithgow.

The Scottish tie really did have everything any true lover of the game could possibly ask for - goals, near misses, attitude, behaviour and so much more. A great start to the campaign but still work to be done before the next match away to Glasgow, probably in the first week of November!” Ronnie summed it up beautifully and I endorse everything he said and all I can add is to say ‘Thank You’ to all the players who took part in what was a virtual master-class of football from pupils from many different schools in both West Lothian and the Forth Valley.

Linlithgow Rose’s stadium of course played a part and the legendary football coach, Billy Henderson, summed that up, adding: “That pitch is just perfect for football!” And that, believe me, is what all of us fortunate enough to see this game unfold, is what happened, with nine incredible goals, near misses and quite fantastic action to enjoy in this breathtaking game. Both teams had impressive warm-ups and they then went back in out of the sunshine to re-emerge from the plush dressingrooms in immaculate football strips. The young referee in charge of the game, Daryl Lamb, was also smartly turned out and, once he got the game underway, what followed was sheer magic. In the second minute, West Lothian opened the scoring with a great finish from Andrew Murison, from Linlthgow Academy. The West Lothian No 9 went on to have a wonderful game to boost his chances of an international cap for Scottish Schools this season. Three  minutes later, West Lothian went 2-0 in front and Forth Valley looked stunned when Fraser Keast (Armadale) finished off a good break with another superb goal. At that stage, Forth Valley looked to heading for an absolute hammering - but they went on to prove that totally wrong! The glorious football from West Lothian was matched by their  opponents and the visiting side reduced the deficit to 2-1 in 10th minute when Andrew Mochan (McLaren HS) planted the ball past Andrew Murphy (Armadale) in the home goal and, dare I say it, it was another brilliant finish by this talented No 9 striker. Surely, this amazing start would not continue? Oh, yes, it most certainly did continue to the delight of everyone in Prestonfield Park (excluding, possibly, the Forth Valley contingent) ! The attacking moves and flowing football from both sides had to be seen to be believed and the goalmouth thrills at both ends of the magnificent pitch were simply amazing to watch. In the 24th minute, we were all treated to another superb strike, the talented Andrew Gould (St Margaret’s) pouncing on a rebound from an Andrew Muriston shot to hammer the ball past Forth Valley keeper, Gordon Little (St Modan’s), in to the bottom left hand corner to restore West Lothian’s two goal lead at 3-1. Little did we know, but there were three more goals to come before Daryl Lamb blew for half-time.

Forth Valley really picked up the pace of the game and they got themselves back in to contention with two more cracking strikes to level the score at 3-3. In the 26th minute, Andrew Hunter showed wonderful skill to outwit his marker before making space for himself to slam the ball in to the West Lothian net to bring the score back to 3-2! All the players on the pitch to the game and this amazing Scottish tie had even more drama to come when the visitors scored again to make it 3-3. Andrew Hunter it was who scored from close in after a wonderful move on the left that ended with the ball being cut back from the byeline in to the path of the Forth Valley No 9. What a goal that was, but there was another still to come for West Lothian. Just before the end of the first half, Fraser Keast looked to have blown a great chance when he lost control of the ball in front of the Forth Valley goal, but the ball was not cleared properly and it landed nicely for Chris Marshall (Whitburn) to spectacularly slam in a shot from outside the 18yd box in to the Forth Valley net, just under the crossbar. This talented midfielder from Whitburn was another of the many stars on view and Chris Marshall’s use of the ball was simply excellent - from start to finish! When the players went in at half-time, a silence descended on Prestonfield Park as everyone took the chance to regain breath. What would the second half produce? More magic! A lot less goals but no let up in the action and non-stop brilliant attacking football. The next goal was going to prove crucial to both teams and it duly came from West Lothian. Andrew Murison was in the thick of all the action once again when he tried to get his head to a thumping long-range free-kick in to the oppostion goalmouth, but Gordon Little beat him to the ball. At the other end, Forth Vallley danger man, Andrew Hunter slammed a shot wide of the target then a good effort from Ross Gallacher was charged down and the ball was picked up and cleared by Andrew Murphy. In the 10th minute of the second half, we were all treated to the goal of the game and it came from a spectacular overhead shot from Fraser Keast to the left-hand side of the goal, after great work by Andrew Gould. That took the score to 5-3 in favour of West Lothian and it was, effectively, the goal that put the tie beyond the brave, very good Forth Valley combine. Andrew Hunter continued to cause problems for the home defence when he got on the ball but West Lothian went on to look the better side. Any moves by the visitors were dealt with comfortably by the more organised West Lothian defence and most of the play took place in the Forth Valley half of the pitch, with Chris Marshall spraying great passes left, right and centre to set up good attacks. This game never let up and the passion and commitment from all these young players did everyone proud. Near the end, West Lothian scored again to make the final scoreline 6-3 in their favour and what a lovely goal it was to finish this wonderful game. In a lovely passing move, the ball was fired at Fraser Keast  and the Armadale star chested the ball down perfectly in to the path of Michael Davidson - another star - and the James Young HS pupil scored (brilliantly) to bring down the curtain on this faultless game of football. The current crisis in our national game is in the professional ranks. It certainly is not evident in schools football based on the quality of play and goals seen in this game at Prestonfield Park. I see other great games, week after week in my coverage of football and the reason these games are so good to watch is abundantly clear to me, leave the players to get on with the game and stop all the shouting and bawling from the touchlines. Let the players enjoy themselves and also allow them to be the best they can be without any interference from the big mouths on the touchlines as can be seen and heard in the nonsensical and laughable rubbish at professional games. Scottish Football should scrap all their leagues and start afresh with a clean sheet. Build from the bottom up and, for the sake of the future of the game in this country, learn from young people how to play the game properly. The Scottish tie at Prestonfield Park was an example of that in every way possible. Read Ronnie Dempster’s words again to see what it meant to the West Lothian Schools FA secretary - a real football fan and lover of the best team game in the world when it is played to entertain and enjoy! Once again, thanks to both squads, teachers, coaches and referee, for giving me and all the others on the  touchlines at Prestonfield Park, the privilege and joy of watching a truly great game of football! Everyone who took part was a credit to themselves, their respective schools and, indeed, Scottish Football! I drove back along the M9 to Edinburgh reliving the game in my mind and relishing in the process, once again, the nine magnificent goals!

West Lothian - Andrew Marshall (Armadale), David Campbell (another great prospect from St Margaret’s), Michael Davidson (James Young), Darren Downie (St Margaret’s), Lee Fairley (a brilliant skipper from Broxburn), Andrew Gould (St Margaret’s), Christopher Graham (Whitburn), Steven Harley (Deans), Fraser Keast (Armadale), Craig Mahood (James Young), Chris Marshall (Whitburn), Callum McQueenie (another great footballer from West Calder), Ryan Meechan (star No 7 from Armadale), Andrew Murison (Linlithgow), Bradley Niven (Linlithgow), Mark Reid (James Young).

Forth Valley - Gordon Little (St Modan’s), Paul O’Neill (St Mungo’s), Andrew Pender (Balfron), Ross Tierney (Larbert), Thomas Nelson (Wallace), Danny Ashe (Alva), Andrew Mochan (St Mungo’s), Ross Gallagher (Dunblane), Andrew Hunter (McLaren), Gary Brass (Larbert), Rohan Hamilton

(Graeme HS), Blair Moodie (Larbert), Jamie Clark (Larbert), Gavin Loch (Stirling), James Penman (Graeme HS).

Five star referee - Daryl Lamb.

This report and all the pictures taken at the game can be used free of any charge. The pictures are available from and the report will appear on as part of the ongoing work to promote active participation in organised sport in Scotland.