After a thirteen month hiatus our Youth Academy finally kicked-off competitive football on Sunday 9th May with our 2005 squad making an away trip to Hibernian in the Club Academy Scotland Cup. With COVID once again robbing the players of the scheduled return to action the previous week it was with great anticipation that the squad made the trip east for the early morning kick off. Despite only one friendly behind them in 2021, the young Binos showed little in the way of rustiness and an abundance of energy against one of the top youth academies in the country.
The early territorial advantage was mainly with the hosts as Hibs kept Stirling Albion playing football in their own half. The Binos endeavoured to move the ball around and keep possession but left a number of passes short on the sticky surface to hand advantage back to Hibs. It was during this period that Hibs would score the only goal of the game after seventeen minutes from the edge of the box when the Stirling defence failed to pressure the ball quickly. The Hibernian attacker took advantage of the space and time to tuck the ball into Jude Marshall’s bottom right hand corner.
Stirling almost responded immediately through Thomas Reilly – who along with Richard Omobude on the left wing, proved a constant thorn in the Hibernian side – but his shot failed to hit the target.
The home side would take the goal advantage in at the interval and although Stirling grew into the half it was Hibs who had the majority of the first half chances.
The second half however was a different story with Joe McKay, Shay McLernon, Finlay Barr and Ryan Donnelly all coming close for the visitors. However despite the cluster of chances and seven second half corners Stirling could not find their way past the impressive home Goalkeeper.
Hibs would still have their chances at the other end and it took some last ditch heroics from Ryan Gibb and a clearance off the line by Ruaridh Cant, who alongside Reuben Lamont formed a solid centre back partnership, to keep Hibs from extending their lead.
Substitute Sam Murray came close to rescuing the point deep into injury time only to see his shot tipped over the bar.
The Coaching staff, Marc Pincombe and Jamie Baxter, were understandably pleased with how the team played. Pincombe commented that he was “really proud of the performance and the effort the team put in against Hibs. Excellent attitude and application in addition to playing some tremendous football means we’ve come away wondering how we’ve lost, which is a credit to all involved”.
Baxter added: “First of all we were just delighted to get the boys back out onto the pitch for some competitive football. In terms of performance it was a fantastic start to our campaign. The boys were comfortable in possession, worked incredibly hard and went toe-to-toe with one of the best academies in the country, forcing the Hibs goalie into a number of top saves.
I suppose there was a mix of emotions for everyone at full time – disappointment for the boys that they didn’t get a result their efforts deserved but mainly an overwhelming pride with the way they performed throughout the match.”
Having been recruited over a year ago it has been a long wait for the coaching staff to finally see this 2005 squad in action and although they were on the wrong side of the 1-0 scoreline on this occasion, the excitement that surrounds this squad is palpable. Next week brings an equally tough challenge when we host Inverness Caledonian Thistle in the next group stage match.