I was drawn to an historic occasion today as Scotland hosted a first ever senior cup final indoors. The Final of the 2017 Football Nation Qualifying Cup took place under the roof at the Oriam.
Oriam, which is Gaelic for gold, is Scotland's brand new national performance centre for sport, based at Heriot-Watt University's Riccarton campus in Edinburgh. The Scottish Football Association and the Scottish Rugby Union both use it as their new training facility.
The pitch is fully synthetic and the dimensions are supposedly same as Hampden Park. The arena is fully air conditioned and it was actually quite chilly watching the game. There are 500 seats for spectators, which are down one side of the pitch but they are raised above playing level so you are looking down on the action. It is a decent view from the seats. However, considering it was a major cup final, the atmosphere was very sterile. It all felt very strange indeed.
The East of Scotland Qualifying Cup dates back to 1897/98 when Raith Rovers won the inaugural competition and it was set up as an eliminator competition to the East of Scotland cup, where the winners of the Qualifying cup had a chance to pit their wits against Scottish league sides such as Hibernian and Heart of Midlothian.
Over the years the so called big teams have withdrawn and now the winners of the Qualifying cup are playing for right to play either Edinburgh City or Berwick Rangers. Indeed, Lothian Thistle Hutchison Vale have already beaten Berwick Rangers in the semi-final of East of Scotland Cup before they have actually played the qualifying final!
East of Scotland League, and 2015 winners, Lothian Thistle Hutchison Vale were taking on Lowland League, and seven times winners, Spartans. Both teams are doing well in their respective leagues so a tight encounter was anticipated.
Arguably Spartans held a slight advantage as they play all of their home games on a synthetic surface but it was Lothian Thistle who dominated the first half proceedings. They took the lead after 9 minutes when John Sherlock's cross sailed over everyone and into the back of the Spartans net.
This come moments after Chris Townsley had crashed an effort against the Lothian crossbar and not long after they almost equalised but the woodwork again rescued Lothian as Alan Brown's effort came back off the post. Lothian had chances to extend their lead in the opening half and would come to rue those missed opportunities.
The Spartans must have had a half time roasting as they looked a yard faster in the second period. After 52 minutes they were level when Jack Beesley's cross was turned home by Scott Maxwell. As he scored, Maxwell collided with Lothian 'keeper Kevin Swain and there were some worrying moments as he lay there motionless before eventually getting to his feet.
He had fully recovered and by the 64th minute he was crossing the ball for Ross Allum to fire home what proved to be the winner. Lothian Thistle had late chances to force extra time but Spartans held on to take the cup back to Ainslie Park.
A worthwhile trip to the Scottish capital but I am not sure I would want to watch football in this type of environment on a more regular basis.