Scone took to the field on Wednesday night for the final time in season 2016/17 knowing that an away win over Dundee North End would guarantee a top 5 finish, whilst avoiding defeat would allow them the chance to do so depending on how North End did in their final two matches against Kinnoull and Kirriemuir Thistle. With both of those games away from home, for the Dundee side it was a chance to sign off for the season in front of their home crowd with a win.
With the stakes so high then it was little surprise that the battling midfields and defences were on top for most of the first 45 minutes with the ball being knocked about from end to end but with neither team creating any clear chances.
Gary Fergus for Scone and Robertson for the home side saw efforts off target in the opening 15 minutes and that was the sole list of even off target shots, with nothing for either the Jags’ Winton or the Dokens’ Ferrie to do as both keepers watched the proceedings with interest if not involvement.
That was to change after 42 minutes when the hosts were awarded a penalty after a push on Hunter by Whitworth. There was no argument from the Jags’ players and Hunter himself stepped up to convert the spot kick for the first shot on goal of the game and to put the home side ahead.
The second half was a completely different affair. Winton had to look sharp to turn a goalbound effort from Hunter around the post with only 14 seconds of the second half played before Scone had a penalty shout of their own when a throw in on the left was taken by Mackie to Max Avolio and his first touch knocked the ball in the air. Avolio went to collect the ball on the edge of the box only to be clattered into clumsily by the airborne Sivewright who had misjudged his jump for the ball.
There was contact, it was in the penalty area but an award would have been a soft penalty and the referee allowed play to continue. This was however a taster of Scone’s luck with the big decisions that were to come later in the game.
Whitworth then came close to equalising for the Jags with a header just off target from a Sean Fergus free kick before Russell tested Winton from distance with a free kick but it was a straightforward hold for the Scone keeper.
Russell then followed this up with two further off target efforts before Scone struck twice in two minutes to take the lead. After 74 minutes, a Winton goal kick was headed on by Whitworth, who had moved to play upfront for the final period, and was collected by Mackenzie, he then played a lovely defence splitting pass to Strachan who beat out the offside trap, rounded Ferrie and slotted home to score against his former club.
Two minutes later Scone were awarded a free kick just outside the North End box in an incident that saw the home side’s Scrimgeour collect his second yellow card for a crude tackle on Mackenzie which on another occasion may have warranted a straight red.
In the absence of regular free kick taker, Kevin Sinclair, the duties fell to Sean Whitworth and he showed a great eye for the set play by playing a low shot under the jumping defensive wall which nestled in the back of the net.
The double whammy knocked the home side off their stride and they weren’t to threaten the Scone goal again until the dying minutes of the game when Smith had a header on goal that just crept past the post.
That was when Scone’s luck was to change for the worse.
Firstly with only a minute to go they were denied what appeared to be a clear penalty when Mackenzie collected a Max Avolio knock down and was steadying himself to shoot when he was wrestled to the ground by George, however the referee failed to award the spot kick.
Two minutes later and the Jags were again cursing their bad luck when as a North End free kick was being lined up outside the Scone box, Laing and North End’s Stewart came together in an incident that saw the North End defender swing an elbow into the face of Laing. Unfortunately the referee’s view was obstructed by a the group of players looking to attack or defend the free kick which was then swung into the box and the resultant header from Smith was knocked over the bar by Winton at the expense of a corner.
Scone could have made it 3-1 with 90 seconds of added time played when Gary Fergus was sent clear in the North End half by Avolio, however he couldn’t collect the ball on his first attempt which gave the defence time to regroup and put pressure on the Scone striker. Rather than taking the ball to the corner to waste time, Fergus opted to shoot, with his effort off target.
Straight from Ferrie’s goal kick the home side build a move that would see them equalise with only a couple of minutes left to play.
Scone attempted to clear the goal kick but the ball was picked up in the Dokens’ midfield before being played forward to Scott and he played the ball out on the wing to the same Stewart who had been fortunate to escape a red card earlier. To rub salt in the wounds of the visitors he then played a great cross into the Scone box and the ball was headed home by Smith.
Right on the final whistle North End had a chance to win the game when a corner was only cleared as far as George who hammered a great effort towards the top corner only for Winton to pull off an even better save to push the ball onto the cross bar as the referee’s whistle went for full time.
Whilst the loss of the late goal meant the outcome felt like a defeat for the Jags in truth a draw was the fair result and also means that not only are Scone unbeaten in 2017 against all bar one of the teams in the top six of the league they also finish on a four game unbeaten run and with the highest points tally of the club in the history of their involvement in the North Division.
We now await the outcomes from Kinnoull v Dundee North End (playing this Saturday) and Kirriemuir Thistle v Dundee North End (next Wednesday) to see if our final position will be our current fifth or if North End will overtake us. Either way it’s been a great season and the lads can enjoy their summer break looking back on a season of hard work, improvement and taking another great step on the Jaggies’ journey to become a bigger and better club. Thank you to all our players and coaches for their efforts this season.
We’ll bring you highlights of the match over the weekend and a round up of all tomorrow’s action from the McBookie.com North Division.