Scottish FA Youth Cup Final
Rangers 2-2 Hearts (After Extra Time, Rangers won 8-7 on penalties)
Tuesday 13th May 2014, 7.30pm
St Mirren Park, Paisley
(Pascazio 58', Halcett '88; Nicholson 31', King 63')
Goalkeeper Liam Kelly was the hero as Rangers won the Scottish FA Youth Cup Final 8-7 on penalties after a hard-fought and dramatic game against a more experienced Hearts side.
Rangers came from behind twice to make it 2-2 and take the game to extra time at St Mirren Park, before Kelly scored his penalty and saved Hearts goalkeeper Jordan Millar's kick to send his teammates and supporters wild.
Rangers had beaten Dumbarton, Hibernian and Dunfermline relatively comfortably on their Youth Cup run before sealing a cup final place by beating St Mirren 1-0 in extra time. The Rangers side put out by Gordon Durie featured Callum Gallagher, who had played in the Ramsden's Cup Final for the Rangers first team, while Barrie McKay was included amongst the substitutes after returning from a loan spell at Greenock Morton.
Hearts had also largely cruised through their cup campaign beating Spartans, Hamilton, Formartine and Queens Park before disposing of Kilmarnock in a 3-0 win at Tynecastle to reach the final. Hearts featured Callum Paterson, Jordan McGhee, Billy King, Dale Carrick and Sam Nicholson who had all featured heavily for the first team throughout the season but remained eligible for this competition. Hearts started with goalkeeper Jordan Millar as usual Under-20s keeper Jack Hamilton missed through injury.
After 31 minutes Hearts grabbed the lead with a smart bit of play. A great cross from Callum Paterson, who had advanced in down the right wing, was headed at goal by Sam Nicholson at the back post. The header was blocked by Rangers keeper Liam Kelly but Nicholson reacted quickest and rifled the ball home from a tight angle.
On the stroke of half time Rangers felt they had a penalty claim as Charlie Telfer went over just inside the penalty area within Hearts captain Liam Smith at his heels, there wasn't enough contact for referee William Wilson to be convinced though and nothing was given.
Hearts started the second half determined to add to their lead. Nicholson drove towards goal only to see his shot blocked for a corner and then Oliver brought out quick and clever goalkeeping from Liam Kelly who blocked as the striker got on the end of a loose back pass . Hearts should have then stretched their lead when a hopeful ball in from Paterson found Carrick who flicked on to Gary Oliver. Oliver beat Rangers keeper Kelly to the ball and appeared to have the goal at his mercy but he failed to convert from a tight angle.
Having seen Hearts go close to adding to their lead, Durie acted early in the half deciding to shuffle his pack by bringing on Jamie Burrows and highly rated McKay for Dylan Dykes and Daniel Storrie. The changes had the desired effect within minutes as Rangers equalised. With the tempo of the game picking up Rangers right back Greg Pascazio let fly from 20 yards, the ball bounced awkwardly after taking a nick of a Hearts defender and keeper Millar was deceived, much to the delight of the Rangers fans within St Mirren Park's Main Stand.
The joy for Rangers though was short-lived. Within four minutes Hearts were back in front. A ball across the box was turned towards goal by midfielder Angus Beith, but his shot and the follow up stab at goal by Billy King were both blocked. King though made no mistake with the next rebound as he bundled home high into the net leaving Kelly and his defenders with no chance.
Any thoughts that the game would settle down following that goal were wildly misplaced. Hearts keeper Millar mis-kicked a clearance but recovered fantastically to deny substitute Burrows with his outstretched left boot. Burrows then had another sight of goal within a minute or so but he watched his effort from 20 yards go just wide of Millar's right hand post. On 73 minutes Rangers made their final sub as Roberts replaced Ramsay. The substitute had a decent chance with 10 minutes left on the clock as he picked out at the back post by Pascazio. Roberts though chose to head first time and his attempt was easily saved by Millar.
Robbie Neilson made his first change of the game as he brought on Robbie Buchanan to replace the impressive King with 5 minutes remaining. Hearts were now content to see out the game whilst Rangers were now pressing higher and higher up the pitch in a bid to equalise. Craig Halkett, a defender by trade, was asked to join the Rangers attack and within minutes of doing so his physical presence told. A long ball into the area by McKay allowed the big centre back to challenge Andrew Millar and his flick towards goal was enough to beat the 'keeper and levelled the game at 2-2 with a minute or so remaining. Rangers sensed a winner could be had but full time was soon upon us and extra time required.
In extra time Rangers created the best openings and it was through the lively McKay first of all. He showed great skill to create an opening only for his first shot to be blocked by McGhee, his second chance was a low shot which went just wide. Rangers then came close again with a series of balls into the box, Hearts though survived through thanks to some great defending, most notably from keeper Millar who blocked brilliantly from Burrows. With a minute of the first period remaining Rangers thought they were in front, Luca Gasparotto slotting into the net at the back post only for his celebration to be cut short by the assistant referees flag.
In the second period Rangers striker Burrows missed a great chance. He was found 20 yards from goal on his own and through on goal by McKay but with the goal at his mercy and Millar advancing, Burrows mis-controlled at the vital time and Millar was able to collect easily. After all that Rangers pressure it was Hearts who almost snatched it with 3 minutes to go. A Paterson throw on the right found its way to Dale Carrick and the striker struck on the volley towards goal, agonisingly for Carrick with Kelly beaten, the ball rebounded of the post and away from danger. That was to be the last real chance and penalties were required to decide a winner.
Rangers: Kelly (GK), Pascazio, Sinnamon, Gasparotto, Halkett, Telfer, Stoney (Burrows 51'), Murdoch (Capt), Gallagher, Dykes (McKay, 51'), Ramsay (Roberts 73').
Unused subs: McMinn, Gibson.
Hearts: Millar (GK), Smith (Capt), Paterson, Gordon, McGhee, Beith, King (Buchanan 87'), Scott, Carrick, Oliver, Nicholson (McKirdy 112').
Unused subs: Mason (GK), Simpson, Ford.