FOUR teams from local schools helped raise awareness of a largely forgotten football pitch.
Pilmuir and Applegrove P4/5 and 6/7 sides faced-off at the “state-of-the-art” surface opened in 2015, on the former site of Thornhill Farmhouse, behind Grantown Road, between Councillors Walk and Glenelg Road, in a Forres Gazette Challenge.
The pitch was funded by the NHS when the old football and play park at Thornhill was built over by Forres Health and Care Centre.
Applegrove coach Paul Lynch lined it himself with paint provided by caretakers Moray Council.
He said: “The pitch is a little hidden gem that not a lot of people know about and hopefully after this event it will get used more. I will be organising more matches between Applegrove and the other local schools over the summer. Our friendlies with Pilmuir were a great showcase for school football in Forres.”
Pilmuir coach Graeme Ferguson said the players in his teams enjoyed themselves.
He added: “The pitch is a good size and its location is convenient. It was great to see players from the nearest schools using it and I would like to see this more regularly.”
The teams played four 20 minute games in total, refereed by Forres Mechanics left back, Simon Allan.
Ref Allan said: “There were some good young players in both age groups. Every game was played in good spirit and there were some cracking goals.”
All of the matches were close: Applegrove P4/5 won the first 2-0; Applegrove P6/7 won the second 3-2; Applegrove P4/5 won the third 3-2; and Pilmuir P6/7 won the final game 5-2.
Highlights included: a brilliant strike from Applegrove’s David Gornik (8) from the right-wing in the first minutes of the opening match; a mazy run past three players and a cool finish from Applegrove’s number 10, Ethan Lynch; goals galore from Pilmuir striker Connor Finlayson (10) including one from the half-way line and another after starting the move in his own box; and a supreme effort from Applegrove engine room Ben Ross (11) who was rewarded with a goal after firing in shot-after-shot throughout his games.
The Gazette caught up with some of the players afterwards.
Connor Finlayson said: “The games felt pretty even. Simon has a future in refereeing - he is better than Dougie Ross!”
Oden Fraser (9) loved the pitch and enjoyed his matches. He said: “I hope to play there many more times in the future, whether it be a kickabout with my pals or with my school Pilmuir.”
Applegrove player Ben Fraser (8) also loved playing football at Thornhill. “It has metal goals,” he said, “and it’s not too far from my house.”
Applegrove’s Ethan Lynch (10) thought the pitch was an ideal size for seven-a-side.
He said: “It was a good competition between Applegrove and Pilmuir.”
Ethan’s teammate Brodie Finlayson (9) agreed all four teams played well and the games were close.
He said: “The ref’s decisions were fair and it was great fun. I would love to play there again. The pitch was a good surface to play on but there was a bit too much cut grass left on it.”
All of the players were presented with Forres Gazette Challenge certificates after penalty practice at the end, with a reminder to make use of the best small pitch in their school catchment area.