After a very competitive 2-2 draw, Dunfermline emerged victorious over St Mirren in a penalty shoot out, winning 4-2 in the SFA Youth Cup match played at KDM Group East End Park on Friday night. The team’s coach, Greg Shields, shared his post-match thoughts, offering insights into the squad’s performance and strategy.
Greg began his reflections saying, “Overall I thought it was an even game,” highlighting the game’s balanced nature. He continued, emphasising how crucial the rule change binning extra time and moving directly to penalties was. “We had put so much into the game in terms of work rate. I was quite pleased when the referee said we were going straight to penalties.”
Goals and Game Highlights
The coach was particularly pleased with his squad’s scoring, noting Daniel Bell’s impressive contribution: “His finish for the first goal was excellent, and it was a good move. I have been saying to young Dan Bell, who is still here for another three years, that he needs to score more goals and get more assists.”
He further praised the scorer of the Pars second goal:- “The only thing that was missing from Freddie Rowe in the first half was that he needed to shoot. That was the big message at half time. If he got one shot away I’d be delighted. He did get one shot away and what a goal it was. I thought he should have shot earlier but it was a good finish. That is Freddie though, he is calm, relaxed and he has got really clean feet. He showed that he has the ability to do that, we just need to see it a bit more often.”
However, no game comes without its downsides. “The manner in which we lost the goals was a concern,” Greg admitted, highlighting the tough nature of the first goal and a mistake that led to the second. But he was quick to add, “These things happen. It is how you mop things up as a defender, and how you learn from it.”
Above: Freddie Rowe puts Dunfermline 2-1 up
Team Effort and Previous Performances
Reflecting on his team’s progress, Greg mentioned how far the team has come, referring to their heavy pre season losses against adult sides. “They have come a long way, and that’s why I’m really happy. You don’t get that result against St Mirren if you don’t work hard,” he noted, emphasising the hard work that went into the Friday night game.
Shields also touched upon the absence of main striker Jake Sutherland and Andrew Tod. “Jake Sutherland was a big miss for us,” he admitted. However, he was proud of how players like Sam Young and John Tod stepped up despite challenges.
“Jake had a concussion in first team training on Wednesday which was disappointing. We had to put John Tod up there as a target, John is not a centre forward but he understood what we wanted from him. He has been struggling as well with a calf injury – he has not trained in ten days since the reserve game.
“We had to call Sam Young back from East Stirlingshire to bolster the defence. He can come back for cup matches with the 18s but what a difference Sam makes with his overall calmness in possession. He is a leader to that group, he kept talking to them all night and he has kicked on again. It is great having him back with the boys, it shows them what they have to aspire to be. That’s the benchmark for the younger ones coming through.”
Above: left to right – Liam Hoggan, Sam Young and Ewan McLeod
Jake eyes next round
“Jake Sutherland can stretch teams” explained Greg. “He is a powerhouse and like his brother, Taylor, in many ways he is exciting and he would have hurt them tonight. That’s where we struggled just to get beyond them, everything was to feet it was never up, back, through type movements or pulling off a defender and it was always in front of them. With Jake there we could maybe have hurt them a bit more but that’s all hindsight.
“We missed Jake and Taylor last year for the first cup game, I think they were away on holiday for the cup tie against Morton. It is funny. I was in speaking to the coaching staff and Jake and Andrew popped their heads round the corner to ask ‘when’s the next round of the cup?’ Greg joked “I said the two of them wouldn’t get a game!”
The Academy and Player Development
Shields elaborated on the importance of culture, “There is a big excitement out there, even to have the younger boys within the Academy. That’s the culture we want to create, the older boys leading by example for the young boys to follow on. It was probably a good game for the fans to watch as well. To see who is who and see how they are doing. I’m delighted with them.”
Liam Hoggan and Ewan McLeod signed two year Modern Apprenticeship contracts with Dunfermline in the summer and the experience of training with the first team squad was drawn upon to impose themselves at the heart of the Dunfermline midfield. Greg claimed that was part of their development:-
“Albeit Liam and Ewan were the younger ones in last season in the under 18s, that gave them the communication skills and confidence to do that. It can be hard to get your voice across when you are playing but you see the difference in Ewan McLeod and Liam Hoggan. They have played that leadership role to the group especially in the 18s games prior to that. Now they are coming into their own, which is really exciting. It is great seeing them kick on, progressing and you can see they are getting a lot out of training with the first team players.”
Above: Aidan Meikle saved another Saints shot
Penalty Shootout and Goalkeeping Brilliance
A change in rules meant that when the cup tie finished 2-2 the match went straight to penalties to decide which side went on into the Fourth Round of the Youth Cup. Greg explained:-
“We were quite confused. The referee was adamant that there was no extra time. We had to clarify that but it worked out in our favour.”
Goalkeeper Aidan Meikle made several goal stopping saves in addition to two in the penalty shoot out to put Dunfermline through into the Fourth Round of the Youth Cup. Greg Shields said:-
“Even last season Aidan was outstanding in the game we played against Morton last year. He came up big in that game as well and had three or four great saves. It must be something about playing at East End, the wee man made two penalty saves, he had a great game and was tested throughout.”
Above: players congratulate Aidan Meikle after he saved two penalties in the shoot out
The under 18s play home games at Michael Woods Centre in Glenrothes so to play their Youth Cup game in the stadium at East End Park was special for all concerned. Greg stressed the importance of enjoying that feeling:-
“A lot of them might never get the opportunity to play at the stadium again. When the lights are on it is a special occasion. There is the potential of coming back again if we are at home in the next round. It’s a great night, one you enjoy and sometimes as a coach you don’t enjoy it as much as you should.”
All the Academy sessions were cancelled on Friday night to allow all the participants to attend this Youth Cup tie and Greg compared it with their attendance at first team games:-
“We do it at first team games, we sit in the North East Stand together as part of the culture that we are trying to create – we are all in this together. It is great for them to see that match and be part of it.”
Above: John Tod leads the U18s out for the Youth Cup tie
As a coach Greg admitted that you are always questioning yourself are you doing this right. “On this showing and the information myself and the other coaches gave to the group, they applied that. They were playing against an Elite Academy team who play against the top teams week in week out and we more than tested them, in fact we matched them in many ways.
“We did ride our luck throughout the game at times but so did they with the opportunities we had. Overall a draw was a fair result but to win on penalties makes it all the sweeter.”