Morgan FPs 1.
Merpro 1 (aet)
Merpro won 7-6 on penalties
MERPRO were presented with the Division One League Championship Shield last Wednesday, prior to their Gray Trophy semi-final against Morgan FPs.
The team received generous congratulations from their opponents.
Merpro were missing three custodians and veteran ‘keeper Colin Wilson was called upon yet again into action to help out.
Morgan started with a strong wind at their backs. Wilson had no time to settle as he had to quickly tip over a dangerous header in the first minute.
But the visitors settled and gained early control with some good pressing play. Graham set up Greig at the near post but his effort was deflected wide.
Euan Duff threatened in 10 minutes with a good run before turning inside to fire at goal, but the home ‘keeper saved well.
Wilson was called into action, making a brave save after Morgan broke through the middle of the Merpro defence in 24 minutes.
The homesters went ahead two minutes later when Wilson initially made a save, tipping an edge-of-the box free-kick onto the bar, but the rebound fell for an advancing attacker to head in from six yards.
Wilson had to make a great save in 35 minutes, diving low as an attacker broke through to fire.
Euan Duff burst past a defender and ran in on goal, but the Morgan ‘keeper did well to block his effort.
Half-time: Morgan 1, Merpro 0.
Merpro started to apply some concerted pressure and Whitworth had a 30-yard free kick well saved five minutes after the re-start.
The same player had another shot sail over the bar after a good lay-off from Duff.
Wilson then had to make a stretching one-handed save to turn a dangerous header over the bar.
A few minutes later, Euan Duff fired a shot just wide.
Craig Allan was next to come close when he fired in a ferocious rebound shot after a free kick was blocked, but the home ‘keeper made an excellent save.
Merpro made the breakthrough in 75 minutes after a corner kick fell for Nicol Duff to set up GRAHAM to drill in a low shot from 12 yards.
Merpro continued to press but Morgan remained dangerous on the break.
With five minutes to go Merpro looked to have broken the deadlock when a Craig Allan shot cannoned back off the post for Greig to slot home but he was given offside.
The match went into extra time with Craig Allan again testing out the formidable Morgan ‘keeper.
At the other end good tackles from Graeme Allan and Nicol Duff kept Morgan at bay.
Graham then had a chance to put Merpro in front but was unable to convert.
The tie became a marathon penalty shoot-out. Both sides scored with all their first five penalties with Bruce, Craig Allan, Whitworth, Paul Duncan and Gibbon scoring for Merpro. It then went into sudden death with Nicol Duff converting. Then as Morgan hit the bar up stepped Darren Cruickshank to calmly slot into the net to send Merpro into the final.
Team: Wilson, N. Duff, Houston, C. Allan, Whitworth, G. Allan, Cruickshank, Greig, Graham (P. Duncan), E. Duff (Bruce), Gibbon. Substitutes: Donaldson, Gray and Smith.
MERPRO made the journey across the Tay Bridge on Saturday to play Newport, the only side to have beaten them at home in the league this season.
Both teams engaged in fast and intense football with no pressure on either side. A cavalcade of goals ensued.
Merpro almost opened their account when good play by Duncan and Graham set up Cruickshank to run in on goal but he sliced wide.
Newport began to control the match, keeping the visitors hemmed back.
Merpro had the ball in the back of the net in 16 minutes after good play by Cruickshank for Greig to net, but he was given offside.
Almost immediately GREIG got his reward after slotting home from close range.
Henderson then had to make a couple of great saves to keep Newport at bay.
Newport equalised shortly afterwards when a long ball caused some confusion and ROMILLY ran in to score.
Merpro went back on attack and in 34 minutes Duncan was brought down and fouled. He quickly took the free kick to set up GRAHAM to slot home.
The visitors went further ahead eight minutes later with a goal of the season contender after being awarded a free kick just inside the Newport half. WHITWORTH fired in an absolutely stunning strike from 40 yards which was still gathering pace as the ball hit the back of the net.
Half-time: Newport 1, Merpro 5.
Merpro were in command after the re-start with a couple of shots just over the bar.
Newport looked weary but 10 minutes into the half scored directly from a free kick on the edge of the box.
Newport equalised a couple of minutes later when a left wing break away resulted in low, well-hit shot creeping in at the near post to make it three-all.
Merpro went back in front with two-thirds of the match played when Graham made a good break away run, sending a low cross into the box. Bruce challenged the ‘keeper with the ball falling for GREIG to fire into the net for his second goal.
Newport began to dominate in midfield and equalised with a contentious goal following a long throw into the box after Whitworth appeared to be held whilst attempting to clear.
The home side went further ahead when Merpro lost possession in midfield and an edge of the box shot was parried into the path of the ever dangerous ROMILLY to run in and slot home to put the Fifers into the lead for the first time.
Merpro, although stunned with the Newport onslaught, fought back and were rewarded when Duncan was fouled in the box and a penalty kick awarded. Drama follows this Merpro side and Craig ALLAN had his penalty saved - but alertly responded to slot the rebound under the ‘keeper to complete the scoring in the 88th minute.
Team: Henderson, C. Allan, Houston, Bruce, Whitworth (E. Duff), G. Allan, Cruickshank, Greig, Graham (Findlay), P. Duncan, Donaldson (Gibbon). Substitutes: N. Duff and Gray.
Merpro’s next match will be the Gray Trophy final against Newport on Saturday at Craigie Park, Dundee, with a 2pm kick-off.